Love in Action

February 6th, 2014

Jesus, said “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” John 13:34-35

Many of us watched television news coverage this week as Atlanta and other parts of the South experienced snowy weather that left children stuck at school over night and hundreds trapped in interstate traffic for hours. We also heard about the kindness of strangers that accompanied the frustration of such an event. At least one fast food restaurant owner and employees (who were stranded themselves) cooked sandwiches and fries, bundled up and walked to the nearby interstate to hand out the food—free of charge. Numerous businesses opened their doors so that people could find a warm place to stay for the night. Residents who lived near the interstate fixed hot chocolate and treats and went car-to-car just to lend a helping a hand. Teachers, principals, cafeteria workers and bus drivers spent the night taking care of children who weren't their own. And many others across America, who were too far away to help physically, spent time praying for those who had been impacted by the storm. People cared, and they took time to show it. Many did so in the name of Jesus, sharing his love by sharing kindness. It's love in action.

As Valentine's Day quickly approaches, it's this kind of love that our children need to see. While our children are bombarded by sentimental, romantic and often sexual imagery surrounding the holiday, as parents and caregivers we need to remember that true love goes way beyond those feelings. In fact 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 defines love in terms of actions, and the second action on that list is kindness.

Valentine's doesn't have to involve expensive gifts. Most of all, it should be about helping our children show their love to others in tangible (and often inexpensive) ways. So, if you're looking for some inspiration on how to spend this Valentine's Day with your children, here are a few ideas.

Show Love to Family Members

Sometimes it's hardest to show love to those we actually love the most. We use our families as sounding boards for frustrations. We let our “guards” down after a hard day at work or at school and do things or say things we normally wouldn't do or say to strangers. Children are no different. While we want our home to be places where our children feel comfortable to be themselves, we also want our children to understand the importance of telling and showing family members how much they care.

  • Encourage your children to make coupon books for family members. Even young children can think of a few ways they can give of themselves to show their love for someone else. For example, you can help a young child make coupons that say, “I will help Mommy by picking up my toys.” or “I will put Daddy's shoes away for him when he comes home.” Obviously, the older the child, the more complex the task being “given.” 
  • Let your child help you fix a special Valentine's Day dinner for the family. Young children can draw pictures on construction paper that can be used as placemats or decorate small cards to give to each family member. 
  • Encourage your children to do something “extra” nice for a sibling on Valentine's Day. Maybe one child can lend a special toy to another, or perform a sibling's chores for the day. Show Love to Friends and Neighbors Children, especially young children, may not always think of friends and neighbors when thinking of people they love. Help your children take time this Valentine's Day to do something special for those outside your family. Help your child make Valentine's for elderly friends at church. Encourage older children to perform an act of service (such as shoveling snow, babysitting, or helping clean the house) for neighbors. Purchase several inexpensive flowers (even plastic will do), and let your child help deliver them. Go to a friend's house or workplace and let your child choose one from the bunch and take it to the person with the simple message, “Happy Valentine's Day!” 

Show Love to Strangers

For many of us, this may be the most uncomfortable type of love to show. However, for most children, it comes naturally. Help your children remember that Jesus loves everyone, and he desires that we do as well.

  • Perform an act of kindness for the community—such as picking up litter in the park or walking dogs at the local humane society. 
  • Allow your child to help you look through your house for unused blankets, coats, gloves, hats, and scarves. Encourage your child to help wash and package the items, and then take them to a local shelter or an area where they can be handed out to the homeless. 
  • Help your child choose a few gently used toys that he or she would like to donate to a women's shelter, pregnancy center, or your church nursery. 
  • Take your child grocery shopping, and encourage him or her to pick out some items to donate to a local food pantry. 

As with many aspects of parenting, teaching our children to show their love through their actions is something that takes effort on our part. Many of the activities listed above require parental assistance, especially for young children. But when I think of the images of the Atlanta snowstorm that pervaded the media this past week, one continues to be at the forefront of my mind. It was a picture of a woman, all bundled up, handing a hot beverage to someone stranded in a car, and right beside her, in a snowsuit and snow boots, mittens and hat, was a young child “helping.” Remember, we teach our children the true definition of love when we too demonstrate love in action.

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