Real Life Tips for Your 1st Family Compassion Focus Chat
Christmas is over. You did it! Gifts were given. Kids have new stuff. Sweets were eaten. Family drama is (hopefully) over for now. School and extra-curiculars are not for another week. Christmas Vacation for real.
More joy + Less commitments = Softer heart. When my heart is softer my perspective is better. I’m more grateful and hopeful. Things seems less impossible. Compassion comes more easily.
I hope you are thinking about having a Family Compassion Focus in 2015. Here are some ideas to get started **this week.**
This is Year in Review week. All the magazines and newspapers will have their Best of 2014 covers. The news outlets will be ranking and highlighting the biggest events of the year. Have you done that for yourself yet? Have you ever done that as a family?
A Family Year in Review is a great activity. Gather round the table with leftovers or take out, or get to a restaurant and ask each other these questions:
1. What was your favorite family memory from 2014? (an outing, a joke, a party, a game, a hug, etc.)
2. What new thing did you learn this year? (at school, work, activity, from a book, etc.)
3. If you could repeat one moment from 2014, which would it be? Why?
4. What day do you wish you could erase from 2014?
5. What helped you on your hardest day in 2014? (when ____ went wrong, this friend/teacher/parent/sibling/coach/coworker listened to me; or this ____ song made me feel better; or I changed the channel by going for a walk/reading a book/going to bed)
I’m a big fan of writing out the questions on index cards or strips of paper and letting the kids pick them out. Everyone answers the same question before you move on to the next one. (Remember the ground rules so your family can be a Safe Place: listen more than you talk, no teasing, no shaming, and model laughing at yourself. Every answer shared is a good answer because this is all Opinion. Please don’t try to talk someone out of their memories of what was fun or difficult.)
If this is new to your family, go slow and easy. If you don’t get through all the questions, just let it go. Listen hard and watch for the sparks of joy and shadows of pain that color their faces as they share their hearts. This shouldn’t feel like homework. I hope it feels like connection.
If that goes well, maybe you can go for it and jump into Family Compassion Focus stuff. If everyone is tired or distracted just wait until tomorrow. Don’t force it.
Brainstorming a Family Compassion Focus has never taken more than 10 minutes for my family. Nothing is being decided. You are just listening.
There are hundreds of ways to do this, but I would ask one simple question:
What breaks your heart?
We can hear God’s voice, sense his promptings when we pay attention to what breaks our hearts. Other ways to start the conversation are:
– If you could change anything in the world, what would it be?
– What scares you in this world?
– What makes you mad about the world?
Every family is so unique – different personalities, talents, perspectives, hurts, delights. The combination in your family is different than every other family’s. I love that God designed it this way. You will get a glimpse of how your family could change the World when you ask this. For real.
Write down everything that is shared. Everything. In past years our lists have included Dolphins, Gangs, the President, and Mean People. There are no stupid ideas. Just nod and write it down.
Your family talk might include words like, “Tell me more about that?” and “Where did you learn about this?” and “Teach me what it means?”
If your family is stuck, it’s no problem. You can share an idea or two of your own. You could read the headlines from the paper. Or you could read Matthew 25:35-40.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Jesus’ words point to several ideas: food pantries, clean water, homelessness, loneliness, refugees, hospitals, nursing homes, prison ministry. When we serve these people, we are serving Jesus in Disguise. That still surprises us every year. Jesus is in jail. Jesus is thirsty. Jesus needs a winter coat.
You do NOT have to figure out what you want to actually do to love and serve these people today. That will come later. The brainstorming time is making space for change to happen within your family. You are together, sharing ideas, listening to each other, validating each other, thinking about other people, expecting to get to do something good.
When the ideas stop coming smile and thank everyone. Thank them for sharing their hearts and ideas. Tell them how you liked learning about them. We say a short prayer like, “God, these are the things we are thinking about. These are the things that make us sad and mad in the world. Please be talking to our hearts about what you’d like us to do in 2015. We are listening. Thank you, God. All good ideas come from you. Amen.”
Remind your family that you’ll be voting to pick one of these ideas for your Family Compassion Focus. You hope to research, pray, and do Compassion Experiments to love new people in new ways. As a family. Throughout the year.
Then tape the list up somewhere. The fridge, the back door, bathroom mirror, near the kitchen table. Somewhere you all can see it to keep the conversation going and ideas flowing. It’s never too late to add more.
We try to bring it up at least once a day for a week. Usually at a meal, “hey, does anyone have any thoughts about our Family Compassion Focus?” 90% of the time everyone says, “Nope.” And we say, “Great, just checking. I’m so excited to vote soon!”
We vote on New Years Day. I’ll post more about that as it gets closer.
Here is an overview of the Family Compassion Focus Calendar: Family Compassion Focus Calendar. It’s a 2 page table with ideas for your family each month. I’ve explained the first row of it in this post. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Peace be with you! – Aimee
© Aimee Fritz and Family Compassion Focus, 2014-2015.