Sally thought it had been a great Saturday with her two teens. They'd gone to a pro basketball game, cheered their team to victory, eaten pizza, and laughed together. Now they were home with chores and homework to catch up on. But while Sally was congratulating herself, the phone rang and one son announced he was going out with the guys.
"Sorry, you can't go out with the guys—you have some responsibilities to take care of."
"Ah, Mom, all we do is work. We never have fun around here. You won't let me do anything. Everyone else gets to . …"
Sally simply stood in amazement, reflecting on how she'd just given up her whole day for this son, how hard she'd worked to get those tickets, how she'd dipped into her clothes budget for all the extra junk food … and now this.
It's the refrain any parent's familiar with: Let me, please me, cater to me, make me happy. Yet Christ calls all of us to think of others as more important than ourselves. So how do we cultivate other-centered kids in a me-centered world?
Open your heart to others
My friend Debbie's two sons know she has a heart for internationals. Because Debbie and her husband lived in France for 20 years, she understands what it's like to be on foreign soil. So this past year, Debbie's family invited an exchange student to live with them. They also began a weekly international dinner and invited several teens from places such as Macedonia, Bolivia, and Yugoslavia to join them for a simple family meal. During the meal these teens learn about Debbie's family's faith in Christ and ask questions. Before they go home, the students share personal and family needs, and Debbie and her family pray for each. The majority of these teens don't know Christ yet, but they've found a safe, loving place in which to seek. For Debbie's sons, these guests provide perspective. If they feel lonely at school, they only have to remember their international friends, and their self-pity dissipates.1