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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Getting Kids to Care About Others

Empathy. It’s a subject that was not emblazoned into the psyche of my kids, so busy they were with merely surviving Russian winter, year after year, without food or adequate clothing.

But now it’s time for them to reach out and think about others, if not for the simple reason that Mama may need her coffee brought to her in the morning, or Papa might need for them to stop screaming when he’s on an important call. (See: if we don’t teach them empathy, it can be to our own detriment.)

So yackety-yack, we talk, as is our wont. We mention Babushka in the nursing home and how special it is that they love to visit her. Or, Dyedusha with his own issues and how much he looks forward to their weekly chats by Skype. Maybe we mention older men or women whose own grandchildren never think twice about them and enjoy an uplifting note from our family. Then there are children who do inappropriate things and need our kids to not make fun of them, but instead befriend and be available as role models.

Late last night, we had an ice storm. I was working away online as I heard the sand and salt trucks rumble by every half an hour approaching midnight. This is the beauty of living in the city and not in the sticks–life must go on. Alas, the municipal workers did not think to hack out our individual sidewalks, leading our 14-year-old sons to volunteer at daybreak.

Backbreaking work that it was, I still had this sneaking suspicion that they were having far too much fun, probably working their tails off in order to avoid the early morning spelling test, not to mention Russian and Hebrew, which naturally falls after breakfast and Bible. (Nuclear science is an afternoon subject.)

Petya and Pasha started at our house and began their worldwide empire expansion toward the neighbors on either side. One brought them fresh-baked cookies and the other elderly woman said thank you. They were so happy to help, chipping away at the sheets of thick ice over snow.

“Mama, we tried to be quiet, in case anyone was still sleeping.”

I mean, is that considerate, or what? Here they were, helping others and glowing. No mention of money crossing hands, just the joy of a good deed, a mitzvah. I’ve heard this called “a random act of kindness”, but I see nothing random in it at all. I see purpose and pleasure, as our children learn to be a blessing.

Something good came out of the ice storm. We didn’t lose power, the cold weather and brisk exercise fired up their brain cells for a good day in school, and I made them hot, slabwee chai (weak tea, decaf anyway, so why I still make it weak is anyone’s guess). They experienced the satisfaction of simplifying someone else’s life and making their mom and dad smile, too, content that the kids were moving in the right direction, toward helping others.

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