“Do not love the world or anything in the world. […] The world and its desires pass away but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15a, 17
This is a hard concept for fifth graders who are being bombarded with messages from the world that tell them what they need to do to be liked and happy. They are told the clothes they must wear, the music they must listen to, and the attitudes they must have. The pressure the world puts on young children to fit into a certain mold is weighty and this self focus is toxic. In contrast, the Bible tells us that these things that the world strives for will pass away, and that instead it is the men and women who do the will of God that will live forever. We are challenged to look outside ourselves to a great God to whom we owe our all and to the people around us and around the world who need Him.
To do this, the fifth graders at the Lynn campus started the year off by visiting the Compassion Experience. Compassion International puts on this experience to help us in the U.S. better understand the lives of children in other parts of the world. It opens our eyes to the challenges other children face and helped our class look outside ourselves to see how we could help. During this experience we found out that many children don’t hear the words “I love you” or “Jesus loves you” except in letters from their sponsors. It can be hard, however, for sponsors to be consistent in writing to their sponsor child, so in order to bridge that gap the fifth graders have been writing letters to sponsor children throughout the year.
Another way we work on looking outside ourselves is through gratitude. First Thessalonians 5 tells us to, “Rejoice always, pray continually, [and] give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Gratitude has been a focus for us in fifth grade this year. Before students even enter the classroom in the morning we talk about things for which we’re grateful. We also discuss how we can show gratitude and we write in gratitude journals to keep our minds on all the blessings we have been given. Gratitude turns our mind’s focus away from ourselves and towards our great God who is the giver of all good things.
Our world tells us to focus on ourselves to find happiness, but we know from God’s word that there is a better way – there is a way to everlasting life. These practices of serving others and practicing gratitude help us to see beyond ourselves and live a richer, more meaningful life that not only brings us more joy than this world can offer, but even more importantly, brings glory to God!