It starts with a simple, friendly smile, say Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting and authors of A Love That Multiplies: An Up-Close View of How They Make it Work.
One of the first things we try to teach our children when we’re out in public or having guests in our home is the power of an enthusiastic greeting. We tell them that genuinely expressing Christ’s love to each person you meet through a joyful countenance and caring words opens the door to share further with him or her about our faith.
If we’re successful in these lessons, then those people who stop us in the grocery store or on the sidewalk somewhere are greeted by a host of bright, friendly smiles. We tell our family that people want to know you care about them, and a child’s bright, sincere smile can be a powerful encouragement to anyone. It can lift weary spirits and warm broken hearts. That’s the first step in how we teach our children to serve others and begin developing a ministry mind-set. The Bible says it’s “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), and we emphasize that lesson to our children by reminding them always to give others a smile.
We teach them to overcome shyness by constantly reminding them of another foundation of our faith: Jesus’ instruction to treat others the way you would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). To us, it’s not cute when our little ones turn away when someone speaks to them, or hide their faces in Mama’s skirt, or stare back, wide-eyed and wordless; we believe that behavior is disrespectful of the other person. In contrast, eye contact shows respect; it tells the other person, You’re important; you’re special.
Turning away means the child fails to acknowledge the other person, and it also nurtures in the child a self-centered focus, something we want each one to learn to overcome as he or she matures. “How would you feel,” we ask, “if you smiled and said hello to someone and that person turned away or refused to answer you? Is that how you want to be treated?”