These Primary Children Are Seeking to Change the World
Copy-write by Morgan Jones
It’s hard to believe Chase Hansen is only 10 years old. When you ask him a question, he looks you directly in the eye and confidently answer questions. He’s only in Primary, but he seems significantly older when it comes to communication skills—skills he has developed in an unlikely place, sitting across the table from a homeless person.
Three years ago, Chase and his father, John, began what they now call “Project Empathy.” The concept is simple: “Project Empathy is a one-on-one sit-down meal between a homeless person and a non-homeless person. And they basically sit and talk over the course of a meal for 30 minutes to an hour. And during that time frame, the person sits down and makes a meaningful connection over a meal.”
Sure, you could go volunteer with a large group at a homeless shelter or pass out sandwiches in the park, but Chase says that in big group service project situations, those providing the service often “don’t get to experience the homeless person’s gratitude. They don’t get to see the person. They don’t get to create a connection.”
And when the purpose becomes a connection rather than a check mark of service, the takeaways change significantly, John says.
“It doesn’t become a journey that you have an expectation about,” he explains. “It becomes something that you explore. . . . The individuals that we meet have dreams and aspirations, they have dream jobs and [favorite] superhero characters. They love ice cream. They miss their mom [and] their kids, they have grandkids that they’ve never seen.”
John has come to view his son as a mission companion in this project, and together they go about looking for opportunities help others recognize their worth. He explains that sometimes this simply requires admitting our feelings of inadequacy.
“How do you minister?” he asks. “How do I share space with another human? How do you look over at them and say, ‘I’m endowed with [the ability to love] you, brother, I just don’t . . . know how.’”
John and Chase believe what Sister Sharon Eubank told students at Brigham Young University in 2018 when she said, “You yourself are the gift. It isn’t the clothing, the hygiene kits, the school desks, the wells. It’s you. . . . If we change our perspective so that caring for the poor and needy is less about giving away stuff and more about filling the hunger for human contact and about hearing meaningful conversation and creating rich and positive relationships, then the Lord can send us someplace.”
But Chase and his father aren’t the only ones striving to live Sister Eubank’s council. In fact, Chase Hansen is just one of many kids profiled in the new book Unselfish Kids, written by father-daughter duo Paul and Sammie Parkinson—Latter-day Saints who are on a mission to encourage others to, like Chase and John, turn outward and give of one’s self.
Finding the Unselfish
In May 2017, Sammie was a student at UVU when she started to wonder if school just wasn’t her thing. She had done some humanitarian trips and realized she “had never felt that genuinely happy.”
“She . . . was just kind of depressed,” her father, Paul, recalls. “She was kind of in a funk. She had just come back from Fiji and was like, ‘Do I go back to school? I am taking all these general classes, but I feel like I am not advancing.’ She was kind of there to be there because ‘This is what you do.’”