Okay, we’re done with our first week of the World Vision ACT:s Lent program. It didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned - it was way better. The program was initially intended for college students and young adults, so we had to adjust some things to make it work for a family of 8 with kids ranging in age from 15 to 3 years old, but it was still a good learning exercise for all of us. Here’s how it went.
Beans and rice: (Monday and Tuesday nights) The kids LOVED it. All of them, and that almost never happens. I was hoping they wouldn’t, but they did – BOTH nights. Go figure. They did say it would have been better with some sausage or other meat in it, but still.
Spaghetti with meatless sauce: (Thursday night) LOVED that, too. Really?!?!
I was hoping they wouldn’t like them and that they would feel deprived and therefore more grateful for our “regular” food. They did say they are glad they don’t have to eat just that kind of stuff all the time, but they liked it and we’ll have it again. New options for cheap meals are always good. They did get tired of sandwiches every day and hardly any snacks, so it wasn’t a complete fail. I had never done the math before to see how much we normally spend per person per day on food, and this week I realized that we normally eat on about $3.25 per day per person, so $2 isn’t completely impossible to do on a temporary basis – or possibly even on a permanent basis if we had to. And since we hardly EVER eat out, not eating out was just normal. However, the realization that one meal at Chick-fil-A costs the same thing as ALL the food we each could have for 3 days was an eye opener.
Monday’s lost luxury was the dishwasher. All the kids had to wash, dry, and put away their own dishes for the whole day. Again, since it was something new, they thought it was kind of fun (though they did admit they were glad they didn’t have to do it every day). It was obvious that TJ and Brielle were the only ones with previous dishwashing experience, and now TJ tries to wash his dish every time after he eats and we end up with water ALL OVER the counter. Lovely.
Tuesday we didn’t give up anything. I asked the kids what they thought we should give up and they said that since I am always telling them , “School is a privilege, and there are kids all over the world who would love to have the opportunities you have”, that they should have to give up school for the day. (Can’t blame ‘em for trying, I guess!) In the end, we ended up not giving up anything that day, but I did have some “food for thought” (and a new plan for Wednesday).
First thing I told the kids Wednesday morning when they got up was that they did not have to do school that day. They were SO excited! (That was the distant sound of screaming and cheering you heard for a few moments but just couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from) But after the initial euphoria, a couple of the older ones began to suspect this was probably too good to be true. Next, we discussed our World Vision ACT:s story for the week again: Sophie and her kids sort rocks every day in the rock quarry. They make only enough money for food and rent. The kids cannot go to school because they must work every day just to earn enough money for food. Working all day every day means they cannot get an education, which means that there is no hope of a better life for them in the future. (Suspicion growing.)
Then I dropped the bomb on them. No school = all work. I told them they were going to have to work ALL day doing whatever I told them they had to do. There was plenty to do because were a lot of extra chores that had been neglected the week before due to me having to work on the yard sale every day. So, Wednesday my kids: folded, hung, and delivered multiple loads of laundry and towels to the correct places; wiped walls, baseboards, doors, and doorframes; organized the school shelves, movie cabinet, and book shelves; cleaned their own rooms; helped clean my room; cleaned bathrooms; cleaned and vacuumed under couches and couch cushions; cleaned the kitchen counters; swept kitchen, dining room, foyer, and hall; etc.
Throughout the day we talked about kids around the world who do much, much, much harder work than they were doing, with the added difference of terrible conditions and with no hope of ever having the opportunity to do anything else. When they complained about how “mean” I was being, I reminded them that they didn’t know what “mean” was. “Mean” is a boss who does not care anything about you – only about what you can do for him. “Mean” is a boss who beats you if you do not work fast enough. “Mean” is a boss who doesn’t pay you at the end of the day what you rightfully earned and doesn’t care if it means you and your family will not eat that day.
We talked about the opportunities that become available ONLY when you have an education. And about what it would be like to be a kid and have your family depending on you to work and provide FOOD for them. And about what it would be like to never get to “play” – only to work. And about what it would feel like to live every day knowing they had to wake up and do it all again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
Thursday morning they got up expecting to do some school work. Then I let them know they were going to work AGAIN. They were actually *disappointed* that they weren’t going to do school work. (“I love it when a plan comes together.”) They did more laundry and more sweeping and more wiping things until about lunch time. We had some opportunities to talk, and I could tell that just the tiniest peek at the reality of what life is like for some kids in other parts of the world had made an impact.
We stopped working around lunch time (when Dad came home early to watch basketball – it’s that time of year, you know). The girls and I went out to run errands, go to dance, and go to the grocery store (something I do NOT take for granted – it felt really good to go back to $3+ per day). On Friday I took the girls to the ballet, took Mattea shopping for shorts and TJ’s birthday gift, and then went to pick up the girls’ dance recital costumes. Friday night we went to the church for Family Fun Night.
Grocery shopping. Dance. The ballet. Shopping. Recital costumes. Family Fun Night. We hardly ever do that many “fun” things in one 24 hour period – I can’t even remember the last time we had a 24 hours like that. But it is “interesting” how it ended up being this week of all weeks. Some of the things just HAD TO be done. Some of them had been planned for literally months. But we are blessed that we are able to do any and all of them. And after a week of focusing on how unspeakably blessed we are, we viewed every single one of these things with a new gratefulness. The contrast between what we had been doing and learning throughout the week and what Friday was like for us was something God used to reinforce all the lessons we learned – and we will not forget them.
The subject of how blessed we are has come up several times this week, and it’s been mentioned by the kids instead of by me. I think they “got it” – at least to the degree that each of them can at this point.
It was a good, good week.