We've been blessed far beyond our "basic needs". We not only have clothing, but we have so much clothing our closets, dressers and laundry baskets are overflowing. We not only have shelter, but we actually have houses with divided rooms for privacy. We're so spoiled, we think that a four bedroom house is too small for a family of six. We're so spoiled, we get our panties in a twist if someone messes up our burger (Ew! I asked for no mustard!) instead of being thankful for what's before us. We're so spoiled, we get to have variety in what we wear, eat, and do where as in other countries, some people only have one or two things to wear and eat the same gruel every day! We're SO spoiled that we get all in a tizzy when the electricity goes out for a couple hours or, woah, a couple days. Here in Texas, we complain about our A/C not keeping up when it creeps up to 76 F! Nevermind that a quarter of humanity lives without electricity.
We're so spoiled, we complain about running out of juice or soda and having to drink water. Yes, folks, we're so spoiled, we can instantly have water with the twist of a knob, and we can soak in steamy hot baths daily and allow the water to run while we scrub our dishes or brush our teeth. Let me give you some statistics:
- Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
- Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.
- More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.
My husband has been fortunate enough to visit other countries where people live drastically different. His best friend's grandparents live in South Africa in a mud hut. They normally eat a cake made of grain and water. He was able to go to Belize on a mission trip and rebuild a couple homes that were damaged. These simple homes made from natural materials have one or two rooms and usually a basic outdoor cooking area.
The teachers in the schools say that some of their main needs for the children are paper and toothbrushes.
When I heard this, it pained my heart. Do you know how much paper my children doodle on and waste every day? We think having loads of coloring books, construction paper, and notebooks are a right- but they are a luxury!
Let me say straight up- I am spoiled, and my children are spoiled. We're working on our attitudes, though. I'm learning to attack my greed, selfishness, and my gimme attitude with generosity. Instead of being addicted to spending on ourselves, we're working towards becoming addicted to helping others.
There's just this nagging itch to spend sometimes.... and a lot of the time we don't even care what we spend it on, as long as we get something. We're out and about and... Ooo, hey, a frappe sounds good.
The other day, Nolyn and I had a conversation in the car that went something like this:
N: Hey Mom, where are we going?
M: The grocery store.
N: Can we stop at the donut place?
M: No, we don't need any sugar and, besides you already had breakfast.
N: Okay. (pause). Well, can we stop at McDonalds?
M: You already had breakfast, babe. You don't need anything else.
N: Yeah, but maybe after the grocery store?
M: Well, we'll have groceries, which means we'll have plenty to eat. It'd be silly to get McDonald's after buying a bunch of food, right?
N: Yeah, I guess. Well, can I get something from those machines at the front (coin machines)?
M: Did you bring your quarters?
M: Well, I guess that's your answer.
.... Later, in the store.....
N: Hey Mom, can we get these cool paper plates?
M: Those are cool, but no, we can't get them. We have really cool reusable plates, remember?
N: Oh what about these straws?
M: We already have straws.
N: Look at these toys! Oh, can we have these toys? I'll be really good!
M: You definitely don't need any more toys. I think you just want to spend money!
N: No, I don't just want to spend money. I just want to get something!
See, we're bent towards getting, not giving. We just want to get something- anything- most of us don't even care what it is, as long as it's something. And then, we get something, and it's not enough.
How many times have you given your kids a special treat, and they not only forget to thank you, they're complaining and begging for something else seconds later! How frustrating is that!? (I'm sure God feels the same way about me sometimes!)
Personally, I think the key to dealing with spoiled attitudes (our own and our children's) is to put things in perspective. Look at photos of how simply the majority of the world lives. Talk about money. Help your children understand that money doesn't grow on trees.
My children once believed that you "buy money" from the bank, so if we need money or want something, we can just go to the bank or use our special card (debit card) to get whatever we desire. Kids need to have an understanding of money, and we need to start young. Grocery shopping is a great teaching tool. Explain your budget and go over the costs of things. Keep a paper, pen, and calculator nearby as your shop so you can add things up to give them an idea of much you are spending and how quickly you get to your limit. Show them what a "good deal" looks like and what poor prices are. (For example, we don't normally buy cereal that costs more than $3, and since we like Organic cereals, we have to watch out for great sales. When our local store put our favorite cereal on sale for a dollar a box, we stocked up!) Showing your children how you pinch pennies and watch for sales helps. Give them the weekly grocery ads from the newspaper or the mail and let them compare prices from different stores.
Start a donation jar... or two! Talk about some of the wonderful ways we can help others with our finances, and encourage them to put spare change (or part of their allowance) into the jar. Count it weekly to see how close you are to your goal. Maybe you could sponsor a child and use the jar to work towards the monthly goal. (We sponsor a child through World Vision for $30 a month.)
My family is looking for ways to support a family in their adoption journey, so whenever I'm out and about and something catches my eye, I think, "Okay, so I could have that, or I could save the money and put it towards the adoption." This mindset has really been powerful in helping me save. I keep up with their blog and watch the videos featuring the son they are adopting, and it strengthens me in my goal to save. After all, what is more important? That cute set of placemats or that little boy with down syndrome who could age out of the loving facility he is in and be placed in a cold, uncompassionate, and unfriendly environment where he doesn't get the opportunity to run, play, and laugh anymore? Hmm, that sure puts it in perspective.
My daily prayer is that God would fill our family with an attitude of generosity. It is truly my desire to be Christ-like in putting others needs before own, especially before my own wants. And, I also pray that the more we give, the more He would bless us with so we would be able to give even more.
I know we live in a society that tells us to put ourselves first, but that's not what Christ teaches. What if we all poured out our lives- our time, our effort, and our riches- to help others? What if we truly were the hands and feet of Jesus?
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
Who are you serving with your finances? What does your inner dialog about your finances say about you? Be honest!
The greatest way to counter our spoiled attitudes is to examine how God has so richly blessed us, and to truly look to Christ as an example. Think of the One who had all the glorious riches of Heaven, who left His home on high and took on flesh- took on poverty- and died for our sins. I often have to stop and examine myself- am I using my "riches" to glorify God?
I may not be considered rich by American standards, but compared to the majority of the world, we are incredibly wealthy. Most of us who live in America live in a little bubble. We don't have a good worldview, and we definitely don't have a biblical one.
Discussing these things with the children really helps to put things in perspective for them. I am about to implement a new fundraiser where they can earn money to donate by doing special chores. I truly want us all to have a heart for giving generously instead of gaining selfishly.