it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
families are gathering together.
christmas lights are strung up on houses.
wish lists are being written with hopes to find each item under the tree on christmas morning.
it’s impossible to quit eating with food at every turn.
sales in every store.
christmas carols, sugar cookies, and snowmen.
you can come in from the cold and cozy up next to the fire with a blanket and a mug full of hot chocolate and marshmallows.
ugg boots, leggings, oversized sweaters…
whatever it may be that makes the holidays special for you.
it’s a joyous season for a lot of us.
a lot of us… here, in the united states. a lot of us… looking at this blog on our laptops or iphones or ipads or iwhatevers. for a lot of us, here in our privileged little towns, this is the most wonderful time of the year. but for a lot of people, it is the worst.
but how often do you stop to appreciate those things. the small things. the ability to bake cookies. the cup of hot chocolate you can make after coming in from the blizzarding cold. the winter clothes that you have to keep you warm. the house that you get to come home to…
unfortunately a holiday that started out as the greatest gift ever given, has turned from celebrating what has been given to us, to what can we get. greed has over come us. we donate one day of our year to focus on being thankful, and the next day we trample people to death trying to get more. we are a people consumed with getting more. having the best. having the most. having it all. and in doing so, we fail to see the true meaning of the season.
think about it.
i was born into a family where i have never once had to worry about where i would sleep…what i would wear…where my next meal would come from. and my guess would be that a lot of you haven’t either.
but we don’t see it.
the past week i spent in kansas city with link year. for those of you who didn’t see my last post, i asked for prayer. prayer that we would be safe; prayer that we would be impactful; and prayer that hearts of our students would be broken.
we were in the middle of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country. we had the ability to go and shine light in the darkness, and boy did we put up a fight. it wasn’t only the students that were impacted. my life was forever changed.
our first day we spent in inner city kansas city working with a ministry called the hope center. it’s literally in the middle of a poverty stricken, crime flooded neighborhood. the hope center provides education, and discipleship to every child they come in to contact with. they provide the students with something that they might not see anywhere else around them…hope.
that day we did a demonstration with our students to show them exactly how privileged they are. all week they were divided into groups of four or five called their ‘family groups’. for the sake of the demonstration, we had each group draw a number. they drew either 1,2, or 3. what they didn’t know was that out of the 10 groups, five of them drew 1, four of them drew 2, and only one group drew 3.
the mood of the room started to change. they could see what was going on. some were angry; some were confused, and most were just in awe.
“would everyone stand to your feet? we have some very important guests joining us for lunch today. every one join me in welcoming group number 3!” as the third group walked in, the rest of the room gave them a standing ovation as they were escorted to the center of the room, seated at a table with comfortable chairs. still confused, everyone sat down and waited to see what they would be given.
the doors opened again, and as the staff graciously served group 3 a bountiful meal of chickfila nuggets and chicken sandwiches, accompanied by waffle fries, dipping sauces, and sweet tea, you could see the impact our little ‘demonstration’ was having on the group.
only one rule was given. there would be no sharing of food between ‘classes.’
two girls in the ‘middle-class’ group couldn’t even bring themselves to eat their sandwiches seeing the group on the ground eating rice and beans.
the girls in group three sat at the table weeping, eating their chicken simply out of guilt, being waited on hand and foot, and knowing that what they didn’t eat would go to waste.
after everyone had finished eating, we discussed what happened. one of the girls in the chickfila group explained it best… “i did nothing to deserve that food. i didn’t win a contest, i didn’t pay for it, i didn’t even request it… it was just given to me. we drew a number, and that’s it. we didn’t even know what the number meant. it just makes me realize that i did nothing to deserve the family i was given. i did nothing to deserve parents who can support me. i did nothing to deserve a house, or food, or warm clothes. it was just given to me, all because of the family i was born in to.”
one of the girls from the middle group told us why she couldn’t eat. “it’s just unreal to see how much poverty there really is in the world. i sit at that table every day and eat until my stomach is full, and then i eat some more. it’s just so hard to physically see what so many people face on a daily basis, and not be able to do anything about it. i just feel so selfish.”
i did nothing to deserve to grow up urbandale, iowa, the definition of suburbia, with parents who have always worked hard so that i wouldn’t have to. i did nothing to deserve the life i’ve been given. i did nothing to deserve the food i eat every day. i did nothing to deserve the roof i have always had over my head. i did nothing to deserve the clothes i wear, or the ability to go shopping with my mom every time i come home. i don’t deserve it.
later on that week, after helping pack meals for the homeless, and serving in a soup kitchen, we had our students stand out on the street holding signs with statistics about homelessness. they were given no time to change their clothes, or grab hats and gloves or even a sweatshirt. they went as they were, and stood outside for an hour and a half holding signs.
they came back and reflected on their experience.
“hardly anyone even paid attention to us.”
“i’m so cold, i can’t feel my fingers.”“only one lady waved at me. it was really nice to see someone cared.”
what if that was what you had to do all day every day just to feed your family at night. what if you had no hat, no coat, no food, and no house to come home to. what if you were out there, on the street, for 5, 6 hours at a time.
for a lot of the students, and even myself, that was when it clicked. they finally realized what they had been missing all along.
for some people, this isn’t just a week…this isn’t just a ‘learning experience’…this isn’t the staff coming up with different ways to make us feel guilty…this is real life.
this is reality.
our lives are so privileged, we don’t realize that there are people less fortunate than us everywhere. mission work doesn’t require a plane. it doesn’t require an organized trip, and it doesn’t require a group of people. everywhere we go there are people in need. in your hometown, there are people in need. in your church, your school, your office, there are people in need. when you ask god to help you see, you won’t have to look very far.
i guess what i’m trying to say is be thankful. truly, truly thankful. as you feast this season, be thankful that you have food. as you bust out your winter jackets and fuzzy boots, be thankful that you have clothes to keep you warm as you walk from your front door to your car, and your car into whatever building you’re entering. be thankful that you aren’t standing on a street corner, or sleeping on a bench. be thankful that you have so many luxuries that other people may only dream of. be thankful. you don’t realize how good you have it.
watch this video and realize just how blessed you really are. and be thankful.
watch this video and realize just how blessed you really are. and be thankful.