Today was a marathon of worthwhile but cumulatively exhausting engagement. While we savored a second week of just that little extra sleep before church, once we left the house we weren’t back for more than 12 hours.
In middle school ROOT1 (a.k.a. Sunday school) we prepped the kids for their participation in our series on generous living. They participated in an activity in which they earned M&Ms as “salary” for doing various “jobs” throughout the facility. From shoveling snow (make that ice) and walking invisible dogs outside, to diapering baby dolls and cleaning the windows in the Café, to doing push-ups (to represent the physicality of lawn-mowing) and sitting in a chair for a minute (representing fast food jobs) in the middle school room, kids earned from 2 to 5 candies per task. They could eat, save, or trade in any they wanted. After they returned to the room, they got an allowance of additional M&Ms, after which they could “buy” various items (sweatshirts at Target or Hollister, with the attendant price gap, a new video game vs. one at Game Stop, tickets to see the Chiefs in the Super Bowl – right…), receiving other, larger candy in return, and also had to pay for the cost of living. For that they had to eat or give away a certain amount of candy. Finally, with anything they had left, students had the chance to “respond” to various needs, real and invented, from the crisis in Haiti to a blanket shortage at the homeless shelter. The point of this high-energy, high-calorie morning was to emphasize that you have to plan to be generous, even when as a middle schooler you don’t have much cash flow to begin with. We’ll see if the kids remember the heart of the lesson at least as much as they remember the candy.
After lunch we headed to YouthFront Auditorium to help package meals to go to hungry people in devastated Haiti. Through an initiative called Feed the Hunger (which was already in place and well positioned to help meet this incredible need), area youth groups and churches are assembling bags of food (rice, soy protein, dried vegetables, and chicken flavored vitamin powder) that each feed six people when prepared. There were about 600 volunteers while we were there, and several thousand meals provided for. Everyone paid for the meals they packed.
I was touched by an 8th grade boy who approached me after church and said he couldn’t come due to a basketball game, but asked if he could give money for Haiti anyway. I assured him I would get his donation to the right place, and even in absentia his generosity will feed over 200 people a meal. Also very meaningful was that every hour, on the hour, all those present in the auditorium took a minute or two to be silent, reflect and pray, and listen to scripture as we reconnected the work of our hands to the basic needs we were beginning to meet. Feed the Hunger, through Touch Global, is mobilizing resources on the ground to get food to those who are not strong enough to win the fights for food that unfortunately are the reality in the chaos these past weeks. While I still smell like chicken vitamin powder, it wasn’t the food dust in the air that was making my eyes leak a bit so much as seeing entire families work and pray together. What a phenomenal snapshot of the Body of Christ.
After another great Five O’Clock Service, we scooted to our last corporate gathering of the day. We joined our community group for chili, cornbread (sweet enough to be considered cake), and a wonderful but decadently rich “ooey-gooey” cake). All but us had just come from seeing To Save a Life and were eager to discuss its implications for our families. While we have no kids of our own, we always (no more than half jokingly) say that all the current and past middle school students are really our kids. Every other group member has a high schooler, middle schooler, or both. It was fun but eye-opening to process this amazing movie in light of those closest to us. The consensus was that every high school student should see this movie, and middle school parents should see it first to make a decision. (Did I call it or what?) It is a privilege to be called beside these families as their kids walk into and through the minefield of the teenage years.
One of our people brought to light something I had not considered. The problems faced in the movie are completely different from those faced in poverty-stricken Haiti, even before the earthquake. The litany of issues I discussed in my review the other day are very much problems stemming from affluence, along with the stresses workaholism and materialism place on family structures. Suburbian (I meant to spell it that way) Americans have so very much and live as though they have done it all in their own strength, and yet here are clips on TV of Haitians in the bleakest of situations singing joyful praise to God for what they do have. I wonder what type of crisis it would take to cause a revolution of simple living in our communities.