My girls have given up ice cream for the next three months. That means no ice cream, custard or frozen yogurt until Dec. 19.
They didn't just give up ice cream. They gave up all the things that go along with it in our house. No trips to Sonic for milkshakes with Grandmommy and Granddaddy. No ice cream as a reward for games well-played and goals scored. No ice cream at birthday parties. No ice cream to go with their Thanksgiving Day pie.
Why did they give up ice cream? To remind them that there are people in the world who live with so much less than we do.
Our church is drawing attention to poverty with 100 Nights in a Shack. Our pastors are taking turns spending the next 100 nights in a shack that was built in front of our church. More than 1 billion people in the world live in shacks without heat, air conditioning or running water. As part of the 100 Nights in a Shack our pastors have asked each of us to give up something we love for the next 100 days. (My husband and I are giving up chocolate, but that's a whole different blog post.)
We talked for several days about what the girls were going to give up. At first, they tried to give up school and homework. We reminded them it had to be a sacrifice, not a pleasure. They contemplated giving up playing computer games, eating Pop-Tarts, and their favorite lunch item. They finally settled on ice cream.
They decided to give up ice cream together so they could encourage each other, and they persuaded their best friends to give it up along with them.
The next three months are going to have their tough days, but every time the girls miss their ice cream, it's an opportunity to talk about how much we have and how little many people in the world have.
Did you know that 15% of the world lives on 80% of the world's resources? That leaves 20% of the resources for the other 85% of the world's population. If you make more than $45,000 a year in household income, you are in the top 1% of wage-earners in the world.
The next three months are going to be a lesson in sacrifice for our family, but they will also be a lesson in appreciating what we have and looking for ways to help those who don't have as much.
God calls us to pay attention to the plight of the poor. Proverbs 19:17 says "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done."
Too often, it's easy for us and our kids to get caught up in seeing what others have and wishing we had the same. We feel deprived because we don't have the best toys, the biggest house or a new car. Yet so much of the world lives on less than $2 a day. We spend that on a cup of coffee.
Luke 12:48 says "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." If you own a TV and a car, you are among the world's wealthiest people. We are the ones who have been given much, and it's important that we and our kids understand that.
So, join us in the 100 Nights in a Shack sacrifice or simply ask your family to give up something for a week. Use the opportunity to talk about poverty and injustice in the world. Make the decision to take the money you would have spent on the things you're giving up and give it to your church's mission program or to another organization that helps the needy.
Because we have been given much.