The Goodie Bag Rant
Paul taught the 5th graders in Vacation Bible School the other week. The day before it was over, or maybe the day of, he informed me that he was just informed that he is supposed to give each of his students a treat or gift on the last night of Bible school. And, of course, he would really like me to gather these gifts for him.
Gift giving is not my gift, or Paul's either. Well, we both get a big thrill out of filling a specific need, like if we can give a struggling teacher a little grocery money or send chocolate chips to a missionary. But we are especially bad at the sort of gift giving that involves filling little bags with sugar and plastic in bright colors oriented to the age and gender of students.
But did I REALLY have to? I asked Jenny: "So I'm supposed to get gifts for your dad's VBS students?"
Jenny said, "Yes. Everybody does."
Me: Like...candy bars? Goodie bags?? Picasso paintings???
Jenny: Yeah. [Me: YEAH??] Or like, books. Or Jesus junk.
Me: JESUS JUNK??!!
Jenny: You know. Those flashlights that talk about letting your light shine that break after two days.
Fellow Christians who work with kids: May I suggest we have a problem or two?
1. Children expect a bag of goodies for every occasion. Parties, programs, picnics, and much more. I think, ok, you were honored with an invitation, the place was decorated pretty, you got to have fun with friends, you stuffed yourself with amazing food, and you got a free ride to and from. And you need a bag of stuff to take home yet and to fight with your sister over and to drop half-sucked into the crack of the van seat and to mourn with a great lament when the skinny little rubber band breaks the third time you hit the little ball with the paddle?
2. We who say that every knee shall bow and give honor to Jesus as the King of Kings plaster cheesy Christian words and symbols on dreadful little worthless objects such as the abovementioned flashlights. Or pencils that say "Smile, God loves you" and that, I am told, you can NEVER sharpen right. The lead ALWAYS breaks. Or little compasses that say "One way to Heaven" but they don't compass north which is kind of a bad omen.
I will grant that some of this is just me and not everyone is obligated to be like me. I have friends who love to shop for and assemble yummy and cute little somethings into inviting little bags to give to the little kids in their care. Everyone is happy.
Well, everyone except me, the teacher two doors down who feels obligated to do the same. I asked Jenny the expert kid what would happen if I said, "Well, that teacher decided to give gifts but I decided not to."
She said something like, "The kids would all think you were really lame. Even now, kids compare teachers and who gives the best stuff and they're like, Ha ha, I get to be in 'Linda's' class and she gives really good treats and you're in "Grace's" and she just gives a homemade bookmark."
[You might guess that "Grace" is a euphemism for "Dorcas."]
I have no idea where the balance is, with goodie bags and a lot of other things.
On the one hand, while our kids are in the back seat breaking the cheap kaleidoscope on the way home from Vacation Bible School, little kids in Africa are walking a mile to fetch drinking water from a stagnant pond. It seems Jesus might be a little concerned about this situation, seeing as how he said, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
On the other hand, there was that lady who poured perfume on Jesus' head, and the disciples got all snippy and said, "We could have sold it and given the money to the poor," and Jesus said, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me."
I don't know what the answer is, for me or anyone else. I will continue to stuff goodie bags when the occasion calls for it, I'm sure, to prevent kids from feeling like I don't love them, but from here on I refuse to buy and give Jesus junk.
Quote of the Day:
On our way to the neighborhood garage sale in Harrisburg:
Jenny: Thank you for not wearing a fanny pack.
Me: You're welcome, but I don't see why it matters so much.
Jenny: It's like Pride and Prejudice. How you act determines whether or not I'll get married.