A father had seven children of which two were step-children from his second marriage.

He decided to take them out for a meal and so they went down to the local restaurant. He told his oldest son that he could pick anything off the menu. His son decided to go for a giant steak with a baked potato on the side. He ordered it and they watched him thoroughly enjoy himself wolfing down his meal.

Then the father invited his oldest daughter to do the same and she chose a seafood platter. Again, they all watched as she really enjoyed her food.

This continued down the line until his five children had all eaten. 

Instead of turning to his step-children, the father then turned back to his oldest son and invited him to choose something else off the menu. The son chose a steak kebab this time with a gourmet salad on the side. His daughter went for a three meat pizza. And so it continued down the line.

After the five children had eaten, the father turned to his children and asked them if they wanted dessert. His two step-children were looking a little hungry as well and so he made sure that their water glasses were replenished so that they had something in front of them. He then proceeded to buy ice-cream and cake for his five children. 

crustyAs they were about to leave, one of his step-children asked if they too could get something to eat. Moved by compassion the father asked his daughter if it would be okay with her if the two of them shared the bits of pizza crust she had left behind on her plate? She enthusiastically agreed and so everyone left having eaten something. A great night out.

THE IMMORAL OF THE STORY

I mean that would be fine, right? You would have no problem with that if it was an actual story? We would be able to make statements like ‘Well the five are his real children and the two should be glad that they got something, right?’

Or not? Would we be absolutely disgusted that five of the children got to pig out and two were left with the remains of the meal? Would it not be okay that there was enough money and resources to give everyone a good meal and yet the decision was made to give some people a great meal while some had hardly any meal at all? 

I think if this story was an actual situation where you knew the people, it might be a lot different. The reality of the world where rich and poor live very much like this is a lot easier to turn a blind eye to or even celebrate sometimes, perhaps because the situation of the poor seems so metaphorical [until we actually start to meet them and they become ‘real people’] that it isn’t actually real [as long as we can keep them out of sight, right?]

‘The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.’ [Gandhi]

I can’t do anything personally about sports and movie stars ludicrous salaries. But maybe I can start with my own greed. And that of those who I am in close relationship with. Through conversation [it’s not guilt that is going to win this battle, but imaginative creativity might get us places] and wrestling over these things. Mutual accountability. Goal setting and experimentation. Living better.

For people in America in particular, one way of starting to align yourselves to something better might be joining a Common Change group and, together with a group of friends, start meeting some of the needs in the lives of the people you know.

For others of us it might be taking on board the stories of people around us who are doing inspirational and creative things like the Albrecht family in the UK, or Nigel and Trish and their family in Hillbrow, South Africa and asking how that might look for us in our context. For parents of young children, it might be reading some of these stories and seeing if there is anything in there we might be able to take on or whether they inspire us to figure out how our story might look.

It might require us taking a moment to stop and do a stock take of our lives and ask if we are currently living out the values that we profess to have or should we be taking a leaf out of Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson’s book and simply walking away from the place we currently find ourselves to have landed and being more intentional about choosing the place where we decide to set up camp.

Maybe a small part of not feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in Syria right now could be by being intentional about the things I have the ability to change in my life and context right now?

I mean it’s just step-kids right? They’re not even his real children… 

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