We crouched on the hillside, where it leveled for a few feet and all the hickory nuts gathered. the nuts were encased in a rind that split open into four petals. We pried open the petals, twisted the nut out, and dropped the rind back onto the hill in a sort nature’s confetti. She dropped nuts into a basket, I into a rustle-y green plastic grocery bag.

“Dad said I couldn’t fill this basket,” she told me. “So I’m going to fill it up.”

“I suppose it would be cheating for me to give you mine,” I laughed. “But I will. Oh look, this one has a hole in it.”

She looked over. Sure enough, a tiny perfect circle pierced the nut, a sure sign that ants had found their way into the meat inside. I cast it aside and moved on.

“You know, if we lived like the children we sponsor, this is one of the ways we would earn money.” I’ve been looking for ways to help our family better grasp how so many throughout the world live.

She looked up. “Really? We could sell these?”

I nodded. “If we gathered enough, we could. This is exactly the kind of thing those children do. They go out onto the land nearby and gather up things that they can sell or trade for food or school supplies or whatever they need. If we lived like they did, we would be out here gathering nuts every day.”

 

***

me and the kids

“Mom, which church are we going to go to tomorrow?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know, honey. We won’t get home until very late tonight. Maybe we’ll visit the one that meets in the evening again.”

“I liked that one.” Her voice filled with excitement. “I want to go back to that one again.”

I smiled. “What did you like about it?”

She paused for a second. “I liked that people were there from different places. I liked that we sang new songs. I liked what we talked about in the kids’ class. And I like taking communion every week.”

“So you liked singing that Spanish song?”

She nodded.

“What are you talking about in the kids’ class?” I asked.

She explained that they were singing a song about God, and then they talked about one of the words that describe God. “The song helps us keep track of which word we are talking about each week.”

***

My trips with World Vision (to Bolivia in 2011 and to Sri Lanka in 2012), sponsoring children in those two countries, mounting a world map to our dining room wall, and hosting girls from the Czech Republic this summer have helped all of us to remember just how big and varied the world is. We talk about other countries as a family almost every day, and we go straight to the map to see where those countries are.

son pointing to map in dining room

One of the gifts the parents in Bolivia and Sri Lanka gave me is their perspective on work, school, and money. When my children complain about chores, I often tell them stories about families in other parts of the world. I don’t tell the stories to make my children feel guilty. Instead, I want my children to understand that they are not being singled out for cruel and unusual punishment.

I want our family to see and think of school the way the parents of the boys we sponsor in Sri Lanka do: that sending a child to school is the greatest gift they could give their child. School is their ticket out of poverty. My children don’t see school that way. My children see school as an interruption to their life of leisure. They don’t realize what a privilege it is to walk two houses down to the bus stop, ride for a few minutes with all their friends, and spend the day learning. So many children walk miles to school, or pay to share a taxi because the distance is too far. Their parents go without eating to pay the fare. Unlike the children we sponsor, my children don’t see the direct relationship between not working and not eating. My children don’t realize yet that all they have is a product of the hard work their father and I did in school and still do now. They don’t understand that they will lose it all if they don’t study and learn and work hard.

Meeting the families in other countries and seeing what it takes to survive, let alone improve their situation, has been a reality check for me. They have taught me how important it is to teach my children to see the value in school and work. Our prosperous life (in global terms) has cushioned us from these harsh realities to our detriment. To fully understand the world and be prepared for life, my kids need to associate money with work. They need a gut-check about money – that it is something to be earned. I want them to see how much things cost and how a choice to spend money on one thing is a choice to not spend it on countless other things. I want them to learn to prioritize things and save for bigger items and find ways to earn more.

I know what I need to do. I just don’t know how to do it. Can you help? How do you (or did you) teach your children the value of an education and hard work? How do/did you teach them about money?

***
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