Clothing Wars and Starving Kids in Africa


I totally lost it this morning. I sat in front of the closet where we keep our dirty laundry and I was a weeping mess. Sometimes it is pure torture being blessed with a heart of compassion for those in need. Let me give you the background story.

Like all parents, I’m sure, I have clothing battles with my kids. In particular with my youngest. The jeans must be “tight” and “dark.” The t-shirts are typically superhero oriented and he prefers they are not from Gymboree. Navy blue is almost always scorned. And the list goes on, and on, and on…

Not too long back I took him with me to pick out some shirts so I could guarantee he would wear them. He picked out three that he liked. One week later he refused to wear one of them because he suddenly decided he was too old for Curious George. My blood pressure was rising.

So today, he put on new clothes his Gram bought for him yesterday. The shirt that was fine last night was suddenly way too big in his opinion. We tried to find another shirt to match the shorts. No go. He then picked out another shirt and we tried to find shorts to match the different shirt. All options were thrown to the ground with a look of contempt. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I calmly told him he was welcome to figure out whatever he would like to wear and I stepped into the hallway about ready to rocket through the ceiling.

At that point, an image came into my mind. Yesterday I found out that somewhere near here a mother left her 5 children behind. The grandmother got them with only the clothes on their backs. They are desperate for clothes, toys, anything.

I started to march back into my son’s room and make some comment about these children who currently have nothing. Or maybe mention the kids in foreign countries who don’t have any shoes, so they can’t go to school- like how our mothers would mention starving kids in Africa when we wouldn’t eat our vegetables. Then I thought of the implications of talking to a five-year-old about a mother abandoning her children and decided that is the stuff that haunts in nightmares. And I figured he would be more than happy if he wasn’t able to go to school. So, I decided to sort laundry instead.

I’m not entirely sure what I was crying about. Partly for the poor, broken mother who left her children. Also, for the grandmother left with a huge responsibility. And I’m sure a good portion of it was for myself wondering how I am ever going to teach my children to appreciate all that they have in a culture in which they are surrounded by excess.

My eight year old is already requesting brand name clothing that I’ve noticed some of his friends wear. Our teddy bears are dressed better than some of the people in our society.

What is the solution? I wish I knew. But in the meantime I will continue to take my boys with me to serve the homeless upon occasion. I will take them with me to donate clothes to the Crisis Pregnancy Center even though it would be more convenient to do it by myself. This summer I’m hoping to take them with me to help sort clothes there, too. We will give away toys that aren’t being used and discuss how we are so blessed and need to be a blessing to others. Finally, I will pray that they will be rescued from their abundance, which seems like an odd prayer.

What are some things you do? Have any of you read Jen Hatmaker’s book 7 : An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess? I haven’t, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts if you have.

In the meantime, I will do my best to be less uptight about what my youngest is wearing. Why did he really need to match anyway? I need to take some things far less seriously!

*Oh, and in case you are local and wondering how to help the family I mentioned,  you can make clothing donations to Hope’s Closet at Ellettsville Christian Church. The family has a boy size 12, boy size 8, boy size 6-12 months, girl size 18-24 months and girl size 4T.


10 thoughts on “Clothing Wars and Starving Kids in Africa

  1. It seems like it is a daily battle we face in a culture wrapped around excess. I, too, am struggling as I try to figure out how to really teach our children how grateful they are to have what they take for granted. The laundry pile in our house is a clear demonstration of how much we have compared to others and it does make us as moms pause to reflect on how we can reach out to those who don’t have instead of complaining (as I often do) that there is yet another pile to wash.

  2. I started reading Jen’s book. All I can say at this point is that I think it is a great idea and some of the monthly challenges are really good but as I read the 1st month and you can eat 7 foods all month long…I am not to sure. I haven’t found where it even gives some reason why to 7 foods and what you should do with what you would have spent on other food. Just my take so far.

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