Talking about different countries always gets my children excited. Sugs usually wants to know if they have bed bugs, Punkin wants to know if they play soccer, and the Little Man always asks if there are bad guys and trains.
As a fun activity for all three children, I decided to "shrink" the size of our world's population into a meaningful number and do a little comparing. The goal was not to guilt my kids or to manipulate them, just to give them a little perspective.
Here's what we did:
1. Each child was given a bowl and a pile of beans. They were asked to count out 100 beans. (Papa helped Little Man, age 3, count out ten groups of ten. Sugs, age 4, and I counted out five groups of twenty just to be different. And Punkin, age 7, did her own counting.)
2. Papa put a small red dot on one bean from each child's bowl, and "mixed" it back into the bowl.
3. The kids had to count out beans, depending on the different scenarios I gave them. After each scenario was done, we would pour all the beans back into our original bowl of 100. Here are some examples:
- Count out twenty beans. If our world had 100 people on it, this is the number of children. How many people are adults?
- Count out 8 beans. If our world had 100 people on it, this is the number of people that would speak English. (17 would speak a Chinese dialect, 8 would speak Hindustani, 7 would speak Spanish, 4 would speak Arabic, 4 would speak Russian, and 52 would speak other languages.) Does that seem like a lot or a little?
- Count out 31 beans. These would be the Christians. Does that seem like a lot or a little? There would be 21 Muslims, 14 Hindus, 6 Buddhists, 12 people of other practices, and 16 people who would not be aligned with a religion. I introduced the words "majority" and "minority" to the kids at this point.
- Count out 82 beans. These would be the people who would be able to read and write. From these, choose one bean. This is the only person on your "world" that gets to have a college education. Now, put that one back. Pick another bean (and it could be the same bean...or not). This one bean is the person who owns a computer. Now, put that one bean back. Pick one bean out of the 100. This is the person in your "world" that is so hungry they might even die. (This was only explained to our seven-year old, not because I thought it was "too heavy" for the younger ones to hear, but because they had moved on to jumping off of my couch by then. In retrospect, it was probably fine that they missed it...) We talked about the red bean at this point. Had we picked it? If Punkin could have the chance, would she like the odds of the red bean for going to college, owning a computer, or possibly going hungry? This was a great introduction to statistics, and a wonderful reminder of just how blessed we are.
- Count out 25 beans. These would be the people of the world - if the world only held 100 people - that would have no shelter, and supply of food. 17 would have no clean water to drink (these may or may not be in the 25 with no shelter). And 17 would be undernourished.
This sounds like a depressing lesson, but it was not. If anything, Punkin realized the odds of being a fed, housed, educated, safe, healthy child...
Then, we cooked the "untouched" beans.
And we talked about "our Little Jeannie" as the Little Man refers to her. Where would our Compassion child fall in these categories? What difference had our family possibly made for her - a five-year old girl in Berkina Faso?
Somehow, in a way I won't understand until I get to Heaven, God had chosen HER - Sergine. She was specially marked by a loving Papa, hedged before and behind with a safe boundary (Psalm 139; Eph. 1). We see it as no accident that we have been chosen to love her, that she has been chosen to love us.
Of course, bean metaphors fall far short. We are thankful for reminders, though, from metaphors, and Compassion pen pal letters. We are blessed. And we are torn.
One other thing happened during the course of the 100-beans lesson. Without looking, Punkin chose the red bean. She jumped with excitement, as if she had found a golden egg in the Easter egg hunt. I congratulated her. Later, at bedtime - let's be honest, after I figured out what I should have said four hours earlier at the kitchen table - I asked her if there was anything special about her red bean.
"Why were you so excited about that one bean?"
"Because it was red."
"What about all the other beans? Don't you think they felt bad because you didn't rejoice over them?"
Punkin laughed at this. "Like the Velveteen Rabbit?"
"Yeah. Did Papa pick that bean because it was cuter, or bigger, or better at soccer?"
She shrugged. "He just picked it."
"And God picked you," I said with a finger stab to her pajama-clad chest. "If God had one million beans to pick from, He'd pick you. And He'd jump for joy just like you did."
There might not be anything especially different in the red bean, except that it was marked as His. And that was enough.
Who knew there were so many applications to beans? They are so much more than just the musical fruit.
My statistics were found here.