Thanksgiving at Christmas

This is what happens when you start a Thanksgiving post and then don’t get around to finishing it or posting it until several weeks later: You get to jolt your readers’ Christmas-centered brains back to the too-short Thanksgiving season for a minute or two.

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The line was long. I drew it across the entire length of the chalkboard. Laying down the chalk, I turned to my class of third graders and asked, “Do you know how many people there are in the world?”

“Seven hundred thousand?”

“No. Who else would like to guess?”

“Five million?”

“Many more than that. In the whole world there are more than seven billion people.”

They looked at me wide-eyed. They have no categories to process such a number. Come to think of it, I don’t even have the categories to process that number, though I love teaching math.

“Now,” I said, “imagine that all seven billion people in the world would be standing on this line, in order from richest to poorest. Where do you think you would be standing?”

I called on several students come to the chalkboard and place a dot on the line in the place where they thought they would be. They showed little hesitation. All of them placed a dot somewhere close to the middle.

I had used this same illustration with students several times before, and the results were always similar. I was surprised that the missionary children I taught in Kenya revealed the same perspective. Surrounded as they were with needy people, I thought they would see themselves on the richer end of the spectrum. Apparently they assumed that the U.S. rather than Kenya is closer to the norm for the world as a whole.

“Do you want to see where you actually are on this line?” I asked my class. Taking the chalk again, I placed a dot very close to the end of the line that represented the richest people. Then I smiled at my children’s disbelieving faces. “Plus,” I said, “this only counts physical things like money and nice houses. If we would count things like Christian parents and the opportunity to attend a Christian school, you would be pretty much at the front of the line.”

I don’t know if I helped my children to gain a better perspective of their blessings. I hope I did. What they don’t know is that I used that illustration for my sake too—because I need to be reminded of my blessings often. Let’s celebrate Christmas this year with hearts of thankfulness!