Monday, March 22, 2010

A Better Purpose for Our Money

My children followed me like three little ducks as I wound my way down aisles of bookshelves to the back of the store. I removed the books I'd brought in from the bag over my shoulder and stacked them on the counter. The woman working there looked the books over and said kind of apologetically as if she thought I'd expect more, "I can give you $6 for them."

"Great!" I said, excited to turn unwanted books into cash, exhilarated to be ridding my home of clutter and getting paid to do it!

She printed off a little receipt for me that I could redeem at the check-out with the $6.00 amount printed on it, and I was ready for my 2nd mission in that store. . .

Introduce my children to the Half Price Bookstore.

They were skeptical about it when I launched the idea at home on the Friday afternoon of their Spring Break. "Can't we just go to a regular bookstore!" my oldest lamented. But when I led them over to the children's section of the Half Price Books, they were amazed. It seemed a lot like the regular bookstore! "Are these books really used, Mama?" they asked. "Yes," I told them, and then slightly under my breath, "although more gently used than you guys seem to
use books!"

There was a particular book I was looking for, one our library didn't have available for check-out, one that correlated with a play I was taking my 4 year old daughter to soon and wanted to read her the book first. We found it in great condition and $1.98. Then I told my boys they could each pick one book. One of my sons picked a book that was $3.75. I glanced down at the $6 ticket in my hand and said, "There are 3 of you and I have $6, you can each get one that is $1.98." He argued briefly that I could just pay the extra from my wallet, even offered to use his allowance at one point. I found a $1.98 book on Benjamin Franklin. My son has a new interest in inventions and non-fiction books, so he was sold on it.

It felt good at the register to be able to buy them all three a good book for only some spare change to cover the tax after I turned in the $6 ticket.

Then as I got in the car and began to drive home, another feeling kind of crept in. Was I being too frugal? I mean in the store I was acting as if the $6.00 printed on the ticket was the only money we had in the world, when we really could have afforded to spend more. Did I really want my kids looking back at their childhood and remembering their mom saying, "No, Honey, you need to pick a cheaper used book"?

But then I remembered the reason for my ever increasing frugality. It is, thankfully, not because of our need. My husband's salary has not decreased these last few years, actually the opposite, but we are challenging ourselves to spend less on stuff for us, so we have more to give away to those who truly have need.

That evening after the used bookstore expedition, we opened the mail and found this:
It's a letter from a little girl named Juliet we currently sponsor who is an orphan in Uganda, and says "I love you so much. I pray for you and your family. I like hearing songs." and then later, "I am 8 years old. God has good plans for you. God loves us all. I love you. love, Juliet." We've sponsored her for a few years now, paying $30 per month for her care in the Lulwanda Children's Home.

And then and there my husband and I sat down with our kids and did something we've talked about for a few months now, we sponsored another child. Although we sponsor one, we've felt compelled to do more and have been moved by the work Compassion International is doing in the lives of children living in poverty.

So, Friday evening we sat around the computer together and browsed the profiles of kids we could sponsor. We decided on Mathews, a little boy from Ethiopia (where we are adopting a daughter from) who is 7 just like my oldest son. And we committed to be a part of his life for a long time, hopefully until he is grown, God-willing. We'll send the $38 per month to provide him with food and clean water, medical care, education, and most important he'll be taught about Jesus! But, as a family (Compassion encourages but does not require writing to your sponsored child) we also committed to writing to Mathews once a month to let him know we care about him and God does, too.

When we finished, I was excited, excited to become a part of this boy's life. Excited to have the opportunity to make a positive difference in his life. Excited for another tie to Ethiopia, a country we will forever be linked to once we bring home our daughter from there. Excited to maybe even get to meet Mathews during 1 of the 2 trips we will make to Ethiopia over the next year to adopt our daughter (God just may bring good out of the 2 trips requirement, yet!)!

And then there was the opportunity for the teachable moment. I told my kids, "You know we could have easily spent $38 in that used bookstore today. Even with the books being half price, there were several neat ones, ones that came with toys, even. I know if I'd let you, you guys could have spent that much and more, but because we didn't we can send that money to help Mathews have things like water and food that he really needs.

I'm grateful to be able to make life better for Juliet and Mathews, and I'm so very grateful for a better purpose for our God-given money than blowing it in a bookstore!

This post is part of the
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  1. Oh, I love this! Good job Mom!!

  2. I think you are teaching them great lessons! Good job!

  3. My daughter and her husband sponsor a child from Unganda. After reading and watching the video on Kristen's (We Are That Family - blog about the man meeting his sponsor after 19 years I have been convicted. And my daughter has been convicted to write more letters to Precious. Thank you for this.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. We've made some choices in our lifestyle which often contrast with those close to us, and sometimes I feel guilty for not buying/giving/doing more for my own. We don't do lavish birthdays/holidays, expensive toys, big trips. We live pretty simply, for several reasons, but we are able to open our home, be hospitable, and share what we have with others. I want to teach my children what you are teaching yours so well: that it's not about how much we have, it's about what we do with it. We can live selfishly whether we are poverty-stricken or wealthy, or we can live in the habit of being good stewards and lavish givers.

  5. What wonderful lessons you're teaching your children!

  6. This one brought (good) tears to my eyes! Good job Mom! :)

  7. Such a great post--my daughter's name is Juliet, but we sponsor a little girl in Uganda named Claire! :)

  8. I liked the story about the bookstore- that hits home. We have 6 children and I always feel like I am being a bit too frugal - but really it is survival AND teaching them gratitude. Thanks!!

  9. not at all. I guess if my son is older and says "I hate coming here" we won't get books from the library or used but for now, he's happy to read new books and even when we have to return them he's happy. our library keeps shelves of books for sale 50 cents for hardback and 25 for soft. its not often books I'm even looking for, for him but if they aren't too worn its fun to explore. and the ones I buy for myself I send to family book rate. I know growing up we were very poor and I hated hated hated having to shop at thrift stores (I still think they have a bad odor and give me the heebie jeebies). but bookstores were different. love books too much I guess.

  10. Love, love this! I gave up getting my nails done (I have bitten them for years so always got my pretty fake ones) after the earthquake in Haiti so we would have more $$ to give.

    Coolest thing? I haven't bitten my natural nails since. My kids think it is the coolest thing and they were the ones that noticed before I did.

    Our kids learn from our example and you are setting a great one!

  11. I too utilize the used bookstore. Why not? They're usually in good condition for half the price, if not less!

  12. Way to go mom! You not only reused perfectly good books you showed your children why. Great life lesson!

  13. You're always teaching and inspiring. Thank you!

  14. Inspiring goodness. Wow - great story. I love a bookstore too but it can get pricy. I need to look into the used bookstores around here. Great teaching moment.

  15. Great story. So inspired to do all that I can!

  16. We sponsor two children with Compassion and just love this organization. Glad to hear they are back in Ethiopia. I sponsored a child there but the area she lived in made them close, so now I sponsor a boy in the Philippines. I was reminded that we should write to them more, and also get our kids more involved in the process...


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