Ingratitude, a Lunch Lady, and Butter Sandwiches

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Not long ago a lunch lady named Dalen Bowden, in a Pocatello, Idaho middle school was fired (here).

Day before Christmas, a school child was denied lunch because her parent was behind in paying the lunch bill. Rather than see the child go hungry, Mrs Bowden gave the child a $1.70 lunch and was then fired despite her willingness to repay the district.

We might talk about a lack of parental responsibility, fairness of a policy leading to Mrs Bowden being fired (and later re-hired), or the need for more services for the poor; I wish to say something about ingratitude.

A parent on Facebook complained that when she fell behind paying for her child’s lunch, the school gave the child a free cheese sandwich. Another mother wrote about being “appalled” that her child was given a free “butter sandwich.”

I spent 2 weeks in a rural Kenyan village in 2014. Kenyan custom is to feed a guest. The first church I preached in served me butter sandwiches and some fruit for lunch. I was grateful for the kindness, knowing that for many Kenyans a single slice of bread with butter may be all the breakfast or lunch that can be afforded!

Americans live spoiled and ungrateful lives. As a child, my grandmother ate bread and lard. Thirty years ago we learned of our own elderly eating cat food for a lack of money. As a nation, Americans are completely disconnected from our own recent history and our place in the world.

Rather than giving thanks to God for our amazing bounty, we grumble and complain at receiving less than we feel we deserve. “Well, I don’t live in Kenya,” I can hear some retort. “I live in America.” Yes, you do, so be thankful. One day, as hard as it is to imagine, bread and butter may be all this nation has too.

It is not a sin to be rich, even by the standards of others, but it is a sin to be ungrateful for what God provides.

We have brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content (1 Timothy 6:7-8).


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