I have recently begun reading the book Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World (RGK) by Kirsten Welch as part of a book launch team. It is a timely and convicting read laced with confessional encouragement and inspirational guidance. It is available here for pre-order for January.
The first chapter discusses wants vs. needs and the American dream. I can remember doing a school assignment with my oldest years ago on wants and needs. It was a mixed lesson discussing the economy, budgeting and essentials of society. Pretty ambitious for the second grade. It asked the students to list in two columns wants and needs. It encouraged you to list general things and then break them down.
Shelter is a need but what kind of shelter could be listed under both need and want. This is where it got blurry. We live in a 2300 square foot house of brick, wood and dry wall. It has air conditioning and heat. Electricity and running water. A fine home indeed. Now I believe everyone would consider four walls, a floor and a roof over their head a need. I live in the deep south of Alabama. As I type this it is late December and 75 degrees so I consider AC a need; yet people have lived in this region for centuries without it. (and yes I realize some have died due excessive heat.) But there are people all over the world, in places far hotter than Alabama such as the Middle East and Africa who have never nor will they ever have AC. Another example was food. Everyone must eat to stay alive. We need food, but we don’t have to have lobster everyday of our life. Here is where of course the budgeting lesson came in.
Then there were some intangible needs like safety or education. Everyone needs to be safe. But exactly what does that look like? Military? Police? Handgun? Gated community? Guard dog? The discussion could go on and on. What the exercise did was not only allow you to see the very basics of human need (food, water, shelter, safety, education, love, employment) but also required you to consider the specific way in which those needs were filled and if those ways blurred into wants.
Now this is not to say that it is wrong to want things above our needs. It simply lets us see that many of our needs are met and it changes our perspective into one of grievance to gratitude. In addition it helps us to analyze how we go about meeting those needs and which ones we place as priority. Striving to make a basic need made better isn’t greedy either, when it’s launched from a platform of gratitude and kept within the boundary of enough.
This was a great lesson for my second grader and an eye opening one for her mama. Kirsten Welch writes that “ as uncomfortable as it sounds, parents who want less-entitled kids have to be less entitled themselves, and parents who want to raise more grateful kids need to start by living more grateful lives.” Wow -this moment was brought to me by Rude Awakening Productions.
This realization coupled with the simple second grade exercise is a sign that it is time for a reevaluation of our family’s current wants and needs. I have a sneaky suspicion there will be some category hopping.