Yesterday morning in worship, when I gathered with the children of the church on these front steps of the sanctuary, I asked them how they thought it feels not to know if there is enough food in the house to feed the family. We were dedicating the non-perishable food collected by our congregation and donated to the Salvation Army for families that need assistance, and I wanted to engage them in what these donations would mean to the people who received them. The children offered beautifully empathetic answers – sad, worried, confused, scared. It went about how I thought it would go. Right up until one of our fourth graders declared, “Angry!”
Even though I don’t have my own yet, I have spent enough time with teenagers to know that the concept of fairness is pretty important to them. Who am I kidding? It isn’t because I spend time with teenagers that I know this; it’s because I was one. And it’s because even just thinking about my years as a middle schooler brings my desire for fairness flooding back to mind. I can remember the day of the huge algebra test that the fire alarm went off in third period. The kids who had algebra third period got to delay their test after they already started it and had seen all the questions. Only I had orchestra in third period not algebra. Those of us who had algebra at any other time in the day still had to take the test just like it was a normal day. It wasn’t far at all!!! Oh yeah, I remember that desire for fairness!
I also remember the typically adult answer the teacher gave. The same answer my mom used to give when my sister and I would bicker over who had more chores to do, the same answer I give now when something stirs up that desire for fairness in my own children – – “Life’s not fair.” Ugh. Even though we know it’s true, both when we hear that answer and when we give it, it is just a hard statement to swallow
Life’s not fair.