$800 pants, injustice, and the messages we give our children

Last night I saw a story about some guy suing a dry cleaner for millions of dollars for losing a pair of pants. To be fair, it was an $800 pair of pants. But unless they also tied him to a rack in the back room and pulled out his toenails, I personally think he’s a lunatic to think he deserves more than his pants back. And let’s get real here: a guy who can afford an $800 pair of pants probably has another pair or two stashed somewhere.

To be honest, once I heard that the pants cost $800, I had a hard time paying attention to rest of the story. Maybe that’s uncharitable of me. All day as I’ve been thinking this over, I’ve been reminding myself that people have different standards and different dress codes. I can do my job in pajama pants, but not everyone has so much freedom. And yes, I know that some people’s business reputations are based partly on the quality of their tailoring. (I’ve seen Family Man, after all).

But I’m sorry– when mothers in this world are scrambling to provide their children with one meal a day, I have a hard time justifying $800 pants. Maybe I’m missing something here, but it seems pretty clear to me that the dude could have chosen to bless — or dress– someone other than himself.

This morning I read a great post by Tina of Antique Mommy talking about how she explained injustice in the world to her son. The picture she shared of seeing the prosthetic legs of a little boy who was swimming was especially poignant to me, because one of my Korean sons has a prosthetic.

Most of the time my son is fairly upbeat about the leg. He can do absolutely anything any other kid his age can do. But there have been times my son has asked me why he was born without a foot, when the vast majority of everyone else is blessed with two.

For that matter, there will be times when my adopted children ask why they didn’t get to grow up with their birth family. No matter how good a family they have now– no matter how much they are loved and cherished and prized — the loss of their birth family is a tremendous loss. It’s not.fair.

There’s no really good answer to explain the sad things that happened — or to justify them. In the end it comes down to faith. For me it comes down to trusting that God is making the best of both the good and the bad in our children’s lives, and in our own. It’s a faith that our children may need to wrestle to find at some points in their lives. But it is a faith that is I believe is cornerstone in their future happiness. I pray that each one of them can wrestle their hard questions to the ground, and come out on the other side with a deeper faith and peace.

Tina and I have the same aim, I think: to help our kids make sense of the world in a way that is encouraging to them, that doesn’t leave them discouraged and jaded. That’s a big task all in itself. But in mulling this all over today, I realized there’s another step we as moms need to take– a step that may also point our children towards hope.

Although this world is not fair and never will be, there ARE things we can do to right some of the wrong in this world. Each decision we make can potentially impact someone else. Maybe it means buying one blouse instead of three and using the other $30 to buy mosquito nets for a family in Ethiopia. Maybe it means buying a $100 pair of pants instead of an $800 pair, and using what’s left to support a family, allowing a grandmother to raise her grandchild instead of relinquishing him for adoption.

There is so much need– so much work to be done, if only we would look beyond ourselves and our $800 pants.

I think there is a balance point someplace that we need to find. I don’t think new clothes are wrong. And I’m not going to feed my kids beans and rice so I can fork every penny over to various charitable organizations. But I pray I can raise my children not only to see the injustice in the world, but also to live with hearts willing and ready and caring enough to make a difference.

Tipping the balance in this world a little more towards fair.

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  1. When I do my Sunday Dinner posts I always end them by saying, “May God meet all your needs and bless you with enough to share.” No matter how much or how little we have we can always share something – Kindness toward another if nothing physical and tangible.

    I think the key is in being ready to share as God blesses us and opens doors for us to give.

    This is a beautiful, thoughtful post, Mary. 🙂

    Love and hugs,

    Diane

  2. Poignant. I think how we spend our money and the things we value is not lost on our kids. I don’t ever want Sean to think that just because he’s got a little horse or whatever designer doddad on the front of his shirt, that somehow makes him more than he already is or worse, more than some one who doesn’t. So we don’t buy those kinds of clothes. I’m still working on that same philosophy as it applies to me and my purse.

  3. Amen.
    dawnz:)

  4. That was a very good post. Thank you. (Did you also hear that the guy who sued was a judge?? You’d think he’d have more respect for the court and not waste its money.)

  5. Well said. I firmly believe we are on this earth FOR one another…to love and hold one another up…to give to those who have less…to speak a kind word.

    My son with CP will sometimes breakdown and cry “It’s not fair. It’s hard for me.” And he’s right. Everything other little boys do with ease and grace, he fumbles and falls. But once I’ve hugged him and understood with him, we always talk about his gifts, his blessings and how God has a really important purpose in life for him. That purpose includes realizing how unfair life is for many people and helping them. After our talk he never fails to look at me and make comments like, “I know. Really, I’m okay. I can do everything I want to, even if it is hard. Some little boys can’t do lots of things. Some little boys die because nobody loves them.”

    The boy gets it…I’d like for him to talk to the $800 pants man.

  6. Beautiful post.

  7. Just found your blog last night and have really been enjoying reading it. We are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia and have five other children and I totally agree with you. We are just about to leave on a trip and we had the choice of staying in a really nice hotel where everyone would get their own bed and there were multiple rooms etc. and it took us about two seconds to do the math and figure out how far that money would go in Ethiopia so we are staying at just a regular place and we will have a fabulous time and many children in Africa will get fed. Once you become aware of the children in the world who need our help and prayers, it is impossible to turn away.

  8. Umm Skandar says:

    Well, it looks like karma wil probably take care of the crazy lost-pants suing judge. He will most likely lose his court case AND not be reappointed as a judge.

    To be fair, expensive suit pants can last 15-30 years, so for certain professions they can be a long-term thrify investment.

    In May 2006 not long after I discovered your blog and began blogging myself (now on an extended break as I switch formats) I also discovered Keep A Child Alive which works with HIV positive families in South Africa. They really work to keep families alive as parents receiving medicine can keep working and keep their together. We give $30 a month. Its easy to do and as you say, hopefully, it helps tip the balance of the world just a bit towards justice

  9. Martina Fahrner says:

    Possessions, possessions, possessions… no pair of pants can be that important or valuable… how self-centered are we and what does that say about us, that somebody could even have the idea to sue over a pair of pants?

  10. I think about this too……….goign to link you………

  11. Great post, Mary.

  12. Well said Mary! Thanks for this thought-provoking, perspective-setting post. I want to be prepared to answer my kids’ toughest questions. And living a life that seeks to “tip the balance of the world just a bit towards justice” will help our kids know there are some injustices that they can counteract by making faith-filled contributions toward helping people live better lives.

  13. amen

  14. Amen.

  15. Love this. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I had the same thoughts not long ago at church when a friend of mine told me her buddy just bought a 30,000$ watch. A WATCH.

    I have five watches and spent less than 100$ on all of them together. Oh, the things people waste money on.

    I could pay off almost all of my debt with that kind of money… and how many churches could you build for believers under the trees in Vietnam? How many children could you rescue from prostitution in India?…. The list goes on and on….

  16. Amen!

  17. Beautiful post.
    I do think that there is a place for expensive, well-made things, but that this should be balanced by thoughtfullness and charity as well. I never want the desire for material things to overcome my desire for justice and kindness.

  18. Preach it, Sistah! **Standing ovation from me**

  19. That was a very thoughtful (and thought provoking) post Mary. I too was a bit disgusted by the story of the guy suing over the $800 pair of pants. It just seems that some people’s priorities are way out of whack with the rest of the world.

    But, then I read about how volunteer vacations are on the rise. It seems that more people are taking their children to other countries to serve a community in need during their vacation, rather than going to traditional locations like Hawaii or DisneyWorld. What a gift, to expose your child to something like that and see the world as a place much broader than the everyday conveniences we experience in America.

  20. My favorite is when they show people and their collection of $1,000, $2,000 purses. Excuse me . . . hand bags. What we could do for the world if we all did a little something.

  21. Hear, hear.

  22. I don’t think all the pants in our house would add up to $800 (and there are eight of us!) lol

    Yes Lord, your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven…help us each to do your will and not get ourselves tied up with the things of the world. May our hearts be sensitive to those around us and may we your people be generous givers!

    Kimmie
    mama to 6
    one homemade and 5 adopted (working on #7 from Guatemala-PTL!)

    We are celebrating a one year anniversary-come over and give thanks with us!

  23. Amen! Well said 🙂 wondering how you feel about spending a bunch of money to tour europe for a couple weeks. honestly. ??

  24. Beautifully written. Thanks for your wonderful point of view.

  25. Thanks for sharing. My friend Rae pointed me to your site. I have also been struggling with the same issues as I learn more about the country of Liberia (from which I’m adopting). My friends and I are doing what we call “fasting for feeding”. Basically the same concept you talked about. We are asking God to show us something each week that we can say “No” to so that we can say “yes” to His call to feed the hungry. It may be $5 for a starbucks coffee, $20 for a shirt we decide not to buy or $50 for a family dinner at home instead of out. Just thought I’d share. . .

    It’s so hard to struggle with this and our duty without judging others! I’m right there with you!

    Brandi

  26. Obviously I’m not alone in admiring this post.

    Just wanted you to know that I included it in my post today over at annkroeker.wordpress.com.

    Love your conclusions. You don’t knock us upside the head with it, yet, in your gentle way, we are in fact knocked upside the head.

    Or maybe that’s just the Holy Spirit doing His thing.

  27. Finding the balance, focusing heavenward, the challenges of mothering…thank you for sharing.