“There’s one more waffle if anybody wants it!”, called mom from the kitchen. All around the dining room table the kids and dad sat looking quite full, with only syrup and crumbs on their plates. “I think everybody’s full, Sweety”, dad called back, the children’s nodding heads confirming his observation. Mom appeared a minute later with her glass of orange juice and sat down between Amber and Meghan. “So what shall we do on such a fine Saturday?”, dad asked everyone. “What do you think, Honey?”. “Well”, said mom with a smile on her face, “I was thinking that if everyone gets their chores done and then helps give the van a bath that maybe…just maybe we could go to the movies”. ‘Hoorahs!’ and ‘woohoos!’ came from all around the large, wooden table. “That’s an awesome idea!”, said the two younger boys Ethan and Andy, almost in unison. “Alright then, kiddos, you guys clear your places while your mom and I decide what chores need done”. Ethan, Andy, Jeremy, Meghan, and Amber quickly scooted back their chairs and began to carry their plates and silverware to the kitchen. “Here, let me carry your plate for you, Amber”, Meghan said. Amber was only six and still had a little trouble when trying to carry too many things at once. With the kids all down the hall, dad rubbed his full tummy and said “Okay mom, what do we need to accomplish before we go out today?”. “Well”, replied mom, “I have to go pick Chrissy up from her friend’s house later. Besides that, let’s get three of the kids to do the dishes and the other two on the bathrooms, then they can all work on the van together”. “Sounds good to me”, said dad.
After the chores were finished, the kids found dad outside with the garage door open. He had a large orange plastic bucket, two small buckets, a long handled brush, and several cloth gardening gloves. “What are the gloves for, dad?”, asked Andy. “Those are for you to wash the van with”, dad said smiling. “They’re left over from our gardening earlier this year so I figured you could use them instead of rags. Just dip your hand into the bucket then start rubbing”. “Sounds like fun”, said Meghan, and dad tossed everybody a glove. “Andy”, said dad with a wink, “you’re in charge of the hose, but no squirting your brothers and sisters, okay?”. “You can count on me”, Andy said, winking back. The kids went to work and had already surrounded the van, soppy white gloves rubbing the soapy vehicle all over when mom appeared with her purse and car keys. “I’ll be right back”, she told dad as she kissed him goodbye, “I’m going to get Chrissy now”. The children were too busy washing the van and ‘not getting wet’ to notice when mom left in the other car.
By the time mom got back, everybody was gathered around the computer looking over dad’s shoulder at movies and times and deciding which they wanted to see. Chrissy walked by on the way to her room to put her overnight bag away. “Hey dad”, Andy asked a bit distraught, “is she going to the movies?”. “Who, Chrissy?”, dad inquired, “I don’t know; I think we should see if she wants to”. Andy’s face suddenly changed from his usual cute, slightly pudgy smile, to a dark scowl, reflecting the twelve year old’s displeasure at the very idea of Chrissy going with them. “But that’s not fair!”, Andy exclaimed. The other children, some of whom were already being affected by Andy’s sentiment, were listening intently. Meghan spoke up next: “She didn’t help us clean or wash the van!”. It was obvious now that all of the children were questioning to one degree or another whether or not Chrissy should be allowed to go the movies with them. “Alright now”, dad said sternly while shutting down the computer, “that’s enough of that talk. I want you all to go wait in the living room for your mother and I”. The children did as they were told, grumbling all the while about how unfair it would be for Chrissy to get to go when she hadn’t helped with a single chore.
“Momma, we’ve got a small rebellion on our hands”, dad said to mom, stealing up behind her in the kitchen. “Seems some of the kids think it wouldn’t be fair for their older sister to go to the movies with us because she didn’t help with the chores. I’m thinking they need a quick reminder about personal accountability”. Mom and dad had been raising kids for a long time and made a good team, so very little pre-discussion was needed. They walked into the living room together, sitting side by side on the loveseat, facing the children. “Nobody else speak unless you raise your hand and I call on you”, dad began. “Okay, now Andy, explain why it is that you’re upset”. Andy looked around at the others, then said “Well, you and mom said that if we did our chores and washed the van that you would take us to the movies, and Chrissy didn’t help at all so she shouldn’t be able to go!”. A soft murmering of agreement came from the other children in the form of head nodding and whispers. “Jeremey, do you agree?”, mom asked. “Well, she didn’t help”, he shyly answered, not seeming to be sure of his position on the matter. “Meghan, what was our agreement?”, dad asked. Like a lawyer who knew their case inside and out she thoroughly and concisely replied, “That if we did our chores and washed the van, you and mom would take us to the movies”. “And are we taking you to the movies?”, dad asked the children as a group. “Yes”, came the unanimous answer. A moment of silence ensued, mom and dad allowing the children time to consider things up to this point, then mom shifted slightly in her seat and said in her firmest mom-voice: “Every one of you are being rewarded because you fulfilled your part of an agreement with us, but I think that you are all also forgetting that the privilege and right to give and withhold rewards belong to your father and I, to use as we see fit. Now, does anybody disagree with that?” All heads shook in the negative. “So then”, dad interjected, “if your mom and I take into consideration all of the times that Chrissy does the dishes without being asked, or folds a load of you boys’ laundry, or never complains when we ask her to check the mail or walk Amber to her bus stop, are we wrong for deciding to reward her by inviting her to go along with us to the movies today?”. The look of animosity that had been on nearly every child’s face had now turned to one more so resembling shame, as they all shook their heads in unison; they understood exactly what mom and dad were saying. Seeing that they were obviously feeling repentant, mom spoke up to help them work with it, saying “It’s alright, kids. Feeling that things are unfair at times is perfectly natural. But, we have to learn that we should look to ourselves when it comes to getting rewards…ask yourself if you did what you were supposed to, did you do a good job, are you worthy of a reward…and don’t worry so much about what other people do or do not get”. The children sat silent, taking it all in and feeling ashamed at how they had thought about their sister.
“Hey, did you guys know that 2,000 years ago someone else was angry about the exact same thing you were?”, dad said. He knew that the subject had been sufficiently covered, but just for good measure he thought he would end the lecture with a quick lesson from the Bible. At hearing his words, the children looked puzzled, trying to figure out who in the world could have been upset about their sister going to the movies 2,000 years ago. “Yep”, said dad, “in the book of Matthew Jesus told the story of a man who agreed to work all day in another man’s field for a penny. As the day went on, the farmer kept hiring more and more people to work in the field, and at the end of the day everybody showed up to get paid. Every man was paid exactly what he and the farmer had agreed on, but when the first man who was hired went to collect his pay, he expected that he should get more money than all the rest because he worked longer. How many of you think the farmer gave him more money because he worked longer?”, dad asked the children. Three hands went up. “How many of you think the man got only a penny?”. Two more hands went up. “Well, I tell you…that man got exactly what he had agreed to, a single penny, and it didn’t matter how much or how little anybody else had worked. The whole point was, it was the farmer who had the right to decide what to do with his money”. Smiling faces could be seen amidst the children now as they considered the fact that this their Saturday moral dilemma had already been a discussion held so long ago. “Okay now”, asked mom, “who wants to be the one to invite Chrissy to go to the movies with us?”. All hands immediately rose enthusiastically. “You can all go ask her”, dad said smiling. Dad pulled mom closer and hugged her, while the sound of urgent footsteps hurrying to Chrissy’s room boomed up the stairs. “We have good kids, momma”, Dad said. “Yeah”, replied Mom, “we sure do”.