Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Great M&M Race

Daily, I read a devotional from the Proverbs 31 Woman ministry. A month or so ago, I read an entry that intrigued me and I shared it with Anthony, letting him know that I wanted to hold the “The Great M&M Race” in our home. The devotional and race were based on this verse in Luke...

“Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15 (NIV)

Here’s how the race works: A large bowl, filled with M&M’s, was placed in the center of the room, with a small bowl for each child placed at the corner’s of the room. Each child was given a tablespoon while they stood around the bowl of M&M’s waiting for us to yell, “Go”. The kids were instructed to use a tablespoon to transport the candies, one spoonful at a time, back to their individual bowls. If any dropped on the floor, they couldn’t pick them up. And the most important rule was this: When the timer rang, they had to stop at exactly the place where they were. If they were anywhere other than sitting in their corner holding their bowl, they forfeited all of the M & M’s they had gathered. And no, we wouldn’t tell them how many minutes the timer would be set for.

Here’s how Anthony and I predicted the race would go: The older kids would be careful with their M&M’s as they walked to their bowls but then would race back to the main bowl. Savannah, not yet having the capacity to understand that a hurried walk would cause her M&M’s to fall off the spoon, would walk as quickly as possible both ways. We also predicted that Teighlor would be the only one sitting down as the timer went off; that the rest of the kids would be found somewhere between their bowl and the big bowl of M&M’s; and that Savannah would definitely shed a few tears when she realized that she wouldn’t be keeping any of her M&M’s. All of our predictions came to pass!

What was comical was to watch how the race progressed. The older three all had the sense to sit down with their bowl of candy at various intervals of the race. The problem was that once they sat for 5 seconds and didn’t hear the timer go off, they got greedy and got back up for more M&M’s because they saw the other kids still moving. Savannah never once sat down - intent and focused to get as many M&M’s as possible.

When the timer went off, Teighlor was sitting with her bowl of M&M’s in her lap, Marian and Alec were on their way back to their bowls with spoonfuls of M&M’s, and Savannah was heading back to the big bowl for more M&M’s. The second Alec and Marian heard the buzz of the timer, they both leapt for their bowls and tried to make it look as if they had sat down before the timer went off. Savannah continued to walk with her spoon, seemingly oblivious to the timer. When she realized that her brother and sister had moved so quickly to sit down, she immediately sat down, as if believing that we hadn’t noticed she wasn’t sitting down when the timer went off.

At first, Anthony and I both chuckled when we realized the race had gone just as predicted -- then we waited and watched the faces of each of the “losing children” for their individual reactions. Savannah immediately put her face in her hands and cried. Marian jumped to the couch and didn’t say a word. Alec took his foot and pushed his bowl of M&M’s across the floor, in obvious frustration. You see, he had been sitting down just moments before but had gotten up for more M&M’s, possibly thinking he could make just one more round before the timer went off.

It was hard to watch Alec, Marian, and Savannah as their bowls of M&M’s were removed from their possession; harder when they watched their bowls being given to Teighlor, the winner; and almost comical when they watched her being given the large bowl with the remaining M&M’s. Every single M&M was now in the possession of Teighlor, except for the ones that had been dropped on the floor.

Herein lies the catch they weren’t told before the race began... whoever was sitting down when the timer went off “won” the M&M’s of those kids who weren’t and all of the M&M’s left in the big bowl. With Teighlor surrounded by hundreds of M&M’s, I thought both Alec and Marian would give in to tears too.

Anthony and I then began to teach about greed as we discussed the passage in Luke and the details of the race, focusing on the point that each of the older three kids had sat down numerous times throughout the race. We wanted to show them how their greed in “going back just one more time” had caused them to lose what they worked so hard to get. I went to the bowl of M&M’s, scooped out a spoonful, and counted how many were on the spoon. I could see Alec and Marian’s wheels spinning as they realized that they had each forfeited their entire bowl of M&M’s in order to gain about 13 more. Savannah never sat down once, but she was able to grasp the concept of the game and how it related to greed.

The best part came in watching Teighlor exhibit a heart of selflessness that almost brought tears to my eyes. As she sat there with 5 bowls of M&M’s in front her, and 3 distraught faces staring at her, she did what both Anthony and I wondered if the winner would do... she gave each bowl of M&M’s back to its “unrightful” owner. Not only that, she also split the remaining M&M’s from the big bowl between the other 3 kids - not taking even one for herself. In the end, she walked away with fewer M&M’s as the winner, then her brother and sisters did as losers.

All in all, they walked away with three lessons learned that day -- one on greed, one on being content with what you have, and one on the art of sharing from your heart.

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