Here in Amarillo, the Chick-fil-A closest to our house has a glorious thing called “kids eat free night” on Thursday nights. Since I’m sort of addicted to the Spicy Chicken sandwich and Chick-fil-A sauce (and since I’m cheap), it is a match made in Heaven. A few months ago, however, we replaced our regular outings to Chick-fil-A with another dinner tradition. Here’s why:

We’re spoiled. Our kids are spoiled. As parents, we’re constantly searching for ways to remind our kids how blessed they are to live in middle class America. We don’t want them to grow up feeling complacently entitled to first world luxuries. We want them to grow up feeling blessed and empowered to help those in third world conditions. I try to take every opportunity to remind them of how incredibly blessed they are. I’m not great at this. My “reminders” are better categorized as guilt trips. “You know, there are starving children in Africa who don’t get toys in their kid’s meals. Or kid’s meals. Or meals. Or toys.”

Obviously, eating at Chick-fil-A isn’t bad or wrong (actually, I’m convinced that their spicy sandwich was divinely inspired). So, how do we raise balanced kids? How do we raise kids who keep their focus on being empowered by their blessings and opportunities rather than being entitled by them? Well, a few months ago, I had a brilliant idea. Of course, by “I had a brilliant idea,” I mean what all husbands mean by that phrase: my wife had a brilliant idea.

Third World Thursday

Every Thursday night, our dinner consists of only food that kids would be eating in a third world country. We pick a country, for example: Kenya. We figure out what a typical dinner consists of in Kenya. We cook. We pray. We eat. We teach our kids a little about Kenya: geographic location, poverty level, demographics, etc. It’s a pretty great hands-on (and mouths-on) learning experience; but, here’s the great part: we take the money that we save each month (by eating beans and rice or whatever vs. Chick-fil-A or other meal) and we use it to sponsor a kid through Christian Relief Fund. By eating “third world food” one night per week, our kids are playing a direct role in providing food for an impoverished child.

We, of course, still eat out randomly at various restaurants (Chick-fil-A largely included) within our budget. My love for Chick-fil-A sauce has not grown cold. The difference: it is no longer part of our routine. It isn’t our focus. The hope: someday, when our kids are asked about their family traditions, their answer will be “Third World Thursday because it allowed us to help other kids” rather than “Kids eat free night at Chick-fil-A because Dad was cheap and too lazy to cook.”

Give it a shot with your family. Let me know how it goes.

Oh, and for more information about sponsoring a child through Christian Relief Fund, click this sentence.