Your Life Is Not About You. Initiation, part 3

This is part 3 in my series on initiation. If you are joining us late, please see part 1 and part 2 first…
The next step in initiation, after putting boys through an experience that shows them Life is Hard and They are not that Important, is to open their eyes to the world around them.

We in the western world have no frame of reference for the conditions that the developing world lives in. For the most part, we live sheltered lives and our children can grow up ignorant of the pressing needs of those around us. Secondly, to truly transition into adulthood, we must pass through an experience where we are living for someone else–usually in the form of a spouse–but for younger “initiates,” it can be an orphan, the homeless, or the poor.


Staggering Statistics

We may not even realize the scope of the following facts… but we need to make sure that our children begin to recognize the needs around them:

– 1 billion people do not have access to clean water.
– The average American uses 400-600 liters of water/day (cleaning, cooking, drinking)
(UNICEF, Dec 2007, p.40; Fit for Children)
– Every 7 seconds a child under 5 dies of hunger (UNICEF, p.18)
– Americans throw away 14% of the food they purchase (Timothy W. Jones, 2004)
– 1 billion people live on less than $1/day (
– More than 50% of the world’s population lives on less than $2/day (World Bank, ’07)
– The American teenager spends over $70/week (Market research portal, Nov 12 , ’04)
– 40% of the world lacks basic sanitation
– 6 billion people have no electricity (UNDP HDR, 07/2008, p44)
– 1 billion can not read or sign their name (UNESCO, July ’02)
– 100 million children are denied basic education (UNICEF, Progress for children, p12)
– 90% of the world doesn’t own a car.
– 1/3 of American families owns 3 cars. (’08)
– Americans spend more/year, than ½ of the world does on all goods. (‘Affluenza’)

Are You Responsible for Something or Someone Else?

Andrew Shearman often states, “you’re not really living unless you are living for someone else.” There is a level of responsibility and self-discipline that comes when you come to the realization that someone else depends on you for their very life. Maybe this is a wife, maybe this is a child, but for growing teenagers, this can be as simple as sponsoring an orphan or giving them an opportunity to truly serve others.

How to “Initiate” This Concept

This is a difficult concept to initiate, especially for younger boys. For boys 12-15, I recommend events such as:

  • A visit to the inner city to help the homeless, or
  • A trip to a care home to visit with the elderly, or
  • Sponsoring a child or orphan, or
  • A missions trip to serve and build in the third world.

This is another concept which must also be modeled. Your son will see right through your facade if you tell him he must sacrifice for others, but your own life is wasteful and selfish.

Sacrifice and Continuity

The keys here are sacrifice and continuity, which will allow for growth of both responsibility and discipline. Don’t add to your child’s allowance so they can sponsor a child, but encourage them to give up a few ice cream cones a month. Make sure when they go to the homeless shelter or old-folks’ home, they are engaging with the people there, not hanging out by the door. After a missions trip, help them to stay in contact with the people they’ve helped, to see how their lives are impacted.

I would love to hear your experiences with doing these activities with your children. Were they impacted by a trip serve others? Have you taken them on a missions trip? What was the outcome?

Continue the series here: You Are Not In Control

  • Love this, Dave – especially the call to live for someone else. Great challenge!

  • Thanks Jeff… u00a0it’s what we’re all made for…

  • indeed