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February 9, 2012 |

For the Cheaters, Shirkers, and Cherry-Pickers

BY Jen Hatmaker

When I take personality tests, I always bust the matrix. Just when they almost have me all figured out, I answer “strongly disagree” and the whole trajectory falls apart. On question #9, “I do a thorough job, valuing completion,” and on #10, “I am easily overwhelmed and often abandon projects.” I love people, sometimes, just certain ones. I am creative, except when I get stuck in a rut. I am kind, except when I’m mean. I am comfortable socially, but I’m a 75% introvert. I was always a super straight square, but I chose friends (and boyfriends) (and a husband) who were naughty.

And my whole life, I’ve been a total rule follower. Except when I’m so not.

You may not be shocked to hear that my teachers never really liked me, and they were often surprised I was smart. (My college professor examining my resume my senior year: “Really? Magna Cum Laude? Seriously?”) Perhaps this was because I would lay my head down and fall dead asleep in the middle of their lectures, or sail a note across the room to my friend while they were watching. Maybe they didn’t like the sullen girl who rolled her eyes and SIGHED VERY LOUDLY at the question-asker who lobbed her burning inquiry up with twelve seconds left in class.

Which is all very weird because I love to learn. (Certain things.)

And I’m a people pleaser. (But only sometimes.)

So it has delighted and amused me to receive a deluge of emails from 7 readers, professing their consent while confessing their shortcomings as they’ve launched into their own little mutinies against excess. It appears you are selective rule-followers too, cherry-pickers if you will. You like the ideas, but not the ones that make you give up coffee. You are all for spending less, except for restaurants and stores. For instance, from Twitter and Facebook friends just in the last few days:

Re: 7 month 3: If I buy I Coach purse, I won’t have a problem giving away the rest of mine. #failingalready

First day of #7 and I have a Superbowl-gluttony-food-hangover. Oh, this is gonna take a lot of Jesus and spiritual caffeine.

Halfway through the book, and my wife already gave away half our clothes. WHATEVER. #classichusbandquote

Is this a book a nerdish football fanatic/Popsicle enthusiast such as myself would enjoy? Otherwise, I’m out.

Reading Food ch. of #7 & had to put it down. Had to finish Skittles before I could read in good conscience. #ohtheirony #repent

I bought the boots I had my eye on and felt a twinge of conviction at the checkout. It was probably the Holy Spirit, but I blamed your book instead, and may or may not have cursed your name under my breath. I’m going to hurry up and wear them a few times before I start your book, so I won’t be able to return them.

These make me laugh every single day. People, I said 100 times that 7 wasn’t a template, wasn’t a prescription, wasn’t a challenge, wasn’t a program. I find it hilarious that most readers have jumped in, excited to emulate the experiment…sort of. You’re busting the matrix. You are so my people.

So I’m coming to your rescue today with seven mini-7-projects (See what I just did? That’s called synergy, y’all), giving you a pass from the Seven-Month Full Monty Version For Crazy People, and offering some simple, easily implemented ideas you can choose from without being labeled a “hippie granola” or “Commie Socialist.” If your mind is spinning and you need a focal point other than simply grabbing trash bags and throwing in everything you own, try just one of these on for size:

1. Pick one item you buy regularly, and go without it for a month. Reallocate the savings. (One reader went without soda, calculated the savings at $34 a month, which turned out to be the exact amount needed to sponsor a Compassion child. AWESOME SAUCE.)

2. Help a family in need. Call the counselor at the poorest school in your city and ask if he/she has a student or family with specific needs you might be able to meet. I am getting the coolest emails about folks doing this, taken from a tiny paragraph on page 92 in 7, ironically, the year I graduated from high school. Ninety-two! Ninety-two! Ninety ninety ninety ninety ninety-two!

These Prom queens now have 19 kids. Tomorrow came.
3. Put a “cell phone bowl” near your front door with this sign: “Be with the ones who are here.” Ask family members and guests to leave their phones there as they enter. Maybe include a shelf for laptops if that is your poison.

4. Commit to eating the food you already have as well as all leftovers for two weeks. This throws a wrench in the waste machine. We often have a freezer, fridge, and pantry full of food and exclaim, “We don’t have anything to eat!” Bull butter. (I am currently doing this too. Last night, we had shrimp gumbo I had in the freezer, but we were out of rice and bread. So we ate it over pasta. With tortillas. It was Cajun Mextalian. Solidarity, people.)

5. Declare “screen free days” for your family: Pick two days with no TV, gaming, computers, phone apps, and games. Intentionally fill that space with time together. If you aren’t scared of a revolt, pick three days.

6. Freeze spending—do not buy anything you don’t need for a month (clothes, shoes, whatever). This stops the hemorrhaging so you can breathe and think. Just press pause and see what happens.

I’m super excited about Tip #7, so it is getting its own section. The most frequent response from readers is that they just started purging the stacks, piles, drawers, and closets full of stuff until they knew what to do next. And I started thinking…

What if we harnessed this response for great good?

Because here is the deal: all those clothes and sheets and pots and mattresses and bicycles and jewelry represent a bunch of potential cash. We’ve already spent money on it once. What if we found a way to redeem those expenditures for something good and noble? Rather than simply gnashing our teeth and wailing over the indulgence of it all, what if we rolled up our sleeves and converted it to mission?

Enter my friends at Help End Local Poverty (H.E.L.P.), whose mission is this: “To be a global tribe dedicated to ending extreme poverty by helping to rescue orphans, restore their hope, and renew their communities.” They are pioneering innovative, sustainable initiatives in Haiti, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. They are bad to the bone and I want to be exactly like them when I grow up.

As you might remember, I’m into orphans.

I’m particularly fond of these two FO’s (former orphans).

And this Zimbabwe punkin’ we sponsor through H.E.L.P.:

Caleb: “Mom? Let’s pick the oldest kid to sponsor. No one wants the big kids.” Oh my heart.

And these two Indian doll babies we sponsor through The Miracle Foundation:

I could put them on a plate, pour syrup on them, and eat them with a fork.

H.E.L.P. has this smart idea: Use our excess to serve the poor. Clever, right? And this is how: Garage Sale for Orphans. Sell what we’ve already bought and give the money to support the most vulnerable kids on earth.

There is a paper-thin line between orphans and human trafficking. Kids on the streets or those just aged-out of the system, children with no options and no advocates, are targeted almost immediately for sex and labor trafficking. They are exploited and abused relentlessly, low-hanging fruit for predators.

H.E.L.P. is stepping in, building safe homes in Haiti for the whopping price of $6000 each, out the door. This is how Chris Marlow, founder of H.E.L.P., explains it:

One of the best and most effective ways to fight trafficking is to prevent trafficking in the first place. Traffickers TARGET orphaned children.

We will build these homes within 20 minutes of the Dominican border. Kids are being sold at this border right now, into the Dominican Republic, where they will become sex and labor slaves. H.E.L.P., in partnership with Austin New Church and, is going to build 12 preventative safe homes in 2012.

We will rescue “the worst case scenarios” orphans – kids that are homeless, doubled-orphaned, abandoned, etc. And we will rescue girls that age out of their current orphanage. Which means: 12- and 13-year-old girls kicked out of the orphanage because they’re too old. These girls usually become prostitutes locally in Haiti or sold into the DR.

Each home will have an overseer, or house mom/dad, potentially a widow. We hope to create a family style orphan care. Our local leader in Haiti will oversee the entire project. The kids will be sponsored, so they will get food, water, clothing, and will also be able to attend school. Once we rescue a child, we will raise that child until they graduate college or trade school, so they can then take care of their own families.


Good reader, let’s knock out one of those homes together, yes? Two? Five? And by the revolutionary idea of selling what we’ve already bought. Redemption! What if we took trash bags and dollies through our homes and purged, purged, purged, converting our indulgences into bricks and mortar and safety and a future for these precious, beloved-by-Jesus Haitian girls? Plain old garage sales, reimagined. (Our little church does this once a year as a community and raised 12K in four hours. From our excess, yall. &!%$#.)

At our last ANC GS4O: Those are nearly ALL my books. I’m sorry. I need a moment.

You could do this with your little family. Or your community group. Or your neighbors. Or your soccer team. Or your Bible study group. Or your book club. Or your sisters. Gather the troops, price everything to sell, and turn your shoes and books and couches into cinder blocks and plaster and a roof.

H.E.L.P. set up a project page just for us, 7 Readers and Doers. The goal is 6K…one house. We could blow right past that if we all got crazy. Maybe you make $200 on your sale. Or perhaps you are a freak of nature like my friend Jenny who has never made less than a grand on any garage sale ever. Add it all together – your stuff, my stuff, their stuff – and we could do something amazing, literally changing girls’ lives who are headed into the sex trade as seventh graders otherwise.

Sell your stuff.

Go here and donate the proceeds. Or just donate period. For real, man. (Snag the button for your blog and trick your readers into joining us.)

Together, we’ll watch the little orange line move to “100% funded.”

And maybe we’ll need to start a new page for a second house.

So, the 7th tip (synergy again) (which is a word I keep including for 7 readers who are familiar with my horrid confession on page 204):

7. Turn your excess into justice. Help build a safe house for the most vulnerable Haitian girls through the Garage Sale for Orphans initiative at H.E.L.P.

Isn’t this fun? We have the potential to be the answer to so many problems. What we can pull off together is so powerful. I believe this is the gospel Jesus has called us to, the one burgeoning with teaching, proclaiming, feeding, housing, loving, sharing, studying, and worshipping. This gospel combines learning with loving, studying with serving; it emulates a Savior who fed and healed and touched and restored…AND taught and proclaimed and challenged and led. It is born in our hearts, expanded in our minds, declared with our mouths, and transferred to our hands.

It’s such an exciting, stirring time to follow Jesus, isn’t it?

See anything you might try? Or mind sharing what you’ve already done? How about sharing this blog with your people so we can KNOCK OUT THAT SAFE HOUSE IN HAITI?