A Bucket of Colors

April 27, 2009 | 9 comments

The bucket can hardly contain them all. I held the bucket up, so Scott could see inside.

How many? I asked my husband. Three-hundred? Four-hundred?

More, he said. Maybe 500, he guessed.

The bucket holds an unruly pile of colorful sticks: Twistables, RoseArt and old-fashioned Crayola crayons. There are markers, too: washable, bold, pastel. Some are even scented like berries and bubble-gum.

Once, at our church, someone collecting crayons for kids in Haiti told us that some children there have access to only one crayon at a time. The children consider their crayons so precious, they color down to nubs.

As for the two girls in our home, they want for nothing. They have warm beds, closets full of clothes, a big backyard with a swingset.

And by Haiti standards, they have 498 crayons to spare in their Bucket of 500 Colors.


In first-grade Social Studies, Lydia’s teacher asked the children to consider two categories: “Needs” and “Wants.”

Lydia came home with her list on a piece of white paper, written in old-fashioned No. 2 pencil.

Her needs: food, clothes and shelter. Her wants: a puppy, a new gocart, a goldfish.

It was on this day — the day that she brought home her list — that we headed north for the city, to serve at the Banquet. There were people in need of a meal, even here in the Land of Plenty, and we were headed to serve.

We, with much … would serve many, with so little.

On the drive there, I asked Lydia if she knew the difference between needs and wants. I mean, did she really know the difference? She said she did. And then, I had to ask myself the same question. Did I know the difference?


On this night at the Banquet — a ministry that feeds thousands of people each year — our church would serve turkey, mashed potatoes, bread and bananas. My youngest and I were posted at the front of the food line, taking tickets. The “tickets” were colored chips, the kind you might use for a game of poker.

“Welcome,” I smiled, taking chips. I dropped each colored chip in a bucket. Red chips, blue chips. Green. White. Cream.

“Beautiful night,” I offered, as little Anna grabbed another chip. “Glad you’re here.”

“Enjoy your dinner.” “Have a great night.” “Great to have you here.” One after another, hungry people came. Holding a hand out for the next chip, I asked the man: “How are you tonight?”

He responded: “I’m alive.”

I took his chip, cupped it in my hand, and thought this simple transfer of a poker chip seemed a bit like a gamble — yet I knew this Truth.

Rich and poor have this in common:
The LORD is the Maker of them all.
— Proverbs 22:2

“I’m alive,” he said again, then shuffled ahead.

I dropped his colored chip in a bucket: A Bucket of Colors …

By night’s end, my youngest and I would drop 348 chips in this Bucket of Colors. Nearly 50 of the chips came from hungry children who had come to dine at the Banquet. One of the little ones left a note: “I like the Banqurt cus it has gud fud.”

Her note was written in crayon.

I wonder: How many crayons in her Bucket of Colors?


Lord, Give me your hands so I can dish out
a helping of your generosity.
Help me shelve my own wants

and even my needs
to find this place of sacrifice.
Cause me to tarry at the table a while longer
how you love us as equals.
Rich and poor alike here
grateful for even a scrap of grace on the floor
yet both invited to dine at the t
with the Host.
All shouting:
“We’re alive!”

by | April 27, 2009 | 9 comments


  1. Angie

    Last week I read SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME. I highly recommend it. You’ll understand how this post touched me in light of that life changing book. God bless you.

  2. hope42day

    And each one of us is like the colors in the bucket, we all make up the rainbow and when one hand reaches out to another hand, the pot of gold is transformed into a melting pot of love.

  3. Jennifer

    Angie, I can’t believe I have NOT read that book yet. I have it on my list.

    Hope42day: Isn’t that the truth? I love how you put this. Thank you for adding your depth and your voice to this piece.

    God bless you.

  4. Lyla Lindquist

    That book sits on my list, yet unread as well. One of these days . . .

    Jennifer, I appreciate how you involve your daughter in these experiences. What a wonderful way to help grow in her heart the natural flow of seeking and serving and loving.

  5. Billy Coffey

    I think it was Robert Fulghum who said that the easiest and quickest way to world peace would be to drop boxes of crayons with tiny parachutes onto our enemies.


    “I’m alive.” That struck me right in the heart. And then the note from the little girl broke it.

  6. Alleluiabelle


    I am deeply touched by this. What perception you have in so many things. God is truly using you every time you post here.

    I could feel the emotions all the way through this post as you described this whole Banquet journey…and to think that we have so much…and many so little.

    Thank you for bringing me to a deeper realization tonight and I humble myself, lean down upon my knees and bow my head in prayer with you as you led us through such a beautiful heartfelt prayer.

    Yes, “how you love us as equals.
    Rich and poor alike here
    grateful for even a scrap of grace on the floor yet both invited to dine at the table with the Host. All shouting: “We’re alive!”

    Hugs and much love,

  7. Charity Singleton

    Jen, this was beautiful. I am here, with my bucket full of colors, and wanting more. Yet those wants seem so like needs . . .

    You have such a beautiful voice. Blessings, new friend.

  8. God's Not Finished With Us Yet...

    That’s a great post! I love how you are teaching your little ones to serve and be blessed by knowing what they have; their needs from their wants. That’s such a blessing for them to know how very much they have. My husband I and do the same thing as well; try to engrain in our children how very, very blessed they both are.

    That little note from the little friend that ate at the banquet was so very sweet. By that note it showed too how very blessed he/she knew they were as well. How very mature of that little one, way beyond their years.

  9. christy rose

    A heartfelt and wonderful post.

    I thinkit would be of great benefit if we all take a few moments every once in awhile to differentiate between our wants and our needs. I think we would all be very surprised at what we discover.


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