(sickeningly) sweet 16

I’m not a big fan of reality TV shows, but that doesn’t stop me from getting sucked into them when once I start watching. (I’m only human, after all.)

The other night my usual “make-over” shows weren’t on (I’ll admit to an addiction to those!) and I found myself observing one of the most disturbing things I’d seen in a long time.

Now, there are plenty of nasty things on television these days: violence, sexual immorality, degradation of the family, mockery of men. But in light of my involvement with missionary work, this one really disgusted me.

The show in question chronicled a lifechanging, awe-inspiring, once-in-a-lifetime event so extraordinary that it deserved an hour of prime time television.

It was about a birthday party.

It wasn’t just any party, however – it was the sweet 16 party of some millionaire’s daughter. The program featured the young lady’s pre-event shopping trips to purchase $13,000 diamond earrings and four sleazy outfits to wear at the party. It showcased her handing out invitations while riding around her neighborhood on a horse. Her “audition” of young men to carry her in on a raised platform (while shirtless, of course) was more than I could handle.

I wanted to look away, but the trainwreck continued. While hundreds of her young guests writhed on the dance floor she changed into yet another skimpy outfit so that she could perform a dance for her audience. I’m thinking it was the kind of dance more fitting for an “adult” establishment than a party for teenagers.

The night ended with the lovely young lady receiving just one more small gift from her beaming parents – a red convertible Jaguar. She rode off into the darkness, laughing with her friends, and I just wanted to be sick.

I know (at least I hope) that this type of event, this self-absorbed over-the-top lifestyle, is the exception for American teens. My girls got a pizza party and a new outfit when they turned 16, for heaven’s sake.

Today I spent some time searching though our large collection of photographs here at PIME, and I couldn’t stop thinking of that 16 year-old’s party. As I looked at the faces of those our missionaries serve, in the poorest regions of the world, I thought of that girl and all the material things she had.

And I realized that in most ways, young girls like the one pictured here are better off.

They may not have diamond earrings and convertibles, but they are blessed with simple faith. A little girl like the one pictured here isn’t looking forward to fancy parties or expensive gifts when she turns 16. Her needs are much more honest and pure.

We have much to learn from her, don’t we?