The Cheeseburger Dilemma: an update

August 22, 2008 | 16 comments

This is an update to my last post. I decided to just make this a post instead of leaving my response in the comments…

So there I was, juicy cheeseburgers popping on the skillet in front of me, my little guests just having accepted my invitation to dinner, trying to figure out what to do about the fact that there wasn’t enough and our pantry was pretty bare. In a moment of quick thinking, I told the girls that they could choose between cheeseburgers or PBJ, not mentioning that we didn’t have enough of the burgers. I almost fell to my knees and cried tears of joy when Catherine said she’d prefer a PBJ (not exactly a shining example of worldly detachment, I know).

That’s actually the reason I wanted to know what you all would do: the situation ended up resolving itself for me, but I know that I’ll be in that position again one day (probably one day soon) and I wanted to get some advice. I’m so glad I did, because your input has changed the way I see the situation.

Here’s a comment left by an anonymous reader that sums up many of the other comments:

By the time I finished reading your post, I was set on my answer – I would give them burgers and eat a peanut butter sandwich myself beforehand, then plead no appetite at the table. I’d do it happily.

But after reading the comments, I reconsidered. This situation could be seen as an opportunity for the girls to truly appreciate the Christian spirit (or just plain hospitality) not subconsciously, while they were wolfing down my burger, but openly, taught to them with good grace.

So I’d cheerfully let them know we didn’t have enough burgers for all, and invite them into my pantry to help me figure out how we could use various ingredients to expand the meal into a “high tea” – a bitsy feast of things. I’d make it fun, friendly, and welcoming, but at the same time they could see what someone was willing to do for them. They could appreciate the reality of your situation – but still feel welcome too.

This has really given me a new perspective on Christian hospitality and making room for my little friends at the table. I think it’s the perfect solution, especially considering that this happens fairly frequently: cheerfully let the girls know that they’re always welcome at our table, and let them help pick out extra food from the pantry to round out the meal.

Thanks for all the great comments!


  1. Kristen

    I’m a first time visitor and I have enjoyed reading your posts. To think of this the way you have is such a shining example to the rest of us to be mindful of even the smallest of situations. WWJD in a really great example.

  2. Sebastian

    I’m glad that it worked out if real life. And I join you in marveling at the lovely answer you profiled. I think that we can feel twice loved when we realize that it didn’t come from surplus.
    It is easy to swing emotionally between mentor/friend and unpaid sitter. Here in Hawaii, the term would be Auntie. Not of blood but of love. An Auntie is someone whom we trust with our precious children. Sounds like you have this honor with these girls.
    (BTW, this post reminded me why I save your blog for last in the morning)

  3. Marian

    Yes!Sometimes the grace extended is in the teaching and guidance in the situation, too.

  4. Shelly W

    Wow! I’m just marveling at how right I was! (My tongue is firmly planted in my cheek here.) Here’s part of the comment I wrote to your other post: “I’ll bet you anything you made that peanut butter sandwich, fully intending to eat it, and one of the girls wanted it more than a cheeseburger–dilemma solved!”

    I’m glad it worked out. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. patience

    Coming out of the closet with all vanity to say I’m glad you liked my comment. Whew. I was very nervous posting it, hence the anonymous tag, because I’m new to this Christianity thing myself and didn’t want to be too “wrong” ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Sometimes it feels like Christianity is a whole new language and culture I am learning!)

    I love the way your writings always provide both entertainment and the opportunity to think. I’m looking forward to when your book comes out!

  6. Anonymous

    Aha! I knew one of the kids wouldn’t want a burger. I enjoyed the comment thread, though, because the idea of cutting burgers in half is excellent. I have thrown away many a half-burger that my son or his friend couldn’t finish. From now on, I will deal with burger shortages by cutting in half.

    I think the real lesson here is that there never was a shortage. There was enough to go around all along, no matter which way you “cut it.” –Catherine

  7. Amy Jane (Untangling Tales)

    This situation made me think of my recent post asking whose “strong will” was supposed to be indulged (by getting what they want) and whose “shaped” (by learning to be flexible or delay gratification). A hard question for me.

    But most of all in these situations I’m thankful when God gifts us (me) with a slant-wise option like the one you share here, where wills don’t have to be set in opposition.

  8. truthfinder

    Yes, (to Sebastian), I too like to save this blog to read last and savor. We have been having a seminar in ethics at the college where I work, and they mentioned the “third solution.”; that is, when trying to decide between two unpleasant courses of action which seem to be the only possibilities, is there a THIRD option which will resolve the problem and provide a better outcome for the parties involved. Jesus so often was presented with a test by his “enemies” in which he was asked to select ‘Option A’ or ‘Option B’. He then completely turned the situation around by selecting ‘Option C’! I was so delighted to see that so many of your readers were seeking ‘Option C’, AND thrilled with the one who suggested making the situation a teachable moment and a creative, fun experience for any future ‘shortages’. My prayer now is going to be, “Dear Lord, please show me Your Wisdom and guide me in all decisions to Your “Option C'”. Thank you!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Rosemary

  9. Anonymous

    I need so much help in this area, that it would have been better for my character to give up the burger…but I really like the “dividing it up” approach. (especially with the “making it fun” thrown in). This will be such a strong witness for the girls.
    What I don’t like from the comment section, is all the “I’ll send hubby…” and “I’ll make my husband…” language. I was married to a verbally abusive jerk, and have had the pleasure of raising 5 young children alone (on super-spotty child support)for the last 7 years. If you are one of those women who are married to a “keeper”…a real good guy…then you have everything. Hubby should have been given a full burger, then rest divided. I’m sorry to digress, but I have had a lot of time to notice the way many women underapprciate–and overboss-their good and hard-working husbands.

    I love your blog though…thanks.

  10. Carrien

    Well, I’m late to the party. But here’s a practical tip for next time something like this happens from my mom and her lifetime of frugal cooking. If someone shows up at the door as you are about to start cooking burgers, immediately break up your patties and make smaller burgers, enough for everyone. I always make half size burgers and buns for the kids because otherwise it’s wasted. They can’t eat a full burger.

    And make an extra side dish of something cheap. Extra rice for example, or potatoes.

    I have littles at my house all day long during the summer, lots of them have parents on welfare and they seems to be constantly hungry bottomless little pits. But I have chosen most often these last few weeks to feed them all out of our minimal budget, even if it’s just water and Wasa crackers purchased on clearance at Big Lot’s. I don’t like the thought of them going hungry for hours. So the snacks I provide are usually whole wheat or vegetables. Once or twice I’ve made a big batch of pancakes and invited them to stay for dinner.

    I’ve turned chicken breasts into chicken fried rice and stretched the protein with some eggs and added vegetables.

    And my mom has these crazy stories of when she used to feed large groups of people and there wasn’t enough. She says that on more than one occasion she would put away 2 chicken legs for my dad, knowing that there wouldn’t be enough for everyone but feeling prompted by the HS to do so, and then there was enough for everyone and when she opened the oven there were 4 pieces for him instead of two. This was before me, so I never witnessed this. But pretty cool if true.

    I know you were concerned with the ethics of the dilemma, but I thought some practical advice may be helpful as it seems you are just embarking upon a journey of playing host to unexpected guests.

  11. Sara

    But Jesus didn’t say,

    “Okay guys, here’s the deal: you are the sinful creatures, I am God incarnate. I’m going to help you out and carry the weight of some of these sins, but you all have to put in your fair share. You have to take responsibility for your actions.”

    He selflessly abandoned His very self out of love for us. As we are given the grace to follow the eample of Christ and live lives of self donation, our sacrifices don’t just benefit those we sacrifice for – they allow us to be made a little more like the person God created each individual to be.

  12. Anonymous

    He gives us what we wanted, later. (IF it's not bad for us.) I've sacrificed/delayed my own food (and place at table) for 38 years, and even that wasn't enough –I had to cut things in half (as if we always did so) and bring in a chair as if it were my favorite thing to do, and add water (or tomato soup) to the spaghetti sauce when no one was looking, pretend that I was just in a real serving mode and placed everyone's servings on their dishes for them so that there were an equal number of meatballs (we've had lots of teens live in with us, not just kids stopping in over the years –tho' that, too, kids who always ate better than we did–doesn't matter, for they are guests), and I served LOTS of bread. But indeed, thank God that pb & j is still so good –slather on some marshmallow fluff, too, and it'll make the hamburger look so mundane, sudden kid-guests will climb over one another to have one. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Here's how I see it. Food doesn't seem like much to give another, but we die without it so it's really a biggie; also, it's so much fun to suddenly dine with another family in another household when you're a kid, one remembers if from year to year, decade to decade. Our own kids remember it, too. And later, they will have guests of their own. They'll know how to make even hot dogs and beans seem wonderful.

  13. Gina

    Good decision! As I mentioned, I can’t stand cheeseburgers, so I would have been the kid who opted for a PBJ instead. In fact, I would have been utterly miserable if made to eat a cheeseburger. So — if this girl felt like I would have — you’d have had two unhappy eaters, whereas it sounds like you ended up having two happy eaters. ๐Ÿ™‚ Nicely done.

  14. Abigail

    I can't believe how many blessings come from poverty- it's really changing the way I'm thinking about our own tight grocery budget.

    For me, reading your post made me rethink "hospitality." As a child, "having people" over meant hosting a party type deal with lots of food, soft drinks- excess. Their is no "extra" stuff floating around my pantry these days either. Does that mean that we can't host fellowship gatherings? No, because the things that my family can provide are a Mom who is home, lots of funny siblings, a happy, welcoming environment and a semi-clean living room.

    Thanks for reminding me that a Mother's cheerful spirit is the real measure of "party sucess" and not chips & salsa dip. The beauty of life with Our Blessed Mother, is that even when our spirit is a little more tired and freaked out, than cheerful– if we offer it up to her, she'll remake us more into her perfect image on the spot.

    I'm so glad that your girls have you as their Mother & role model!

  15. Agnes Regina

    Oh, you got lucky, didn’t you! (LOL) So it all turned out for the best!

    I agree with Abigail, those girls are very lucky to have you.

  16. Grafted Branch@Restoring the Years

    LOL…I knew they'd prefer the pb&j all along.

    Not really, but it made me say…"of course!"

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