Sunday, May 29, 2011

Los Zapatos

I’ve seen many people on post pictures that they’ve received from their sponsored children who are holding gifts they’ve purchased with money sent by the sponsors.  I just posted on the site on Friday that I wish I could receive pictures of my kids with gifts.  They always thank me for them, but I don’t get to see pictures of them with what they bought.
On Saturday, I received a letter from Michelle, and on the back are these two pictures of her!   (Trying to decide what else to wish for with results like that!)  In the first she is holding a backpack that she received at the Compassion project because of my support.  The backpack has Minnie Mouse on it.
Her birthday isn’t until June 13th, but she already received the money I sent for that and went shopping.  She bought three pairs of shoes and the pink socks she is holding in the second picture.  Notice the glitzy pink shoes.  I love it.  It warms my heart and makes me smile to see her with the shoes.  With the money I sent for Christmas, she was given a pair of shoes, so now she has almost as many shoes as I do!  (Okay, I’m SO not a typical girl where shoes are concerned.)
Michelle is definitely a GIRL’S girl.  
It’s not that I think sponsoring is all about enabling the children to get material things, but just think of how good you feel when you wear something new—or drive something new.  Now imagine (although we really can’t) living under the oppression of poverty, where many children have no shoes at all, and being able to have three new pairs of shoes (well, really four, counting Christmas).  
Hope—that’s what those shoes represent to me.  Michelle has hope that she can break the chains of poverty and one day not only buy her own shoes, but help others to do so.
I love the picture that she drew, although I’m wondering why the book is floating in the sky.  LOL.  I’m guessing that’s a Bible.  I can tell that Michelle is a perfectionist because she erased and redrew so many things.  I love the heart.  That’s an awesome thing.  
She will turn 6 next month, but she seems to include a lot of details for one so young, especially all the different colors.  I can imagine her painstakingly picking up each crayon to make the picture just right.
I can’t stop thinking about the look on her face—not just the happiness, but the sense of accomplishment, that a little girl in poverty can be just a little girl … with pink shoes and pink socks and a pink backpack.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Ripple Effect

Yesterday was a jackpot for me.  I received a letter from Gethory (Haiti)--my first one besides the introductory form--and another letter from Jack (Peru)!
The drawing is from Gethory.  He’s only 4, so he clearly is not able to write his own letters yet.  When children are too young to write, they draw a picture to certify it’s actually their letter.  Gethory’s uncle wrote his letter for him.
The letter is full of thanks from his family for my support of Gethory.  They clearly view it as support for the entire family.  I can’t even begin to imagine the conditions that most of these children live in, but in Haiti, I know the conditions are exceptionally bad.  It must be amazing to them to have the financial support from Compassion.  I really can’t comprehend it.
The letter says that Gethory and his family are happy to greet me, my whole family, and all of my friends.  So anyone who is reading this has just received greetings from Gethory and his family in Haiti.  That’s awesome.
Gethory says he “goes to church in order to praise the Lord.”  Wow.  Picture that little 4-year-old boy praising God in Haiti.  Sweet.  He asks how we celebrate Easter in the U.S. and if I like that holiday and why.
He will be graduating to kindergarten soon.   :)
Jack writes his own letters because he’s 15, so I don’t get drawings from him.  I can pretty much read his letters since they are in Spanish, except that he doesn’t have the greatest handwriting.
Jack wrote to thank me for the money I sent for his birthday, which by U.S. standards is not much.  He was able to buy a pair of sneakers, a pair of sandals, and a pair of shorts.  He wore his sneakers to school, and all his friends were “asombrados y maravillados”--amazed and surprised. :)  I love imagining how proud Jack was to go to school with his new sneakers.  Just think of how we feel when we wear something new that we really like.  It must be even greater for a child in poverty to have that experience.
Jack asks how we celebrate birthdays in the U.S.  (I sense a theme here.  Ha.)  He always ends his letters with some sort of “abrazos y besos”--hugs and kisses.  This time it is a “strong hug and a beautiful kiss.”  I pray that I can one day give Jack a strong hug in person.
The sermon at church on Sunday was titled, “One Little Pebble in the Big, Vast Sea,”  a part of the theme, “What is your ripple effect?”  I sometimes feel as helpless as a little pebble when I see the many needs in the world--earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, the flooding Mississippi, horrific tornados in the Midwest . . . what can I possibly do?
Well, I can make the family of a little boy in Haiti happy because of my sponsorshp, and I can provide a new pair of sneakers for a proud and loving teenage boy in Peru.  There are a couple of ripples.  I’ll keep working on more.

Monday, May 16, 2011


This video shows you how you can make a difference.  If you know Spanish (and can block out the translator), you will know how grateful this mother is.
I love the way the mother looks at her daughter.  I love the sweet daughter.  And I love the baby obliviously playing in the background.  Haha!
This is what you do when you sponsor a child.  You change lives.
I don’t know about you, but that works for me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What I've Learned from Being a Compassion Sponsor

There are a lot of things that are really stressing me out right now.  First, I’ve been ill for a week.  It’s nothing bad, just bronchitis, sinus infection, and so on, but man, is it ever frustrating!  I haven’t even gone to work all week, and this is not a good week to miss.

Secondly, the economy is really getting me down.  Okay, like I’m the only person affected, right?  I know I’m not, and I’m not even affected as much as most people probably are, but it’s depressing.  I haven’t gotten a raise in … … three years?  Four years?  Not even sure anymore.  Yet, my water bill, my sewage (yuck) bill, my electric bill, food prices have all gone up.  And let’s not even begin to talk about gas prices.  Wow.  That’s especially depressing.

We’re supposed to have this great health care “reform” in the country, yet I keep getting messages from my pharmacy and my employee benefits office about the rising cost of health care, and how that will adversely affect me.  This is reform?

Oh wait—I forgot I’m getting a 1/2% raise next year.  Yep.  HALF.  I should be thankful for that, right?  Well, the city council decided last night to take almost $24 million dollars away from the school system.  Seriously??  The reason?  Partly to give a 2.5% raise to city employees.  Hellooooo!!  Not only does that not allow school employees to get more than a 1/2% raise, but it cuts staffing and increases class size.  The last two don’t affect me personally, but they certainly will affect the quality of education for kids in our city.  That would be our future, brilliant people on the city council.

Oh but that’s not all.  The city council also decided that each of us will now have to pay $10 a month for trash pickup and that our sewage bills will rise each year.  That may not seem like a big deal except that those two things negate my big 1/2% raise.  Thanks.

Seriously.  It’s demoralizing.  And it’s kind of scary.

But then … I think of my Compassion kids.  They don’t have sewage bills.  Oh that’s right—they don’t have sewage systems.  Or trash pick up.  Or water service.  Jack’s father died, and the father’s family kicked him and his mom out of their house.  Isaac’s dad has to work in another place because there are no jobs in their town.  Francis and Michelle don’t even have their fathers in their lives at all.  Gethory lives with his grandmother and three siblings. 

It is beyond my scope of comprehension to be able to even begin to imagine the conditions in which these children live.  Not only do they live in abject poverty, but they live  with the imminent threat of gang violence and drug traffic daily, some more than others.  I have a Glock to protect myself in case someone might happen to break into my house.  I’m confident it wouldn’t take much to break into the shacks that serve as the homes of those children.

I’ve discontinued my cable TV service, my Starbuck’s visits, my Diet Coke purchases, and my visits to Pittsburgh in order to save money.  (That last one is HUGE.)  I’m still stressed, and I’m a little concerned, but nothing I face can compare to what those kids and their families face every day.  That realization doesn’t make my situation easier, and I’m still very concerned about the city and national governments, but it sure does put it in perspective.  I’ve always told myself in situations like this that God has blessed me richly and that there are people who don’t even have enough money to have the problems that I do, but now I have faces to put with that thought.  And I will continue to trust and to sacrifice to bless the lives behind those sweet faces.

That’s just one important lesson that I’ve learned from being a Compassion sponsor, and I’m just beginning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Letter from Isaac :)

I got a letter from Isaac today.  I love his letters because he’s always so straightforward.  (Clearly, we will be great friends if we ever meet in person.)  
He has always written his own letters (and I think it’s cool that no one corrects his spelling errors), even though he just turned 9, but he still draws a picture.  His pictures crack me up.  I’m not exactly sure what everything is since he’s young (and you know how you to have to make generic comments about what kids draw just in case you have “interpreted” the drawing incorrectly), and because I have to try to apply it to his culture.   It’s pretty cool, though.
He says that he’s learning to divide by 4 in school, and that in church he is learning to respect others.  He writes about several other things, and at the end he asks me to pray for his father because he is working in another place.  That saddens me, but I know that happens often with these children.
He asks me how old I am.  That really cracked me up.  Should I be honest?  LOL.
I’m pretty excited that I was able to read his entire letter without looking at the translation.  I mean, he’s only 9, so it’s not too complex, but when I first started sponsoring him, I had to go directly to the translation.   I guess the mucho dinero I shelled out for Spanish 101 was worth it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What Is the Point of Mother's Day, Anyway?

My niece and nephew about 14 years ago

I haven’t liked Mother’s Day for a long time.  It’s just another one of those “Hallmark holidays.”  Every year I’ve heard that being a mother is the “highest calling on Earth.”   I always think, if that’s the highest calling on Earth, then why am I not good enough?  (Seriously, that’s a really tough idea to deal with.)  
I’ll admit, unlike the majority of my female counterparts, I did not grow up wishing to get married and have children.  I wasn’t against it; it just wasn’t my goal in life.  I wanted an education and a career.  I got both of those.  I did not get marriage and motherhood.
I never cared until people started asking questions such as, “Why didn’t you ever have any children?  Why didn’t you ever get married?”  (Like I’m dead now or something.)  One boy at school on Friday told me I should join eHarmony so that I can meet someone and have kids.  I actually laughed pretty hard at that.
I’ve really dreaded Mother’s Day the past three years because I no longer have a mom, and I’m not a mom.  So what’s the point?
But what I have come to realize is that God has saved me to be a mother to many in need.  I have been a mom to nieces and nephews at times.  I have been a mom to many students.  And I am a mom to very poor children in the Compassion program.  Yes, all of the aforementioned have their own mothers, but sometimes they need another, and I’m always there.  Always.  If I had my own children, I wouldn’t be able to be “there” for the others.
I know now that God has saved me—at least to this point in my life—to care for those children who are not my own, but who are in need.  So I am no less of a woman than any other just because I have not given birth to or adopted my own child.  I have given my heart.  Freely.
On Mother’s Day, I won’t get recognition for being a mom.  I won’t get cards or flowers or any other gifts.  No one will take me out for a Mother’s Day dinner.  I won’t hear a human voice thanking me for being the mother of his children.  I’ll probably be alone all day. 
But I will hear God’s voice thanking me for taking care of His children, those who were lonely or poor or otherwise needy.  And that is a high calling.  
A very High Calling indeed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sometimes God Gives Me Goosebumps

Sunrise over the Atlantic in Virginia Beach

At about the same time I decided to sponsor Camilo from Colombia (last week), I also asked Compassion for another correspondence child.
{For those who don't know, a correspondence child is one who is already sponsored, but whose sponsor requests to have someone else write to the child.}
Before I chose Camilo, I also considered Honduras.  It was very heavy (not in a bad way, but in a prominent way) on my mind, but I decided to find a Colombian child in honor of my Colombian friend.
Today, I checked the Compassion website and found my new correspondence child--María Fernanda González from . . . . Honduras!  I felt weak when I saw that.  And I'm not using "weak" with the slang connotation.  I mean it literally.
María is 14, so I'm excited to have an older girl to write, and I'm excited to learn about Honduras.
Once again, I had a rough day at work, AND I have an oral Spanish final tonight.  But once again, God encouraged me through a Compassion child.
Now if He would just do something about this horrid migraine!  :)

Jack Again!!

I'm so excited!  I had a cruddy, cruddy day at work today.  It seems that everyone is mad at someone else, and since I work in the biggest school in the city, that's a lot of people.
Sometimes we humans are just SO stupid.
But when I got home, I had another letter from Jack!  I've never gotten letters so close together before.  I'm so glad.
He said that he bought a tee shirt with the money I sent him for Christmas, and he wore it on Christmas day.  Wow.  I got an iPad for Christmas.  Jack got a tee shirt.
He sent me "a beautiful kiss and a big hug."  So sweet.