Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Smile - Una Sonrisa

My friend's sweet son, Champion Smiler
I love to make people smile - especially children.
This week at work (a middle school in Virginia Beach), I was able to make a special boy smile.  He had been given an HP mini laptop by Assistive Technology, but the lady who gave it to him had not logged off.
Keeping with the brilliant design of Windows, a person cannot log into the computer in Windows 7 if someone else is logged on.  I can log off users at my school, but not from the AT Department.
The boy was given the laptop because he is visually impaired.  He's a sixth grader, so it's his first year at the school.  He was quite concerned because he wasn't able to log on, and the laptop is loaded with software, including large print textbooks, that he needs for school. When I was able to get the computer to the log in screen for him, he looked at me with one of those sweet smiles that only a child can give.  Wow.  It must have been such a relief for him to have what he needed to be able to function.
That made me think about my children (what doesn't?) and how they must feel when they receive a gift from me, even something as small as a sheet of stickers.  I so often wish I could be there to see them open the cards and letters, but even more to see them shop for their birthdays with the money I send.
I have two pictures of Michelle smiling because of gifts she received, and I have a picture of Isaac smiling while standing in his mother's garden.  I look at those often because I can get a small glimpse of what my sponsorship - and especially my correspondence - can do for these children. 
I have those pictures hanging on my refrigerator, and I have copies of them at work, where I so often need a smile.
I want to keep sending smiles to my children, and one day . . . I want to see them smile in person.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

María Fernanda

I finally received a letter from María (not sure why she uses the accent there) only to find that she goes by her second name, Fernanda.  I should just begin calling my new Hispanic children by their second name because that always seems to be the case.
Fernanda lives in Honduras and is 14 years old.  (I feel like I should be typing all this in Spanish instead of English.  Ha!)
Her favorite food is three milk cake.  I think I would like to try that.  Sounds yummy.
Her favorite thing to do is to go shopping.  I love that!  I am reminded over and over that these children have the same interests and desires as other kids even though they live in poverty.  
She is my correspondence child, so I really hope that her financial sponsor sends her money for her birthday so that she may go shopping.  
I think Fernanda is beautiful and that she needs beautiful ribbons for her hair.  
Here is the very cool picture she drew for me.  I wish I could draw this well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From Owlhaven

This is an excerpt from the blog titled Owlhaven.  The post is called "Orphans, poverty, my place?"  Please read the entire entry on her blog.

I asked Shaun [Groves] how he wrestled with this issue.   Here’s what he wrote:
      “I battle the Schindler syndrome, yes  - struggling with not doing all that could be done, looking at even the smallest comfort in my house and wondering how many more could be saved if I did without it. How austere, how simple, how generous am I to be?
      “We sold our dream house and moved into one much smaller but many third world homes could fit inside its walls. We support a local food pantry and homeless mission with time and money but we still throw out leftovers and expired groceries. We sponsor three children and one college student through Compassion International but when I’m losing my battle with addiction we could sponsor a couple more with what I spend on morning soft drinks. We’ve adopted recently but we have space and love for many more.
    “I wish God gave us a program, some rules to follow when it comes to simplicity and generosity. To keep us from the extremes of gluttony and asceticism. But instead of a program God gave us a Person: Jesus. And all I know to do, Mary, is to spend time with Him, in real intimate relationship with Him and other Christians who know the details of my life –  regularly, constantly. And in that relationship to do much more listening and pleading for direction than I do talking. To prepare more than I plan. To create margins, leftover time and money and energy, so that I’m free and ready to give or go as He leads me.
      “A wise mutual friend of ours, Brian Seay, taught me that God’s will for my life will often be found at the intersection of someone’s need and my ability. I stood in an Ethiopian orphanage looking into orphan eyes and found God’s leading there. I have an ability that matches their need. I had a neighbor who had a medical need but couldn’t afford to get treatment and I had extra in the bank that month – God was telling us something wasn’t He? And on and on we go, with hands and eyes open, looking and listening for the intersection of our ability and the needs of others.”

This morning, it was raining very hard here in Virginia Beach, so hard that one section of 1-264 had eight feet of standing water!!  As I drove by one business on my way to work, saw a sprinkler system watering the lawn.  In the pouring rain.
My first thought was the children in developing countries who need that clean water for drinking, and it was being wasted on a saturated lawn.

That's how I think now that I'm a Compassion sponsor.  Would you consider becoming a sponsor?  Just click the graphic at the top.  Save a child's life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Writing Too Much? Seriously???

First, I wish I could post here every day, but time just does not allow.  Mothers often tell me that they wish they had the free time I have.  HA!  Not only is that a slap in my face, it's so not true.  Don't get me wrong, being a mom is tough and takes a ton of time, among other tons of things, but a lot of moms seem to have more time to work on blogs than I do, and I really do have important things to do even if I'm not a mom.

Anyway, that's my first soapbox.

Second is that I've been having a discussion, begun first by phone and continued online.  I called Compassion to inquire about a correspondence child.  I had heard nothing from her in the five months since she had been assigned to me, which is okay, except that I wanted to assure that I was still supposed to be writing to her.  In checking the records, the lady on the phone told me I write to my children too often.  She also gave me a rather lengthy explanation of letter timing, which I already know (I do sponsor more than one child).

Man, did I feel stupid!!!  I write to my children every week.  I used to write twice a month until Jack asked me to write more often because he felt so sad and lonely and wanted to get to know me better, so I began writing every week.  
Let me clarify a few things:

  1. My letters do not need to be translated because I write in Spanish, except for my boy in Haiti and my correspondence girl in Uganda.
  2. I do not always ask questions in my letters.  Many of them are to explain holidays and customs in the US.
  3. My letters are not long, except when I answer a child's letter.
  4. I often (like today) just send a card with a picture I've taken (usually of the Atlantic Ocean).
  5. My children thank me for writing to them so often.
  6. Jack says, "Sus cartas son hermosas."  "Your letters are beautiful."

Some people have said that my letters would be overwhelming to the children because there are so many.  So I asked myself, "If I were a child in poverty, and I received mail once a month, would I rather receive one letter or four?"  I don't know.  Somehow I just can't accept the "overwhelming" idea.

I have decided to be sure that I stick to short letters and to send cards perhaps twice a month without much more than a scripture and a reminder that I'm praying.  I also told the children that I do not expect them to answer every letter I send (just to make sure I'm not overwhelming them).

But I will not stop writing every week unless Wess Stafford himself knocks on my door and tells me to.  For one, I think the children would be hurt if they suddenly received fewer letters from me, and even more importantly, in all my prayer about this situation, I am confident that I am doing what God wants me to do with my letter writing frequency.

So that's my second soapbox.  I don't expect anyone else to write every week, but as an Advocate, if a sponsor asked me if writing every week is too much, I certainly wouldn't say it is.  These children need all the love they can get.

If you're a sponsor and you don't write for whatever reason, please read this post:

Letters are important, even if you send too may of them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Small Blessings

I like to listen to the Virginia Beach Police and Fire scanner online. Some people think I'm strange, but I like to know what's going on around me, and when I used to work at a school 30 minutes away, I listened to it on my iPhone as I drove home so that I would know if there were backups from accidents or other issues that I needed to avoid. 
Late last June as I was driving home, I listened as many rescue workers spent hours trying to save a girl whose leg had become caught in a boat propeller. As soon as I heard the call, I began praying for her, and I didn't stop praying until I heard that she was in the ambulance (with the propeller still in her leg) on her way to the hospital. This is the initial story:
I didn't hear much more about it because her family wanted to shelter her.  I even saw a post on Facebook by either the above newspaper or a TV station asking for information about her.  That really angered me.  I mean, leave the poor girl alone!!
This weekend, I was thinking about her, and I was sort of disappointed that I would never know how she was doing.  (That may or may not be hypocritical.)
Today, a girl walked into my computer lab (I just transferred to this school) to get a new password.  She was wearing a boot on her left foot, so I asked her what happened.  She said, "I got my leg caught in a boat propeller."

Weighty pause to let your brain catch up.

She told me about the nerve damage she had sustained and the many surgeries she had endured.  But there she was, walking normally except for the limp from the boot.  I told her that I heard the call on the scanner and that I began praying for her as soon as I heard it and didn't stop until I knew she was safe.  I also told her that I had been thinking about her and was so happy to be able to meet her.  (She also mentioned that the media had stalked her home.  Errrr!!)
It wasn't until later that I realized I broke the law by talking to a student about prayer, but I hope, no matter what she believes, that what I told her makes a difference in her life.  
The look of surprise on her face when I said it makes me think it already has.

Monday, September 5, 2011

From Francis

I received a letter from Francis on Friday, which is perfect because I write to my children every Friday.  I've had a bit of an online discussion with other advocates about whether writing to my children every week is too much, but I just can't wrap my mind around "too much."  Since I write in Spanish, only two letters (Haiti and Uganda) need translated, and even if the children only receive letters once a month, I'm sure they love receiving four at a time instead of one or two.  Or none, which is tragic.  So I will continue to write every month until I know God wants me to stop . . . if that day ever arrives.
I did tell them in this week's letter that I don't expect them to write to me as often as I write to them.  Since Peru is reciprocal, I don't want Jack to feel obligated.  But Jack is the one who asked me to write more often, so I would never cut back on my letters to him.
Francis tells me about her little brother who was 9 months old when she wrote in May.  She said he has two teeth and smiles a lot.  :)  She really loves her little brother.  She also has two older sisters, and she is very sweet with them, too.
She said she is learning about working as a team and how that can help her to accomplish more.  She also has had a cough, but has syrup to help her with that.  Even though I don't want her to be ill, I like knowing that my sponsorship is providing her with that medical assistance.  She writes much more, but those are the highlights.  Her letters are always long for one so young.
I'm posting the picture she drew.  Her pictures are so detailed and always very happy.  I'm fairly sure she includes a butterfly in every drawing.
I love my Francis

My Lifelong Goal

I don't think I realized it until lately, but goal for my entire adult life has been to help children, including teenagers, know that they matter, that they are beautiful, that they never need doubt themselves.  My parents never said those things to me.  Actually, they called me a troublemaker and other names I wouldn't repeat anywhere, especially here.  That's probably one reason I have always avoided cursing, not because I think I'm better than others, but because of those memories.  But I digress.
As a teacher, I try very hard (not always successful) to encourage students and never to say anything that would make them feel bad about themselves (my heart breaks when I think of the times I have failed).
This weekend, I went to Walmart.  I never go to Walmart for several reasons, but I was close on Saturday, so I went.  I saw one of the little girls who was in my Vacation Bible School group in July.  I was so, so happy to see her again, and she smiled at me the entire time I talked with her. She has such a sweet spirit.  I told her what a great person she is, although she has parents who tell her that daily.
On Sunday, I worked at our church at what we called "Oasis Place After the Race."  The Rock and Roll Half Marathon was held here in Virginia Beach on Sunday, and since our church is right at the oceanfront, we are prevented from having our first two services.  So we set up an "oasis" where the runners and their families--and anyone else--could get food, water, prayer, communion, music, and best of all . . . the children could make pinwheels.  That was my job.  For two straight hours, I helped children make pinwheels.  Nonstop.  We were quite popular.
With every pinwheel, I did all I could to encourage each child about the good job he or she was doing, and to compliment the children on their appearance and their skill at following directions (so different from high school students!  Ha.).
I asked one little girl if anyone had ever told her she was pretty.  She said, "Yes," at which her mother chuckled.  I said, "Well, that's good because you are, and I want you to promise me that you will remember that for the rest of your life, no matter what."  She was probably only about three years old, but I do pray that somehow what I said to her will make a difference in a dark and lonely time later in her life.  Because we all have those times, don't we?
So that little rambling story pretty much tells the reason I am passionate about being a Compassion sponsor and a Compassion advocate.  I want children to feel loved and important.  Because they are.
One of the little girls who made a pinwheel