Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Imperfect Giving!


One thing that has been on my mind lately is how my need for perfectionism can sometimes stand in the way of a giving spirit.  I want to give this or that to charity, but I want to make sure it's the right charity.  I want everything to line up perfectly before I put myself out there.  And in those instances, I really do believe that perfect is the enemy of  good enough!

Sometimes, also, my desire to stay away from entanglements - to keep things simple and drama-free - can also stand in the way of my desire to connect with others.  I don't want to over-promise and then let someone down, so instead I think about doing something but end up dong nothing!

One thing I've never really told anyone is that from 2004 to 2010, Mr. M and I sponsored two children through Save The Children.  Anju was a little girl from Nepal and Araba was from Mali.  I started off writing often, but then life got busy, and I stopped writing them.  Then I felt guilty about not writing them.  Then, everytime I looked at the monthly bill to sponsor them, I was reminded of how guilty I felt for not writing them.  Then, one day, I was tired of feeling guilty, so I stopped sponsoring them.  I still feel horrible about it to this day and if you mention the name Araba or Anju to me, I feel ashamed.

But then today I was thinking that really, I can let go of feeling ashamed.  Just because we decide to help someone, it doesn't have to be forever.  We can be good forces in people's lives, even if it is just for a time...for a season...even for just a moment.  I'm not sure, but maybe all those letters I wrote to Araba and Anju in the beginning helped them have confidence that they would not have had otherwise.  Maybe my sponsorship for six years meant that they learned to read or had access to clean water during a critical period in their lives.

After I stopped sponsoring them, I didn't want to sponsor another child because I was literally racked with guilt: What if I have to let it go again? What if I never write?  What if...what if...what if...

So, this all leads me to the present. For the past year, Paprika has been asking for a Pen Pal.  I kind of searched around for an appropriate Pen Pal for her (she wants one from Hawaii and Mexico), but then I really didn't come up with anything.  Then one day, I thought about Araba and Anju.  I thought that there must be a child somewhere who would love to receive letters from Paprika.  And so, I signed up to sponsor again, this time through Compassion International.

I had some reservations about sponsorship.  I worried "what if I don't write again and feel guilty about it?"  And then, my mind also went to:  What if this charity is actually just a scam and I am just sending money into the wind?  I was also concerned that Compassion was a little too churchy for me...while I am a person of faith, I am definitely not churchy!  ;-)

So, here's the deal. Compassion is a well-respected charity.  It has had a Four (Out of Four) Star Rating from Charity Watch for eleven consecutive years.  They do so much good in the communities.  I have read (many) blogs and personal accounts of sponsors who have travelled to and actually met their sponsored child.  I have read (many) tales of lives trasformed and connections made due to sponsorship.

Bottom line - I thought:  If I step outside my comfort zone and let go of guilt and perfection, I could have the possibility of connecting with a child and making a difference in that child's life.  Maybe I will fall short again, but maybe I won't.  Maybe my sponsorship won't make a difference. But maybe it will.  If I do nothing, I definitely won't be making a difference.

So, a few months ago, Paprika got a new Pen Pal.   ;-)

Meet our new Sponsored Child.  She's five years old and she lives in Ethiopia with her single mama.  Her name is Hiwot.  I am proud to say that we've already written to her six times.


It's very easy to write to her because Compassion allows you to craft your letters on the computer - with cute stationery and you can even upload up to three pictures (we always do that, of course!)


I love looking at Hiwot's picture and thinking about what she's doing and praying for her and her mom. Hoping she's having a good day. Glad that she has enough to eat and clean water to drink.

We've enjoyed writing to Hiwot so much that I contacted Compassion and asked them if we could write letters to children who don't receive letters from their sponsors. Basically, I asked if we could write to children who already have a financial sponsor but for whatever reason, the sponsor does not write to the child (I am NOT judging! Haha). I know the kids love getting letters, and for them it's a tangible lets them know that someone cares about them and is rooting for them, praying for them, and believes they are a person of value.

So, what do you know - now we have two more little souls to write to (so far)! If all goes well, we will have a few more soon, too.

This is Yurbilith. She lives in Honduras with her mom, dad, two brothers, and a sister. We've been writing to her for about six weeks now. We just got a letter from her with the cutest drawing, and she told us all about her family. She loves reading (just like Paprika), and her letter was so sweet and funny.


Then, about two weeks ago, we were assigned Fasika from Ethiopia. We have written four letters to Fasika so far. It has been such a blessing to be able to write her. Paprika looks forward to writing her and asking her how she's doing, what she's learning in school, if she helps her mom with chores, and what her favorite things to do are.


For Paprika, it is amazing to learn about children all over the world and how they live, what their hopes and dreams are, and how connected we all are. I hope one day we will be able to visit one (or more) of these children. For now, it's just been wonderful writing to them and sending photos.

Paprika doesn't really understand the economic difference and that's okay. I have been letting her draft the letters, and then before I send them, I edit them a bit just to make sure they are culturally sensitive. Like, in her last letter to Hiwot, Paprika typed that she wanted to be an astronaut and an author. So, before I sent the letter to Hiwot, I edited out astronaut and just left author. Also, in our photos, I just make sure we send simple pictures when we're out in nature or at the beach. Or what the first day of school looked like:


Sometimes Paprika just wants to send a picture of what the clouds looked like on a sunny day or a flower she thought was pretty:


The most important part, I think, is finding that common thread of connection that is the same across all cultures and with all children. All children love to play, love their families, and have hopes and dreams for their lives.
For me, it's been a joy to see the girls get excited about writing and to have the opportunity to thoughtfully answer questions as they arise. But more than that, this sponsorship is changing me and reminding me to be grateful for all the easy parts of my life. For the warm water that (like magic!) flows out of my shower each day. For the abundant food in our pantry. For free public education. For having (more than one!) pair of clean shoes. For all things I could take for granted, but I don't.

Also, I am going to try my best not to feel guilty because I think that guilt is an emotion that separates us from goodness. Instead of feeling guilty, I am going to be grateful for all that I have and do my best...not mired in perfectionism...but just my best, in this moment, in whatever way I can to do what I can.

This sponsorship is just a little thing, really. But for me, it feels satisfying and whole, it feels big. It feels like this might be just as good for me as it ever could be for Hiwot, Yurbilith, Fasika, or whoever else comes along. :-)


Kim said...

This is so amazing! What a wonderful thing for your daughters to participate in and how special those children are to have this connection to you. Keep us updated:)

Mimi said...

I can't even begin to tell you how I relate to this post. We used to sponsor a child, then money was tight and I decided we had to stop, and regularly feel guilty over it. I've been through the "scam" thoughts too.
I love the end of this post, so spiritual.
Thanks Erika!