a love letter to giving.

hope

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of extra money for things like eating out or brand-new name-brand jeans (I had some but they came from the thrift store if you must know). My mom stayed at home when we were small and then went back to teaching (spoiler alert: teaching is not a lucrative career). My dad was an entrepreneur, and starting a small business means having big dreams but not as much cash.

And yet, throughout my childhood, my parents sponsored children through World Vision. My dad, recognizing that I was already in the habit of writing long letters to my friends (because I couldn’t pay for the long-distance calls but I could afford a stamp) (long-distance was a real thing, kids, look it up), asked me to write to one in particular, a girl who was a few years older than I. Her name was Temsemula. I studied her name with interest, wondering how to pronounce it, and wrote some awkward lines to her once or twice. Though we didn’t develop a deep relationship, I enjoyed thinking that we were connected to her. I understood that my parents were telling us that it was more important to help a kid get an education than it was for me to be dressed in head-to-toe Guess.

I thought of Temsemula last week, not for the first time. I periodically search for her on Facebook and Google but I haven’t found her yet. That is the part I find so mystifying about thousands of people cancelling their sponsorships of children last week—did they not love those children? I still think of Temsemula, someone I never met. I am able to pray for her, even now, which is such a beautiful mystery. I carry her in my heart because my family made her a priority. These days, Mike and I sponsor a boy named Stephen through Compassion because, once I got my own household, I modeled what my parents had taught me by making a regular space in our lives for giving. I don’t write to him as often as I should, but I am always excited to hear from him and to see his updates.

I don’t really care if you sponsor kids through World Vision or Compassion or the Christian Children’s Fund. Maybe you support community building through Heifer International or Watering Malawi. Maybe you like microloans through Kiva or helping classrooms through Donors Choose. Maybe you donate somewhere else – a local organization that helps feed hungry kids in your community. Or maybe you’re like my dad and sometimes you just cook up hotdogs and pass them out to people who need food. Wherever you give, whatever you do, make helping other people a priority. It can be risky to commit to giving your money to someone, let alone promising to write letters or show up face-to-face. But I think that watching my parents provide for others taught me about more than just careful budgeting. It was a gift to see them live what they believed.

When I saw my mom on Saturday, I mentioned that I had been thinking about the kids we used to sponsor and wondering if there was a way to find out what happened to them. We didn’t talk about World Vision last week while all that was going down, but I guess she was thinking about those kids, too, because she said she went and found an old picture of Temsemula and put her back up on the refrigerator. It shouldn’t be a secret, but maybe it is so I will tell you: opening our hearts to other people is a gift, one that we could all do with a little more of.

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