I just got a letter from the little girl we sponsor in Haiti. It takes about 2 months to actually get letters from her. It tells of her normal progress in school, and her very thankful heart for us, and gives us updates on her and her family. This letter means a little more than normal today.
At this moment I am still waiting to hear if she is alive or ok. She lives right near the epicenter of the recent earthquakes. It may take several weeks or months to know. It is a hard wait. Of course I am hoping for the best, preparing for the worst…praying…and continuing to send support.
It’s a pretty strange feeling to be holding a letter in your hands that quite honestly – the person that penned it could be dead. It is very surreal. But of course – I am jumping to very morbid conclusions. For all intensive purposes and hopes – she is still very much alive.
It does, however, remind me of another letter I received back in my college days. A letter from a friend that decided that life was just too much for her and as I read the words that she wrote with her own hands…she was already gone. What a tragedy. What a waste.
The thing I am struck with is the contrast of these two situations. In one case, there is a young girl in such devastating circumstances, yet so hopeful and eager to live life to the fullest…So thankful for the smallest of things. In the other case, a young woman with every material wish lavished upon her by well meaning parents, but at the core she was empty, not thankful, unfulfilled.
One young girl fighting for her rights to even go to school and one young woman who had the education of her choice at great colleges and found it still not enough.
What is going on here? What is this disparity? Is it perspective? Entitlement? Expectations? It is a very curious thing to me. And it makes me look at myself and wonder where I lie in this extreme scale. Even more importantly – how am I raising my own children to view the world?
I find that it is honestly a very hard task to raise truly thankful kids in this society. It is so easy to give them so much – even modest givers. Little things can add up. Candy bars at the grocery store check out line, eating out, DVDs or going to the movies, leapster pads or DS games, organized sports, girl scouts, play dates, birthday parties, skating rinks, amusement parks, library trips, swimming pools, bouncy places, shopping, the zoo, carnivals, vacations and so many toys that there is not enough room to store them…all of these things are essentially luxuries and we don’t really even view them as that.
It’s not that any of these things are bad in and of themselves, but when we view all these things as entitlements…it can make for some ungrateful hearts. Sometimes the luxuries and the noise of our everyday crazy and chaotic society are actually obstacles.
And do I have to mention the biggest one of all? Freedom! Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of where to go to school…all kinds of freedoms, rights, protections, and wonderful things that we honestly take for granted like the air we breathe most of the time. And though we witnessed and lived through the nightmare of 911, and are at war abroad…none of us in our recent history have experienced the fear of bombs and explosions from warfare on our own territory in an ongoing, everyday basis. We don’t live in constant fear of being killed at any given moment. Not yet anyway.
When I got to go on a mission trip to Dominican Republic years ago, Haiti was in political unrest and essentially war. It was a precarious situation. We almost didn’t get to go. But I am so glad we did. It broadened my horizons and opened my eyes to just how spoiled I had been and how wasteful and ungrateful I lived my life…and I had always lived a fairly modest life.
But it was about more than modesty or materialistic things. It was deeper than all that. It was a perspective that was more humbling than can really be described.
In the midst of pure economic devastation, there was a greater sense of happiness and peace in Dominican Republic than I had ever experienced here. I had gone over thinking I was going to help them out in some great way…and it was just the opposite. They saved me.
The one thing I remember the most is their smiles. You could see into their very beautiful souls. There was something so real, peaceful and inviting about them. Was it acceptance? Was it the kind of wisdom that you get when you finally stop thinking you deserve things in this life and just accept that you have to make the most of what you have?
I remember that last night I was there. One of the families was trying to offer me their baby. OMG! They were trying to offer their baby a better life – with me – an American! They were serious. It was such a crazy moment. It made me so sad.
What I realize now is that in so many ways, that child is so much better off there, in that family, with all that love. The Dominicans that I witnessed anyway, really loved their families. Cousins would hold hands just going to the market. Families stayed together. I could never have offered that child that kind of stability…that kind of foundation.
I could offer that child stuff and chaos and busyness and confusion. Yes, three round meals and snacks galore in between, and entertainment, and toys and movies, and all the hollow luxuries that we as Americans have come to love and take for granted…and somehow in all that – yes…opportunity. Opportunity if you can rise above the entitlement and expectations and realize that every moment is a moment to do something great.
Wow. I sound like I am down on America tonight – but I’m not. I am so very thankful to live here. We are honestly so blessed beyond imagination. The freedoms that I mentioned above are the most dear to me. I can’t imagine living in such oppression or fear of making one wrong move…fearing for the lives of my children every moment. I am so thankful for the veterans of the past and present that make our country what it is today!
But I probably should be more aware of the lives of my children than I am…Their hearts…the guarding of their hearts, their minds, their expectations. I hope and pray my children have hearts, minds and lives fashioned more after the little girl we sponsor in Haiti, than of the young woman I knew in college.
My big girl is fascinated with Laura Ingals, and loves old time black and white movies, both girls love the simple things of playing out doors and with card board boxes. But how easily I forget that and get caught up in the marketing of all that they could and should have. And even though I don’t personally buy them much – they get plenty in the way of gifts, hand be downs, etc. I keep finding myself fighting to simplify…fighting for simplicity, for a quiet and sacred space to inspire imagination, creativity, and the basics. Balls are still nearly every kids favorite toy. Why do we think they need every new trendy toy on the market? Because we are programed lemmings. Fight the good fight!
Anything is possible. There are so many great kids right here in America. We live in a great place. I am so thankful, yet still take so much for granted. I’m a work in progress for sure.
And in the meantime I am hopeful to get another letter from my sweet little sponsor child…a letter from the living!