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AN AFTERNOON WITH A GOOD BOOK
16 January 2015
Around 11 a.m., I really didn't want to go to Logos. And I really did want to get something stronger than pancakes to help with my problem. So Susan agreed to work for me, I went to the store and brought home something by Phillips, took a couple of pills, climbed into the recliner and buried myself in a book, waiting for my mild pains to pass. Literally.
The book was "Go into all the World" by Australian David Chalmers and I found it so fascinating, I finished it all in one sitting. I'm not sure if people not familiar with Compassion, Int'l would be as interested, but I really enjoyed it for all sorts of reasons.
Chalmers was a young man in 2006 when he first encountered Compassion. As so many of us did, he was drawn to the picture of a specific child in Columbia and he decided to sponsor her. Also as it seems to happen, once he had one, he started sponsoring more. He finally decided he wanted to sponsor a child in every country where Compassion worked and ended up with 31 sponsored children in 12 different countries (at then-$32 per child, this is no small investment).
But he felt the call to do more. He decided he would visit all of his sponsored children and this book, really more like a collected series of blog entries, details his experiences on those trips over the next few years.
As I said, I found it fascinating on many levels. He paints vivid pictures of the things he saw on his trips, not only the extreme poverty, the appalling living conditions, the occasional dangerous situations, but he also is surprised at the joy he finds in the most lowly home, places without walls where, he asked one mother what they do when it rains and she answered "we get wet."
He talks about the importance the letters we all write makes to the children, how they are saved and treasured and how the kids who get no, or few letters are so disappointed.
He describes the difference being in the Compassion program makes to the families of the sponsored children. He visited the project center everywhere he went, saw how the place is run, saw the meticulous records kept for each child (the poorer centers had only a few children, while some had nearly 1,000).
When you contribute to a charitable organization, sometimes you aren't sure how much of your money actually goes to the child. He describes in detail how the money is spent for the children, how the volunteers (it seems most project workers are volunteers) truly care about the children and give them support, love, health care, and perhaps their only nutritious meal of the day.
But more than showing me how Compassion operates around the world, it strengthened my conviction that going to visit my sponsored children would not be something that would work for me. Just the paragraph about walking 2 miles in one direction (in extreme heat) to see the child's project and then back again and another mile to go somewhere else killed it for me. I would not be able to keep up.
He also had wonderful interactions with some of his sponsored children and is very honest about the disappointing interactions with others. He admits to being very shy and awkward in social situations. But he had two things going for him. He was a music teacher and plays the drum and when he couldn't communicate with the children, he could get their attention with music...and also he took a "footy" (the ball used to play Australian rules football) and got games started with the kids wherever he went. It went far to break down some (but not all) of the barriers with the quieter kids.
I think back to our visit to the school Viking supports in China and my great disappointment that the children openly turned away from me and chose someone else to be their visitor to relate to and my biggest fear -- over and above the heat and the rigors of the visit -- is that these children, many of whom I have come to love very much (others I'm waiting until more time has elapsed and we have more communication between us) would not relate to me at all. How sad that would make me feel.
Chalmers admits to feeling like I would feel under the situation, disappointed that after all he'd done for the kids they were so standoffish, but then he adds that he realized it wasn't all about him, after all, but about the kids.
I would also have the added deterrent of not being fluent in the Bible, or in religion at all and while he does not dwell on that aspect, it is clear that the one big thing they share is their faith, which I can fake in letters, but it would be more difficult to do in person.
It's not that I don't believe in God, but I think of myself as spiritual, not religious. God may have a good talking to me about that at the end of my life.
But it was a good read anyway and by the time
I had finished it I was finally much relieved. Literally.
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