As most of you probably already know, I'm an advocate for Compassion International, and my husband and I sponsor three children through the organization. One is in India, one in Columbia, and one in Uganda. Child sponsorship is an amazing way to expand your worldview and put your own American life into a global perspective.
That really hit home for me this week when we got a letter from our child in Uganda. Opio is six-years-old and lives with his grandfather. His mother is dead, we think from AIDS although no one has said, and his father is a soldier who left to fight in Sudan and was never heard from again. Every few months we get a letter, focusing mostly on how he's doing in school and how their crops of Irish potatoes and maize are doing, including the status of the annual rainfall.
We sent Opio an extra monetary gift when we first started sponsoring him; Compassion bought him clothing and a hen. With his birthday gift, he got a goat. We chuckled over the pictures we got of Opio with his livestock, but we know a hen that lays eggs and a goat that gives milk are life-giving gifts for this boy and his family.
I got a letter this week, and in it Opio once again gives us the crop report, but ends with the question, "What have you grown this season?"
How do you tell a six-year-old whose very existence depends on a fickle rainy season, who eats Irish potatoes and maize and is happy for it, that I can go in to any grocery store in town and purchase more food than his imagination can conjur up? That any fruit or vegetable, in or out of season, is available year round? That not only can I purchase the staple ingredients, that I can purchase hundreds of pre-prepared foods?
That I eat a million times better than he ever will, and I don't lift a finger to do it?
Have you considered lately how good we actually have it in America, food-wise? I just made a tomato and cheese sandwich and grilled it on my Forman grill. I didn't grow the grain or make the bread. I didn't grow the tomato. I didn't milk a cow or make the cheese or churn the butter. I didn't build a fire to grill the sandwich.
I also made cup of tea. I didn't carry the water from a well or build a fire to boil it. I didn't harvest or process the tea, or grow the sugar cane, or milk the cow. (Just as an aside, think today about how much of what goes into your body has to do with a cow, fire or water.)
I'm still trying to find a way to answer Opio's question. Even if I told him the truth I don't know if he would believe it. There's a place where you can go and get any food imaginable, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? To a child eating Irish potatoes for every meal, that's a fairytale.
If you'd like to learn more about child sponsorship, visit Compassion or drop me an email. I'd be happy to answer any questions.