Last September, 8 World Vision bloggers traveled to Guatemala to witness child sponsorship at work. In today’s post, blogger Roo Ciambriello reflects back on that trip and recalls a moment at the end of our visit with Monica, a former sponsored child, that taught us all a beautiful lesson about giving. This post originally appeared on Roo’s blog, Neon Fresh.
She had told us, through an interpreter, about how she had been in a car accident and was thrown off the back of a truck. How recuperating was long and difficult, but she was just so grateful to be alive. Monica shared so much of herself with us that morning. She didn’t speak long and I didn’t understand much, but our time together resonated within me.
Never mind the concrete walls.
Never mind the flies.
Never mind the lack.
Blogger Roo Ciambriello with Andrea, Monica's niece. (Photo: Matthew Paul Turner)
We have everything we need.
I left Monica’s house with my emotions completely unraveled. In less than an hour’s time, she had taught me lessons that will stay with me for as long as I am sound of mind.
We all said our goodbyes and walked up the dirt road to head to the van, when Monica came running out after me, calling for us to stop.
She thrust an armload of gifts into my hands, and motioned that it was for all of the girls on the trip. Most of our team was already well ahead, but a couple of us embraced her and thanked her before again saying goodbye. I walked up the road, clutching onto necklaces, bracelets, and fabric. It was apparent that Monica had rushed into her home, grabbed an armful of her belongings, and gifted it to us.
Why, when we have so much? Why, when she has so little?
We passed the gifts around, and I ended up with folded-up fabric in my hands. It was a shirt, sewn at home, and worn traditionally tucked into a heavy brocade skirt, with a wide belt around it. Our guide had told us that they generally buy a large piece of fabric for a skirt, and the women keep it and wear it for a lifetime.
“It smells like her,” Jamie remarked. It did. And it still does.
I run my fingers over the embroidery and the weight of her gift sinks into my heart. It had once been a piece of fabric that women save up money to purchase. From fabric, it had been cut to fit Monica. Someone took the time to sew the pieces together, to line up the patterns just right. And in a world where they own very little, where flies land on dinner and rain turns floors to mud, where an article of clothing is a possession they keep for many years, Monica folded it up and gifted it to a stranger.
It makes me think of the parable in the Bible where the rich are giving their treasures to the temple and the poor widow drops in two coins and Jesus says that she gave more, because she gave all.
I don’t ever want to be lauded for writing a $35 check every month. It is a gift that I give because I know that money can do powerful things worldwide. It is a small sacrifice when I have been privileged to have so much. I have access to clean water and my children do not go hungry. We sleep through the night on soft beds with soft blankets in warm rooms. These are the things that make all of us rich.
We’re coming up on the holidays, and I love holidays. I love Thanksgiving and I love Christmas and I love the newness of New Year’s Day. I love taking the time to find the right gift for each person, and I enjoy wrapping it and writing the recipient’s name in cursive. I know there’s a balance here, because while I’m shopping for a shirt for Jack, I know of the poverty that goes around the world, because I have seen it with my own eyes.
If any of the Guatemala stories have resonated with you, would you consider sponsoring a child as part of your holiday celebration? It could be a piece of a new tradition: writing a letter to your sponsored child and slipping in a bookmark or a sheet of stickers. It could be a beautiful way to teach a child about giving, to just a little bit counteract some of the materialism that goes on at this time of the year. And ultimately, your gift would be doing so much for a child and a community.
Like Monica, the twenty-year-old giver of extravagant gifts and teacher of important lessons.
Next Tuesday, December 3, is #GivingTuesday – a day following our day of thanks and two days of shopping. A day to celebrate and encourage charity giving at the start of our holiday season.
Leave a comment below: tell us – what do you plan to do next week for Giving Tuesday?