Lessons From the Poor
I have glitter in my hair.
This morning when my team and I arrived for our first visit to an actual Compassion project we were greeted by rows of children holding up signs welcoming us. When we entered the center they shot off party poppers that rained glitter, confetti and streamers down on us like it was New Year’s Eve. Immediately the children began reaching out to touch our hands like we were celebrities and they were diehard fans greeting us at a movie premiere.
When one little boy found out I was from California he began speaking to me in such rapid Spanish that I thought something was wrong. A translator told me he simply wanted to know if I knew his sponsor—John from California.
The children had prepared a presentation for us that consisted of singing and dancing. As soon as we sat down we had children climbing in our laps and nestling down comfortably. To them we were not strangers. We were sponsors. In the minds of children involved in Compassion programs something as simple as writing a letter saying you care is enough to make you a hero.
One of the Compassion staffers in Colombia put it to us this way:
“You are proof that sponsors exist. When they see you the children realize they are writing to real people who care. They look at you and want to be like you when they grow up.”
Every home I’ve visited, every child I’ve talked to, has resulted in somebody thanking me for coming such a long way. Nobody is asking for a handout. When my friend Lee met his sponsor child today he gave him a Caramello bar (a rare treat) and Miguel instantly broke it into pieces and shared it with his friends.
There is no sense of entitlement here. These kids want nothing from you but love.
This afternoon I visited a classroom at the project and a beautiful little girl caught my eye. Every time I looked at her she would smile shyly and hold my gaze. A few hours later I was invited to her home to meet her family.
Olga is the youngest of ten siblings in a home with a diligent mother who works in domestic labor and a father who only makes an appearance when it’s convenient. While their home has electricity (a light bulb dangling from a dangerous looking wire) and running water, one wall is made out of carpet and the ceiling consists of scrap metal. Her mother told us their biggest problem is that it often rains inside their house. They pay monthly rent to live in a shack that doesn’t even protect them from the elements.
The entire family sleeps in one room. A bunk bed made for two is shared by six people. Yet Olga invited us into her home with smiles and jabbered away.
“Sit down. Please sit down,” she said as she went to a drawer and pulled out letters from her sponsor and the few family photos she owned. She wanted us to see her entire family.
Her brother Nicholas was forced to drop out of middle school after being jumped by a gang. Yet their mother still has dreams for her children.
“I want them to live in a nicer place and get away from here,” she said. There was no shame in the way she said it. Only hope. The opportunities Compassion offers Olga make a different future possible. She can be the one to break the chain of poverty in her family.
As we were leaving Olga’s mother looked at our group and said, “I will pray that God illuminates each of you and makes you even better at what you do so you can help find more sponsors for children.”
In that moment I was undone. Instead of asking God to change her circumstances she asked Him to bless me and my career as a writer so that I will be able to help more children. She wants other children to benefit like Olga and have hope for a brighter future. Again I witnessed someone with nothing give what she had.
It’s women like that who truly deserve to have glitter in their hair.
About Shannon Primicerio
An author of ten books, Shannon Primicerio teaches teenage girls how to apply the Bible to the drama of real life and read it like it's God's love letter to them. By helping girls establish intimacy with Christ, she puts them on a path that will ensure they will still be walking with Him long after high school and college.
Her books and conferences provide:
- Guidance and structure on how to have a daily quiet time
- Strategies for battling peer pressure in areas like dating, purity and friendship
- Insight on how to see yourself as the beautiful treasure you are
- Direction on how to find your purpose and live your passion for the glory of God
You can learn more about her at www.beingagirlbooks.com