I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of Operation Christmas child, an arm of Samaritan’s Purse founded by Franklin Graham, since its earliest days. Shopping for school supplies, hygiene items, toys , t-shirts and ball caps, then removing packaging and labels before filling those cheery red and green boxes has given me many hours of pure pleasure. In recent years, I’ve proudly and expectantly topped each box with a photo of my husband and me along with a letter that has included my email address.
Wouldn’t it be fun to receive email replies from people in other countries and learn about their cultures? It has been fun to receive responses from a number of families in Central America and Africa, but two cases stand out that make me realize that people aren’t projects or pastimes.
Five years ago, I received a reply from a pastor in West Africa. His son had received one of my boxes. I was ecstatic! We started to correspond regularly, and I learned about his ministry to children orphaned by the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016. Eventually I felt a nudge to ask him if he needed financial support. He and his family were ecstatic! They had never received such an offer, and, yes, they could use some help. It has become a wonderful story of mutual encouragement that includes a little girl named after me as well as additional support from generous members of our church. More fun than I ever dreamed!
Last year I received an email from a seventeen year old boy, who has called me his “saviour,” and who very respectfully and with a promise to repay, asked me to sponsor him to come to Canada, or failing that, to help him get to France where he could study and pursue his dream of playing soccer. With a heavy heart I had to reply that I can’t possibly offer the assistance he is hoping for.
As I begin to work on my boxes for this year, I’m thinking that I won’t be so quick to include my email address. I need to think about those on the other end. Is it fun for poor people to have their hopes dashed, so I can have fun at their expense?
What about here at home? What is my motive for helping people – financially or otherwise? Am I reaching out because it’s fun? Do I treat people as though they were my project or pastime? Is it all about me? I’m believing the results will be better if I go with the Nudge . The subject of giving takes me back to a discussion in my grade 12 English class when our teacher made the statement that philanthropy can be rooted in selfishness. I couldn’t wrap my head around it at the time, but it is clear to me now. I may be slow, but I am learning!