Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Changing Perspectives

When I first became a Sponsor, I was really still a kid myself. I was fourteen years old--my child, Gisel, was only five years younger than me. I paid for the sponsorship myself, out of my allowance--even at that age, I was aware that my $20/month income (which I didn't have to work for) was far more than Gisel would get to spend for herself in probably a whole year. But at that stage, Sponsorship for me wasn't really about "changing someone's life"--I didn't even really have a concept for what that meant. While I knew I was sharing what I had with someone less fortunate, my mindset was more along the lines of, "She speaks SPANISH! I can write to her IN SPANISH!" And that was the coolest thing ever, in my fourteen-year-old mind. I wrote to her every month, and I eagerly checked the mailbox every day when I got off the school bus, hoping for her replies.

Once I graduated high school and joined the Army, things evolved. I took on two new Sponsorships, but at the same time I became far less enthusiastic about writing to my children. I compensated for it--or so I thought--by sending larger Christmas, Birthday, and Special Hug Day gifts. At that point, I enjoyed being able to tell people I was a Sponsor, but somehow my passion for actually BEING a Sponsor had faded. I knew, in an abstract sort of way, that I was making a difference in their lives ... and that was good enough for me.

When I was discharged from the Army, some of the passion came back. Although I had to give up two of my Sponsorships, I was dedicated to being the very best Sponsor possible for Joan. I wrote to her frequently, and she wrote back--wonderful, personal letters that always brought a smile to my face. I felt a real connection with her, and I truly enjoyed watching her grow into a bright, mature young woman.

When I picked up Jie's Sponsorship, I did my best to write to her with the same frequency as I did Joan. It was more difficult--the connection just wasn't there the way it was with Joan. Jie is a wonderful girl, no question about it. She was just overshadowed a bit.

The abrupt, unexpected end to my relationship with Joan in 2010 nearly destroyed the whole idea of Sponsorships for me. I didn't consider dropping Jie, but neither was I particularly receptive to the idea of a "replacement child". Despite this, I agreed to see information about another girl waiting for a Sponsor, and I did wind up taking on Hazel as well.

But now my spark and passion were gone again. I went back to being a backseat Sponsor--I sent my monthly payments and gifts at Christmas and on their birthdays, but I didn't write very much. I just sort of figured that no news was good news, and that the monthly payments were really all the girls needed.

Fast forward to early 2012, when I rediscovered LiftOne. The last time I had logged on, it was merely a recruiting tool for current Sponsors to try and draw in new Sponsors. Now, a whole new world of Sponsorship opened up to me. For the very first time, I was able to connect with other Sponsors. I learned about Income Generating Projects and Special Needs Gifts and Direct Packages--none of which I had ever even heard of before. I saw the photos and heard the stories from other sponsors' visits to their children ... and I was inspired, as I have never been inspired before.

Within a few weeks, my whole Sponsorship experience evolved. I've taken on several new Sponsorships. I've requested various reports from my children's SAOs. I've written them letters and sent them photos.

And, once again, I find myself eagerly checking the mailbox when I get home each day ... just in case there's a letter inside from one of my precious girls.

I've come full-circle with regard to enthusiasm, but this time around that passion is deepened by an ever-growing understanding of what it REALLY means to be a Sponsor. It's so much more than just sending financial help. It's building relationships, and creating hope and opportunities, and devoting yourself to the pursuit of a better life for someone who will, in turn, change you forever.

I am humbled and honored to be a part of this great venture, and grateful to my girls' parents for giving me the opportunity to be a part of their lives. I don't know who I'd be without them ... and I don't want to know.

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