As the lead singer from MercyMe was giving his pitch between sets for child sponsorship at the Rock and Worship Roadshow tonight, one of my 7th grade girls leaned over and started asking me questions.
"So you have to pay $30?"
"Yep, every month."
"But Miss, I only have $3. And it's taken me...*counts on fingers*...three months to get that much."
Now, this girl has a place to live, a loving mother who takes good care of her, a place to go to school, and a rockin' after-school program she attends (wink). I'm sure she's "better off" than most of the kids whose photos are on those packets that they hand out at concerts. But it was humbling to hear her honest response at the fact that: one, she doesn't have the resources to sponsor a child even though I think the thought did cross her mind; and two, that she only averages $1 a month from her mom's pocket change while other children are receiving $30 from total strangers.
I was a child sponsor for a couple of years in college, and I think child sponsorship is a fascinating and cool idea. There are some really great organizations out there that do really awesome things for their sponsored communities. But I continue to wonder why we cling to the idea of helping out a child from a faraway place with whom we correspond through letters, when there are so many children in need next door who we might see everyday. I still wonder what my motivation was when I sponsored a child. We often fail to recognize the struggles of our coworkers, our neighbors, our family members when it is so much easier to feel bad for the "cute little Latino children"--who, in my current situation, are my immediate neighbors in need. I think detachment from a situation makes it easier on ourselves. If we are detached from a problem, but can still give our money to help resolve it, we will take advantage of the opportunity to give with a limited burden on ourselves by simply giving money. And that's ok.
But I don't see the kids in our community as those whom I give charity to; they ARE my community and I care deeply about them. I don't give them my money; I give them my time, my energy, and my love. I hope everyone who takes steps to donate their money also take steps to grow relationships with those right next to them in their immediate community as well.