Guest Blog Post: Thoughts from Andrea on Packing Love into a Small Space
I love looking back at old photographs of myself. By looking at my hairstyle, clothes, and friends I can remember who I was in that place and time. I remember what was important to me and what I was probably thinking about back then. These two pictures speak the same kind of story to me. These were both packages I have personally packed over the last few years for our sponsor son in Ethiopia. I didn’t include a picture of this year’s package b/c I don’t want him to know what he is getting for Christmas in three short weeks.
This picture was the first package I sent to him in 2011. It all had to fit in a gallon size ziplock bag. I had no idea what he already had or might need. I knew I wanted him to be happy, so I made sure to send lots of candy. I wanted something useful so I added shorts and a t-shirt (because I was sure Ethiopia was always hot), but I had no idea what size to buy. I didn’t know if he had ever used art supplies, so I sent crayons and some paper. The only thing I was certain of packing was toothpaste and a toothbrush. I was certain this was a “right” choice because every place I have ever seen asking for donations says these are important because the kids in these kinds of villages don’t have them.
I LOVE this picture. I LOVE seeing my effort and remembering that I really wanted to do what was right and make something special for a child far away. You know what? I did make something special because it was from my heart.
After visiting Ethiopia that next summer (and finding out it’s often cold), I realized I had could have made some different choices in my packing. All that candy? These kids don’t have fluoride and don’t visit the dentist. All I was doing was helping to rot teeth. These kid’s parents do not appreciate all the candy the Americans send. While shorts would be worn while playing soccer, they would not be worn many other places. Surely I could not have gone wrong with the toothbrush and toothpaste though?! I’m sure now that they were never used. How do I know? Well, it’s not part of their culture. So many of these children and adults have beautiful teeth, but not by using western brushes. They use these wooden sticks to rub their teeth.
Okay, here is the package I sent the third year. Gone is the candy, replaced by as much protein as I could pack in. The gum is now sugar free and I think I got the size of shirt right that time…although that is always tricky. I packed a hat just like his brothers had here (and a picture of them in theirs) so he could feel connected to us. There is a small ball he can share with his friends, and a small wooden heart he can fit in his pocket and carry with him always. Some encouraging words topped off the package because those stick with a kid longer than any toy.
Some things I think about now as I pack a bag for our kid or for other organizations are:
- Will they have somewhere to keep/store what I send…if not, send more snacks.
- I know there can be long stretches of boredom that can lead to mischief…send games they can share together and stay out of trouble. They don’t need to know exactly how to play something. The kids are excellent at making up their own games with cards and such.
- Is there something special and unique that will make them feel loved. There are so many things that can be duplicated and assembled into many boxes to reach many kids, but did that one kid feel special getting that one different, thoughtful, personal touch in their package?
- Is there protein in there? I never realized what a luxury protein is.
I don’t feel bad about my choices that first year. As I learn how to do better, I try to do better. I know this will be a life long journey and I will someday look back at the package I packed this year and think “oh man, that was cute that I picked those things..what was I thinking”
Reposted with permission from Go Serve Love blog.