I should clarify: Today is not my birthday.
When I was a freshman in college, my school held a huge “Love Africa” fundraiser. They set up little huts and shanties right outside our dorm, so that we could see what kinds of conditions many people in Africa were living in. We walked through the huts listening to an audio guide, like a tour in a museum. But this was a grizzly, heartbreaking tour. The narration was punctuated with gunshots and screams. We heard stories of girls raped, boys forced to shoot their families, parents dying of AIDS. At the end of the tour, we were prompted to help in some way.
Was it a little heavy-handed? Definitely. Will I ever forget it? No.
So, of course, I decided to sponsor a child. Having grown up with only sisters, I’ve always wanted a daughter. So I picked a cute little Ethiopian girl’s face from the sea of pictures on the table. I signed my name up, and I waited to receive a packet in the mail with more instructions. But when I received the packet, there had been a mistake. Somehow, I had been given a boy about nine years old in Malawi. I was so confused. I panicked; I already felt attached to that little girl and I wanted to support her, so I called World Vision. They said that girl had already been chosen to be sponsored by someone else, and would I please consider sponsoring this boy?
And I said yes. Absolutely. And I am SO glad I did.
Now my husband and I both support him, and I try to send him letters a few times a year with pictures and updates on our lives.
Two months ago, my husband and I celebrated our birthday. Yep, that’s right. We have the SAME birthday. Because it was his 25th, I threw him a big, football-themed party. A few days later, I wrote our sponsored child a letter telling him about my new job and our birthdays and asking him about school (English is his favorite!). I received his letter back last week:
I read it that first night and came across “I am happy to get to know that you reached 24 years of age when you were writing me your letter.” And I thought, “Huh. That’s kind of strange.” I mean, birthdays are cool and all, but 24 isn’t that big of a deal. Sure, I’m happy to be here, too. I stuck the letter on the fridge and forgot about it.
And then tonight as I was making dinner, I looked at that letter again, and it hit me.
Maybe it is a big deal to be 24. Maybe not everyone gets to be 24. Maybe for some people, where every day means hunger and war and disease, reaching 24 is a luxury.
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I just wanted to say that I’m thankful to be where I am, to live in a safe country, to have family and friends who love me, and to have reached 24 years of age.