Flying back from my brother’s home in September was emotional. He was 4 weeks (out of 6) into intensive chemo and radiation, confused, weak, and scared about the future. His wife and I were working around the clock to care for him–and his two kids who were just starting kindergarten and pre-school.
It was hard to leave at that moment, especially to return to my rather foreign life in New York. I was a part of his family more than ever now, and they needed all the help they could get.
(Two 1/2 months earlier, Bill had been diagnosed with a stage 4 brain cancer, just a few weeks after his 36th birthday.)
On that September trip, I had gotten close to my 5-yr old nephew, Alex, and my 3-yr old niece, Sammie. I had gotten to know my sister-in-law in a way that only people thrown together into crisis can. I had one of the most intense—and in an odd way, satisfying—experiences of family I’d ever had.
I worried about leaving them at this moment, yet I needed to get back home to keep my own life going. If my life fell apart—emotionally, financially, or otherwise—I wouldn’t be much good to anyone.
On my poignant plane ride back, thinking so much about family, I also felt lucky to be in a position to help. My brother’s airline (he’s a pilot) was flying me out to the west coast of Canada and back. My job as an editor was giving me the time off. I was able-bodied and I had a enough savings to afford miss a paycheck.
Still, I also felt the temptation to retreat into worry, sadness, and self-pity. Nothing compared to my younger—and only—brother getting stage 4 cancer.
Yet instead of descending into self-indulgence, something else, completely surprising, happened.
On the plane’s head-set TV, an advertisement came on for an organization that sponsors children and their communities in impoverished parts of the world. Usually I leave that kind of work to other humanitarians. But that morning I felt an instant connection to those children. I deeply understood what it would mean for them to have some extra help.
In fact, for the price of a sandwich every week I could get a child a visit to a doctor, help her (or him) grow a garden, or even buy her textbooks or help her go to school for the first time. Thinking about it made me cry all over again.
I thought about it back at home and I investigated the organization. I waffled and I wavered. But the feeling that I needed to do this persisted.
So here are the three reasons why I decided to sponsor Ana Souza Silva, age 7, of northeastern Brazil.
1. There is almost no price on giving ($10 a week? nothing), but there is a huge price to not receiving. To give to someone who needs help is an honor and a privilege.
2. I am Ana; Ana is me. We are connected. The act of giving is the understanding that our lives are, ultimately, bound together. It’s the, “there but for the grace of God go I” idea.
3. I’ve felt a special connection with Brazil for several years, and it’s a country I will most likely visit again. The fact that I might meet Ana one day makes giving her money all the more real, and all the more meaningful. (I’ve already started the paperwork!)
4. (I know I said three, but there are more!) It’s really, really easy. It’s the easiest way I know to give thanks for the privilege of my own life. It *is* the embodiment of “thanksgiving.” Why wait for the date in November before I embrace this commitment to living?
5. It’s almost hard to describe how exciting and moving it is to give a little money to Ana each week. It chokes me up every time.
Maybe this holiday season you might also give to a needy child or a needy family. It really feels amazing. I chose to work through World Vision. They are a Christian organization, but they get great reports. Happy November!in Culture and World.