Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Did You Not Come?

As many of you know, my church went to Togo, West Africa to see the children we sponsor. A team of 8 people went in January, laden with gifts to hand out to all the children and special gifts to the 50+ kids our church sponsors through Compassion International.

My family had such a wonderful time preparing our gifts for our child, Ayoko. We overindulged her, just so excited for the opportunity to give her gifts of coloring book, bubbles, dolls, candy and a special photo album with drawings and photos of my kids. None of me. She's never seen me. Unfortunately her gift was lost until the last day but recovered and given to her after my friends left.

I received two letters today from her. The 2nd one she excitedly said yes! She saw my friends and they gave her gifts. But then she asked a very difficult question:

"Why did you not come? I was not happy because I did not see you among them."

She wanted me.

It brought tears to my eyes. How to explain to a 6 year old why you did not visit her when others did? How do you explain to anyone why you did not go?

A few weeks ago a child in Katie's class was doling out birthday invitations to the Jungle. If you are lucky, you are not familiar with it but it's a big destination birthday party play place for Katie's age.

She did not get one initially, she just watched her friends open theirs up. She stood in line, hoping to be handed one of the coveted white envelopes; a sign of friendship and acceptance. Waiting for the bell to ring, she looked at me with a puzzled face and tears. How could she not get one? As I hugged her, tried to make her feel better she was handed an envelope with her name on it and instantly her expression and demeanor changed and she went into her classroom happy.

It's one thing to see your child upset at an "injustice" even if it wasn't really an injustice; things like that happen. It's life.

But to little Ayoko Yvette, I am the one that excluded her. And I can't help thinking what if she was Katie? In a way, she is my Katie.

And I ache knowing her hurt. Knowing that I hurt her and wondering how much is really enough? It's one thing to bemoan the disparity in the world, but here, I feel I am the cause of it. It hurts.

I think that I'm doing "enough" by sponsoring her, by sending letters and gifts, but I can't help feel her hurt when I see it though the eyes of not an abstract person but a real one.

It's a harsh reality that some get more than others in life. Sometimes it is based on merit and what one deserves, sometimes it is not. In this case, it's jut the luck of who is her sponsor and if I'm willing to go that many thousands of miles to visit her.

What excuse is good enough? I wasn't "called" to Togo? It was not convenient? It is expensive? I have other obligations? Are these real reasons or mere excuses?

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