meeting our sponsored child

March 7, 2012

indian school children
I labeled him just in case you couldn't figure out which one he was...
I've been sharing some of my husband Ben's recent trip to India with you this week. While he was there, he was able to meet our newest sponsored child, a little girl named Rebatee.

We had sent a pink backpack stuffed full of books and gifts for our new friend. The day he got to meet her, he was able to visit her home and meet her family as well.

With the help of a translator, he was able to get to know her and them.

He didn't have the ability to call me on the phone while he was there, but he could send me texts. I learned a lot about this first visit via texting one evening as my mother-in-law was getting my kids ready to go to bed.

The first thing he said to me about the visit was, "They are very poor."

I was sitting in our bedroom. There is not much to it--just a hastily made bed, two night tables, a dresser, an ugly chair, and a several piles of outgrown baby clothes, library books, and toys that should be in a toy box, but aren't.

Really nothing spectacular, but suddenly it felt like a palace.

I felt my throat tighten. I thought, "Oh, we have SO much."

He went on, "Their house is tiny. It's just one room. The floor is dirt. The walls are made of clay. They really don't have anything."

I knew if he said it was bad, it was. He's been to the slums in Kenya and Uganda. He's visited Haiti after the earthquake--he's seen bad.

I felt my throat tighten even more and tears were coming to my eyes.

This is where Rebatee lives--our Rebatee. This is where she lives and I've just sent her a big bag of silly things.

Ben went on to say that she was very quiet. She didn't say one word during that first visit. He also found out that the birth date on her child packet was wrong. She was born on the same day as Juliet, but not the same year.

She is one year younger--just turned 4 years old and she just recently entered the Child Sponsorship Program after having been in the Child Survival Program.

I can only imagine she was intimidated by this strange bald white man who showed up at her front door laden with a pink bag of gifts!

He said her mother and father were very friendly and happy to meet him. They helped answer the list of questions Juliet had sent with Ben since Rebatee was too shy to answer for herself.

Juliet's questions make me laugh--they are so very her.

1. Do you like pink? (Not 'what's your favorite color'--oh, no. Let's get straight to the point--do you like pink or not?)

Rebatee was wearing two pink barrettes in her hair, so her dad pointed to them and said, "Yes! she does!" (Phew!)

2. Do you have a brother or sister? She has a little brother who is the same age as Lucia! (17 months)

3. Do you have a favorite animal? She took Ben to see her favorite animal--A parrot that lives next door.
indian girl with parrot
Her parents told Ben that it likes to say a phrase in their language that translates to "Your rice is ready!" in English. When I told Juliet about that, she ran around the house saying it over and over again in her best parrot voice. :)

4. Do you have a special friend? Ben was able to meet her best friend who is actually in the above picture, but standing just behind her--you can kind of see her face peeking out.

Ben was able to show the pictures of us that we sent and tell them a little about us and mostly about Juliet. He told her she was looking forward to writing her letters and getting to know her and being her friend.

He explained that Juliet loved books, so she had sent some of her favorites for Rebatee to have.

He also took out the map of the world and pointed to the place where we live.

As he was telling me about this, I asked about the dress we sent. I was concerned that it might not fit. He said, "I didn't pull anything else out of the backpack. It was overwhelming. There was so much stuff in that bag. And they have so little. I just left it with them."

Now I was second-guessing my choices! Had I sent too much? Should I have pared it down a bit? Again, the realization of what seems like little to me and what actually is little hit me smack in the face.

Before Ben left, her father pulled him aside. They were still standing in their one-room home when he walked over to the wall and pulled off a framed picture of Rebatee.

It was the only thing hanging on the wall in the entire house.

It was a professional photo that had obviously been taken for a special occasion. She is dressed in a fancy dress and there is a special background.

He took it to Ben and said he wanted us to have it.

We're pretty sure that it was the only picture in the world that they have of their precious daughter.

The families in that community earn about $1 a day.

We cannot imagine how much it cost them to even save up to have the photo taken.

And here, now, they have given it to us.

I sank back into my chair and cried as I read Ben's message to me that night. "How could you take that from them?" I demanded.

"How could I not?" he replied. "As I father, I get it," he explained. "If someone was helping my child have a better life, then I would want to give them something, too. And that's all he had."

As a mother, my heart broke for them. I have millions of photos of my girls and to think of having none was more than I could take.

But more than that, the enormity of the gift and what it cost them just struck me deep in my heart.
framed photograph
When he returned home, he showed us some of the things he brought back for us: a few pink saris for the girls, some bangles for me, and the photo of Rebatee.

As he handed it to me, I just held it in my hands as my throat begin to constrict yet again, and asked one more time, "How could you take this from them?"

But, I wasn't expecting him to answer me this time. I knew the answer.

I stood for a moment wondering where I could put this. Where we could see it every day and be reminded of our new friend and her family far away--this most precious gift to our family.

It's in our kitchen. The room we spend the most time in.

We see her little face every day--our sweet little friend across the world.

We plan to make a copy of the photo and send it back to them--explaining that we kept the one they gave us, but had another made for them. Also, we have several photos that Ben took of Rebatee and her family while he visited them that we will be sending with our letters to her over the next several months. They will certainly get their photo back and even several more of not just Rebatee, but all of them.

I wanted to share this experience with you not so you will look at me and think that I'm generous or kind or good. Sometimes I am those things, but very often, I am not. I'm sharing this series of posts because I want to share about how generous and kind and beautiful Rebatee and her family are and how their generosity has impacted my life and my heart.

Sure, we are helping their family, but it's not a one-way street. They are helping us just as much or even more.

I'm so thankful for the opportunity to get to know them and have them be a part of our lives.

Tomorrow, I'll share more about Ben's visit with Rebatee and Compassion's work in India.

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