A Real Life

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Best Books of 2014

A few months ago, our blog guru, Sam, asked me to write a Top Five Books of 2014 post. He probably asked me this because I’m a writer. And I read pretty much all the time. But also because I think reading is a way to expand the mind, to experience things on the page that we can’t always experience in person. So I carefully chose books that I think will broaden your views of poverty, community, and what it means to serve “the least of these.” (I also just chose four books, because, as you’ll see, some of these took a little longer to get through … and also because I’m a rebel!)

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The Year I Gave Homework for Christmas

I’m a big reader. As a child, I had books hidden away everywhere — in the cushions of the couch, tucked under my brother’s car seat and stuffed into my pillowcase. So when I was about 10 years old, I decided I would buy every person in my family a book for Christmas. I pored over the Scholastic Books order form and found books for my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. I wrapped them and carefully placed them under the tree. On Christmas Eve, when we exchange gifts with my extended family, I was so excited to watch everyone open their gifts. There was one problem, though. Not everybody likes to read.

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The Nobel Peace Prize Went to a Child. And it’s About Time.

This morning, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. Though Yousafzai’s name may not be familiar, you probably remember her face—the face of a pale teen, eyes rimmed with dark circles, her head shrouded in bandages, clutching a white teddy bear. Two years ago Yousafzai garnered the world’s attention when she was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting education for girls in Pakistan. Since then, after recovering from surgery, she has taken her campaign global, most notable with a speech last year at the United Nations.

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Valerie’s First Christmas

I was about 3 years old in my earliest Christmas memory. I had chickenpox, and because I was quarantined, my stepfather dressed as Santa to cheer me up. I don’t remember the gifts I got that year, but I remember feeling so special that Santa had made a house call to visit me. That memory surfaced recently when I read the story of Valerie, a little girl in Togo. Valerie’s first Christmas memory happened last year — because it was the first time she ever celebrated Christmas.

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The Little Things

Brandy and her group of sponsors are in Bolivia where they recently toured a Child Survival Program and met Rosario on their home visit—a time filled with little things.

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What Makes Gratitude Overflow?

There is something special about giving a gift to a child who rarely receives gifts. Most families in developing countries don’t have the extra funds to buy gifts like bubbles and Dora dolls.

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A Pear and a Prayer

Tears poured down Cesar’s face. He was ready to give up. You could feel it in every fiber of his being.

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Haiti in Realtime: What Defines ‘Non-Violent’?

The streets are still filled with debris, smoldering tires and overturned cars. Few cars can pass, so transportation is limited to motorcycles and feet. There are still pockets of violence throughout the city, but it’s so much quieter today. Quiet enough for me to think. Which can sometimes be dangerous.

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Grace in the Chaos: A Report from Haiti

I thought I was imagining it at first. I do have an overactive imagination, after all. But I couldn’t mistake the chanting. I crept to the window, and as icy cold water from the air conditioner dripped on my feet, I heard the city exploding. Nothing had blown over. It had blown up. I lay back in my bed. The voices outside grew louder, then quieter. I willed them to fade away. They didn’t.

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