The Social Cause Diet Hello. My name is Gail Perry Johnston. I’m an author, art director and speaker … and a wife and mother of two.

I started sponsoring children when I was 14. Now close to 50, that’s a lot of years of making a difference in kids’ lives with relatively little effort, thanks to Compassion and a few other well-run organizations.

Why aren’t all people of adequate means sponsoring children?

Fear of the unknown? Fear of commitment? Ignorance of the fact that they can, in fact, spare the change?

Maybe it’s simply that they still haven’t heard of it yet.

My main career is graphic design, but I’ve also become a bit of a writer. My faith has largely been developed through the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book — thank you C.S. Lewis, Paul Little, Jim Burns — and I would like to give back in the way that I have been impacted, or at least try.

With the subject matters I tackle, I hope to ignite interest in the most important things in life (which are not “things” at all, of course).

Two years ago, I compiled a collection of stories about service. It’s called The Social Cause Diet: Find A Service That Feeds The Soul.

Three of the 45 stories are from avid Compassion fans and spokespeople:

  • Shaun Groves
  • Justin McRoberts
  • Shannon Lowe

I am so grateful for their contributions (and their awesomeness), and anticipate increased awareness of child sponsorship through them.

Presently, I’m working on Volume Two of The Social Cause Diet. If you are reading this blog, it’s likely that you have a story to share! Please consider writing it down and submitting it through

As with the first volume, my goal is to communicate that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” while showcasing a wide variety of services. The more stories, the better, and the greater chance readers will find ways in which they would like to serve.

I should mention why the word “diet” is in the title of my book. (Let’s pretend I wasn’t influenced by the fact that diet books tend to sell very well.)

First of all, when we help others, we nourish our souls, so this book suggests a diet for the soul.

I consider the soul to be our real self; the part that can get better and better (with proper feeding), even as its housing wears thin.

Secondly, there is a significant amount of evidence that indicates that people who volunteer regularly tend to be healthier than those who do not volunteer. The studies are amazing.

A steady diet of helping others seems to be as important to our physical well-being as proper nutrition and regular exercise.

Lastly, my personal testimony includes an ugly history of dieting in the usual way — or maybe I should say, dysfunctional way.

I was a compulsive dieter who eventually became bulimic without even knowing the term.

The turning point in my life came when my college roommate got in my face and said, “Gail, the world is bigger than your pack of crackers.”

It was at that moment that I realized how self-absorbed I had become with my dieting, and I didn’t want to stay that way.

While I was not immediately cured of my disorder, the all-important will to get better was there, and my journey to health began.

What I really believe is that our country’s fascination with dieting is all wrong. The more we diet, the more problems we seem to have with obesity and eating disorders.

Maybe it’s because the typical diet makes the dieter the focal point, endorsing the ideology that “it’s all about me.” But true well-being — philosophers, theologians, sociologists, and even politicians all agree — is achieved when we feel connected to something beyond ourselves.

So that’s why I propose going on the Social Cause Diet; that is, developing a lifestyle that incorporates serving others in some way. It may not be easy, but the benefits are well worth it.

And unlike the usual diet that leaves you hungry, this one will fill you up.

Submit your story at

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9 Comments Add a Comment
  1. Mike Stephens
    Sep 1, 2009
    at 9:31 am

    thanks for sharing Gail! My Compassion story is ongoing I have been sponsoring for almost 3 years and continue to be amazed by all the stories I hear and people I meet. Just yesterday I was walking past an older man and I had a bag that says Compassion on it and he got my attention and said he worked for Compassion for 31 years and I said what did you do and he explained that they used punch cards for things. He said he worked at the office in Chicago, Illinois and then the office moved to Colorado in 1980 or so. He said his name was Jim Floyde with an “E”. I told him I recently went to the Philippines with Compassion and he said he was a missionary in the Philippines for a while. So I thought that was neat.

  2. Sep 1, 2009
    at 10:32 am

    I’m not a good writer, but I will try.

  3. Sarah Charles
    Sep 1, 2009
    at 11:21 am

    I love this! I will look for your books!

  4. Marci in MO
    Sep 1, 2009
    at 7:12 pm

    Do you have a deadline for our stories to get to you?

  5. Sep 2, 2009
    at 10:57 am

    @Marci in MO – It’s November 29, 2009

  6. Sep 2, 2009
    at 11:05 am

    Hmm, I must have something laying around here…

  7. Marci in MO
    Sep 3, 2009
    at 6:54 pm

    Thanks Chris! :)

  8. R.Parks
    Sep 18, 2009
    at 3:45 pm

    About 5 or 6 years ago my sister talked me into attending a Worldview Weekend Conference. There was a commercial, of sorts, by Dr. Stafford. He talked about how in Haiti they don’t even name their children before the age of 5 because most of the time they don’t live and it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. During the break, I made my way to the Compassion table. I knew I had to find a child from Haiti and that was Limat. She was just 6 and stood there with a look that dared you to love her. And I did. I sent and received 1 letter. Then came the news. There had been a storm. Not a hurricane, just a storm. But her village was flooded and she was washed away. Who could imagine such a thing? Several of her family was lost but not all. I still cry when I look at her but I know that one day I will see her sweet face in Heaven. Then came Jasmithe, and because of a mix-up, Sabrina and now Sherin in India. And God continues to bless me even more. The agency I work for advocates for individuals with disabilities. I realize I can’t “save the world” but knowing I can make a difference in someone’s life, to help make things better…it’s almost as good as working for Compassion, huh?

  9. D. Kernan
    Oct 4, 2009
    at 6:37 pm

    I was very moved when I recieved the very first letter from my sponsored child, Feren. In my first letter to her I signed it using just my first name. I was 24 at the time so it didn’t occure to me to put my name as Mrs or Ms. Even now at 26 I do not like to be called Mrs or Ms. I didn’t think that Feren may feel wierd addressing me so informally. However, when she wrote back she wrote, “I do not feel comfortable call you just by your first name, can I call you ‘sister?’ ” However, she could not have known what a profound effect that question had on me. My own sister does not know me, she is 20 years older than me, and is my half-sister. I never grew up with her, and have really only seen seen her a few times as she has always avioded me. I am my mother’s only child. I grew up an only child, and even now I would give anything to have a sibling. Knowing I have a sister out there, knowing she has always lived not far from me, wanting so bad to have a relationship with her, and knowing she despises me (for reasons beyond my control)has left a giant hole inside me. When I read Feren’s innocent little question, I wept. I will always miss the half-sister I’ll never know, but now the hole inside me isn’t so big. Feren is my sister in Christ and we have a bond that I could have never felt without her. It is a bond that I don’t think I would have had with my own sister. And knowing what I do now, it was well worth waiting for Feren to come into my life.

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