“Write your sponsored child — you have no idea how much it means to them,” said the worker at Sendero de Amor Child Development Center.
While it didn’t surprise me, I hoped I wouldn’t hear this while I was at the center.
The truth is, I’m not really one for writing letters.
I’m not sure that I should be admitting that, given that I work for Compassion, but there it is. At 31, I’m part of a generation of Canadians for whom letter writing is virtually a foreign concept.
Facebook? No problem.
But to sit down and write a letter? That’s different.
Writing a letter feels very formal. It’s not something I do with my friends. So when I wrote my first letter to my sponsored child four years ago, it was … strange. And, in all honesty, it never got easier. Writing has always felt a bit awkward. But as often as I could for a long time, I faithfully wrote.
At the beginning of 2010, things kind of went off the rails. Life got in the way and before I knew it, it had been six months since I’d written a letter. Now I was in Honduras, visiting some of our church partners and getting ready to meet my sponsored children.
At nearly every development center, I had the chance to ask the staff if there was one thing they wanted me to communicate back to Canadian sponsors. With the exception of one center, it was always the same thing:
“Write your child.”
I eventually asked why it was so important that we write. Here’s what I learned:
When letters are distributed, it’s a big celebration. The children who receive a letter are so excited that they can barely contain themselves. They show their friends their letters and can’t wait to share it with their families, too.
But for the kids who don’t get a letter … it’s a hard day. They’re happy for their friends, but their hands are empty. They feel left out. They feel unloved.
When sponsor visit day came, I knew the first thing I had to do was ask my children for their forgiveness. Hearing these stories made me realize just how much I’d — however inadvertently — hurt these kids who we care about so much. And the look on their faces when I told them that I’d done wrong showed me that, yes, I had hurt them in my failure to write.
When we write our children we’re giving them something to celebrate. Even when it’s a short, silly, awkward note that takes us forever.
But, as awkward as it is for me, knowing the difference it makes in the lives of our children helps me to know that it’s worth it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a letter to write.