Last week a radio host asked me in an interview to make a statement about the state of the world and how difficult it is to raise kids in this current cultural climate. My answer disappointed her. She was hoping for doom and gloom mixed with some religious jargon about how these are signs of the end of things. Instead, I told her that raising kids in this world feels hopeful. Hope. Full.
Close your eyes and picture the child you sponsor opening your last letter. Pulling out that piece of paper. Reading your words. Smiling at the pictures you included. That’s what Mary Harms does when she writes Winner, the boy she sponsors, and his family.
To say losing a child you sponsor is devastating is an understatement. Whether that student graduates or passes away, whether her center closes or her family moves away, it can feel almost physically painful to sever that tie.
When I was a little girl, I had an Aunt Joan who would always send me cards. Every holiday I would peek into the mailbox and see her familiar handwriting on that heavy white envelope. She sent a Christmas card. Birthday. Easter. Fourth of July. No holiday went by without a letter from Aunt Joan. And each one made me feel special. Loved. Remembered. Encouraged.
A few years ago, we launched Compassion’s Second Friday Letter Writing Club. We wanted to create a place for sponsors to share letter-writing ideas and stories about the impact of letters on the children we serve. We’ve been amazed at the response. More than 180 of you joined our collaborative Pinterest board, collectively pinning nearly 1,000 ideas for your letters and for the more than 18,000 followers of the board. Many of you have shared fun ideas in comments on the blog posts. But at the same time, there’s been a lot of change in the past year. Our guidelines and processes for letter writing have changed, and there have been some bumps along the way.
I was 10 years old when I went to summer camp for the first time. I still remember the feeling as my mom drove away in our family’s station wagon. Utter and complete dread. I cried in the nurse’s office that night, clutching my stomach, telling her I was sick. She understood what I couldn’t. Sadness can feel a lot like a stomachache.
Snapchat doesn’t just give me the ability to take pictures. Because what would be the point of using it instead of my camera? It lets me and my own kids get creative together in our letters to Fabian, our sponsored child, with features that let us draw, add text and stickers, and even overlay a cool filter based on where the picture was taken.
Because letters may have taken two to three months to be delivered in the past, something needed to be done to help us deliver letters more efficiently. If we could speed up the time that it takes for a letter to be exchanged back and forth between supporters and children, it would also enrich the relationships between them. For several years we prayerfully worked to bring this vision to fruition. Then in April 2016, we began using a new system designed to help us deliver letters faster than ever before.
Sometimes asking questions that aren’t of the normal fare is a great way to get the conversation heading in a deeper direction. They can help you get more of a glimpse of personality and begin to truly understand who this special person is.
Your letters have the power to influence the child or children you have chosen to invest in. They really do make a difference. Use your words this month to inspire them and get their mental gears shifting into learning mode.
The relational aspect of sponsorship is not just important in getting people to become sponsors. It is important throughout the sponsorship journey because love is best shown in a relational context.
Even sponsors who have been writing for years still ask, “What should I write about?” Well, instead of us giving you ideas of what to write this month for the Second Friday Letter-Writing Club, we decided to share from a trusted source what children really want to hear from their sponsors and the importance of letter writing.