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.
The next day we gathered at the canteen after pool time. I sat by myself, trying to calculate the hours until I could see my mom again. It was complicated math for a fourth grader.
And then my counselor came up to me and handed me an envelope.
“You’ve got a letter!” she said. I took it in my still damp hands, and opened it slowly. I pulled out a sheet of notebook paper and saw my mother’s familiar handwriting.
I didn’t understand then that my mom had mailed that letter before I even left home. She probably wrote it while I fought with my brother in the next room.
She wrote it because she knew I would miss home.
She wrote it because she knew I might be sad.
She wrote it because she wanted me to remember I was loved.
I tell you that story because I think of it every time I write a letter to Bilha, the little girl I sponsor. She’s about the same age as I was that summer at camp. And while my childhood in Virginia may look different than hers in Guatemala, when I read her letters I remember that little girl in her damp bathing suit, reading her mom’s letter and feeling stronger all of a sudden.
I write letters to Bilha because I know being 10 is hard.
I write to her because I know that sometimes she’ll feel sad or overwhelmed.
I write her because I want her to know she is loved.
Back to summer camp for a minute. I got a letter from my mom every day that week. She told me about the weather and my little brother and what was growing in our garden. Mundane stuff, mostly. But I kept every one of those letters in my pillowcase until Friday. They got me through a week of mosquito bites and swimmer’s ear and new friends and late night giggles.
They got me through until the moment I watched my mom step out of our station wagon. Until she enveloped me in a hug.
“Thank you for the letters,” I whispered into her neck that smelled like ivory soap.
What I really meant was “Thank you for loving me.”
Will you write a letter to the child you sponsor this month? Will you provide a reminder that someone far away is thinking of them? That they are cherished?
Because being a kid is hard. And we all need a little reminder that someone out there loves us.
Want some ideas for your letter? Visit Compassion’s Second Friday Letter Writing Club board on Pinterest for downloads and fun ideas from sponsors that will help you give encouragement with each letter you send!