"It started with looking around her room wondering how we would fit another birthday's worth of gifts in with all the rest of her "stuff". A sigh escaped my lips as I shook my head, just shutting the door, wishing that birthdays didn't have to equate with gifts. But she was turning seven and I couldn't exactly stop the cycle cold, now could I?
But then my friend Lisa sent me some posts to publish on her blog and as I was reading the posts, I realized I had an answer to my problem. You see, Lisa is the executive director for Caroline's Promise; a non-profit focused on reclaiming hope for orphans through education, financial assistance for families adopting and orphan care. And right now, they are collecting gallon-size bags filled with school supplies for children at Casita Adonai in Guatemala City, Guatemala. And an idea began to form...
I talked it over with Rachel, who, at first was very hesitant, and then within a few minutes was ecstatic about the idea. We decided that in lieu of birthday gifts at her birthday party, we would ask her friends to donate to Caroline's Promise on her behalf. (I had to reassure her, she would still be receiving gifts from us and her grandparents.) Her excitement at "making a difference in the world!" was so sweet and touching. She actually thought she was going to change the whole world by this one act.
So we sent out invitations, giving details as to how they could donate, where and why we were doing it. The day of her party arrived and some kids still came with gifts, but all had donated. There were questions and comments and many opportunities to share with the families why we were doing this seemingly strange thing.
A couple weeks after the party, Lisa called and told me all the money had come in and we planned on a date to shop for the school supplies. It was very important to me that Rachel be able to see what her sacrifice of birthday gifts had truly done. So one night last month, we met Lisa and her daughter Caroline at the store. (Caroline and Rachel have been friends since infancy. It was so fun to have her join us in the special shopping spree!)
(Can you tell who is more interested at her face on the surveillance monitor than shopping?)
When we got to the school supplies section we told the girls how much had come in for Rachel's birthday. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS. $150.00!!!!! When we added up the price per bag, with tears, we realized that 21 children at Casita Adonai would receive much-needed school supplies...because of the generosity of 8 families. We were blown away....
Rachel and I took the supplies home, divided everything up and packed up all the bags. Three grocery bags later, Rachel stood there shaking her head at all the "stuff".
Rachel: "How many kids again mom?"
Me: "How many kids again, what?"
Rachel: "How many kids did I save?"
Me: "Well, you didn't save any of them, honey. But you did give 21 children school supplies that they wouldn't have otherwise."
Rachel: "I'm glad I did this. It makes my heart happy to give up birthday prizes to make a difference in the world."
I have to say, my heart was swelling with pride. My girl, learning at this young age, that there is more to her world than her little world. Others, who desperately need basic things that we take for granted and treat with disregard, are being helped by her willingness to make a difference.
You know, its been over a month since her birthday and she hasn't missed a single gift. She never speaks of not receiving, but only how giving made her feel. This certainly will be a yearly tradition for us...I cannot stomach the idea that next year we would receive $150 worth of gifts that she doesn't need, when we could do something much more important. Because you see, in the end, it was never really about Rachel receiving less birthday gifts, less clutter in her room, or teaching her about doing her part...I realized it wasn't even about us.
It was always about those who would receive......
If you are interested in donating school supplies for the children at Casita Adonai, or to learn more about how you can make a difference, check out Caroline's Promise website at http://www.carolinespromise.net/ for more information."