Monday, August 4, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Tanzania

Happy Mail Call Monday, everyone!

This week we only got one letter, but I am kind of hoping that when I get home from my mom's, there will be twenty cream colored envelopes in my mailbox. : )

Our letter this week was from Elisha in Tanzania!

Elisha's letter was very short. It was a form letter about his school holidays, which is a type of form letter I don't think I've seen before! Elisha said that he has school breaks in June and December, and his breaks last for 4-5 weeks. When he has a break, he often goes "to the village" and sees his grandmother. He helps her during those visits, and he lies eating a mixture of maize and beans called "kande." His grandma (or Bibi) is his favorite person to see during those break times,   but he would also like to visit his aunt. I say that Elisha's letter was short because in the open text portion of the letter, he just wrote that he says hi and that he's doing fine and thanks for the letters. He often draws several small pictures on his letters, but he literally just drew a circle and scribbled in part of it with pencil.

The reason I share this with you is to say that I totally understand that it's easy to become frustrated with our kids when they don't write as much as we like. I have seen some people who appear to be downright angry. They're irritated because they write thoughtful letters to the kids, and it can be disappointing to get a "lame" letter in response. But if you feel you're starting to have ugly thoughts and feelings because of these kinds of letters, it's good to take a breather and remember two things. The first is that we should never do something nice or helpful for others with any kinds of expectations. If you are going into something good while focusing on how it will benefit you, then it might be time to look for another way to help people. And this doesn't just apply to sponsorship, but in this case, your goal as a sponsor (or correspondent) should be to make the world a better place by helping a child break the cycle of poverty, and to encourage them and show them love. Some of the kids will write great letters in return, and some of them will write frequently and share a lot of their lives with you. If they do, that's a bonus. But you shouldn't go into sponsorship with expectations of a "pen pal" type relationship, because that's not really what the program is about. It's just a really awesome bonus!

The second thing to remember is this: they're kids. Children. Tiny people. They're not necessarily thinking "hmm, let me gather my recent correspondence and send a prompt and warm reply to each letter." They are thinking "I have lots of homework" and "what will we eat this week" and "the sun is shining and I want to play!" I might be a little disappointed in Elisha's letter (and drawing) if I hadn't had the opportunity to meet him earlier this year. The child is a wild man. He was so, so quiet when he first arrived, in part because he'd been in a car for hours and was hungry and it was tea time. But as soon as we finished our tea and walked outside, he was a nonstop tornado. Just insane. I can't even describe to you how much energy this kid has. He can't stop moving. You could ask him to design his dream playground, and you could build it for him, and he would play on it for a few minutes and move on to something else. There is a world to be conquered out there. The child can't walk, he only runs. So I see Elisha's letter, and his drawing of a quickly scribbled circle, and I don't think "ugh, I'm mad at Elisha for not trying harder," I am thinking "goodness, something fun must have been going on at the project that day! Maybe someone found a soccer ball, or they were having relay races." They're kids. Most kids, when presented with the options of playing or sitting in a classroom and writing letters, will probably approach the playtime with more enthusiasm. And I'm happy about that. These kids lead challenging lives that we will never fully understand. I want them to be able to play and have fun and be kids, and not have to worry about grown up things (and I don't want the grown ups in their lives to worry, either.)

So if you find yourself frustrated with short or impersonal letters from your kids, remember- they're kids. Maybe they are more like Elisha and express themselves by running around like a maniac. : ) Just keep writing, and show that your love isn't conditional. You'll still love them and pray for them and write to them even if they don't have as much to say when they write back!


  1. Thanks so much for posting this Jessi! Having a few "concerned sponsor mommy" moments today myself, and this really helped!

  2. Amen!! What good reminders for us...both as to why we write and who we're writing to!!! I love the image of Elisha writing quickly to run off to play with his friends!! And I appreciate your looking on the bright side :)


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