Okay – so I didn’t exactly adopt her. However, I am now the proud new sponsor of a little girl in the Philippines, whose name I do not yet know. She’ll be getting three meals a day, water, clothing, medicine and an education. Because of me. Forever. I am just as surprised as you. Here’s how it happened.
It started out like any Friday night… I was on my way to a manicure after work. A man with a giant afro and a clipboard made piercing eye contact with me in Union Square – UGH. It’s happened a million times before. He was en route to make me feel guilty for not supporting some very worthy charity organization. I have no time. I’m a busy New Yorker. Blinders on, keep walking. Leave me alone!! But for some reason, this guy was able to pierce through my New Yorkerness and he had my attention. I decided to be nice and entertain him, entertain myself, and just chat – but it’s not like I was actually going to DO anything.
Justin, the aforementioned afro-and-clipboard-sporting man on a mission, represents Children International, a nonprofit organization that operates a one-on-one sponsorship program to help impoverished children worldwide become healthy, educated, self-sustaining and contributing members of society. CI has been around since 1936, checks out perfectly with the Better Business Bureau, and at 7pm, Justin hadn’t gotten one person to sign up all day. He saw my deep, inner compassion for this nameless, faceless, foreign child, and he stuck with it.
“Let me ask you this. If you had ONE less dollar in your pocket each day, would that make a difference in your quality of life?” Justin asked. Hmm. That’s less than half a subway ride. I slowly shook my head.
“Okay, if you had SIX less dollars a week, would that change your life?” My lunch alone is usually $10 a day. I shook my head again.
The program is $25 a month, and now it seemed like nothing. Justin showed me the list of countries they sponsor: India, Honduras, Zambia, the Philippines… “Pick someplace you want to travel!” he suggested. Hmmm… I do want to travel everywhere in the world, and it would be pretty special to have a child like this to visit. But no. I couldn’t just randomly pick a country and hand off my credit card on the street.
“You’ll be that child’s favorite person in the world!” Justin continued. “Just think: when they get Facebook one day, your photo is going to be right there under ‘family.’” Social media geek that I am, this kind of hit me. He said they’d draw me pictures and send them to me in the mail. I’d get letters from my child’s family thanking me for changing their lives, and one day, I could even go visit! Or perhaps fly them to New York for an NYU college education? It’s been done before.
But let’s not get carried away… I’m not rich (yet), and for him to think I was going to make a permanent decision like this on the fly was crazy! “I can’t do this right now! Please stop it!” I pleaded. “I really love the concept but I don’t have the money right now and it’s cold and I’m on my way to a manicure and it’s just too much pressure to make a decision like this!!!”
He interrupted softly: “Michelle. BREATHE. It’s okay. Are you ready? Deep breath in…”
I stopped in my tracks. We looked each other in the eye, and together we took a nice, long, sweet inhale.
“Now, deep breath out.”
And we slowly let the air out.
We repeated this exercise three times. There, right there in the middle of Union Square, two strangers breathed deeply and in sync. I was calm. My head was cleared. I was smiling.
And so, naturally, Justin came along with me to my manicure appointment.
“Ten minute massage for you?” my manicurist asked Justin, whom I introduced as my new friend. It was then I learned that Justin had never gotten a massage before. I insisted he get one! Oh, the health benefits and relaxation! Just like Justin’s job is getting people to sponsor children, my job is to make sure people are getting massages. And so he did, while I started my manicure and let all of this information sink in. He’d been working for Children International for over six months, and on that day it lead him to experience his very first massage. It was destiny.
I thought… and thought. Here I was, spending $10 on my weekly manicure. That could mean shoes, medicine and dinner for a week for someone. I’ve been going through some personal renaissances lately, discovering more about myself and a deeper meaning to life, and then it hit me. Yes. YES! YESYESYES YES! I feel eternally lucky to have grown up as fortunate as I did, and millions and millions of children are suffering every single day. I wanted to help one of them. I had never wanted anything more.
After Justin’s chair massage, he sat down next to me with that post-massage happy glow. “Wow. I definitely want more of those.” I had changed him. And you know what? He had changed me.
“I am going to sponsor a little girl from the Philippines,” I stated, and I had never been more sure of anything in my life.
I can’t wait to find out who she is! I should find out within the next few weeks and will be sure to update you. Check out the CI community, liftone.org, for blogs and photos from sponsors and children around the world. And when I do go to visit my little girl in the Philippines, I’m definitely bringing her some fun nail polish.
TELL ME! Do any of you sponsor children through an organization? How do you like it? Or, have you been considering it?
UPDATE: I’m a Sponsor Mommy!!! Meet Abegail.
Philippine street children photo via