While browsing the Compassion International webpage that showed all the sweet faces of the kids who need sponsors, we chose Jean in Ecuador last year because he shares a birthday with Ben. When Ben turns 3 later this month, Jean will turn 11.
So we introduced Jean to our friends at Ben's early birthday party this past weekend. I warned my family and friends this was coming and hoped they'd give less to Ben so Jean could have more. Really I didn't know how to word it, but I went with this on the invitation: Through Compassion International, we sponsor Jean, who lives in Ecuador and shares Ben's birthday. He will turn 11. Please consider blessing him with a monetary gift as you bless us with your company at Ben's party. Some friends gave money that we're passing on to Jean and his family through Compassion International.
This came about because the consumerism associated with birthdays and Christmas overwhelms me. Ironically, gift giving is my love language to others. I like to Christmas shop months before the holiday when I happen upon something that reminds me of a friend or a niece.
So, please, hear me: There is nothing wrong with parties and gifts. I like them. I like to plan parties. I like to go to parties. And I have a closet full of Christmas presents. But I want my kids to realize not everyone's life is like theirs. I want my kids to know we have more than enough and God wants us to share what we have with other kids and families. I want my kids to not be caught up in the consumer trap of making wish lists and expecting to receive without thinking about giving.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Jean isn't an orphan hoping for a family, but sponsoring a child through Compassion International is a practical way to do something for someone else, thus helping bring God's kingdom near to him. And sponsoring a child doesn't have to be just about the $38 a month that helps with that child's physical, medical, educational and spiritual needs. Yes, that's important. But so is writing them encouraging letters, sending them pictures, and coloring them a celebration that screams, "We're glad God made you!"
My 5 1/2-year-old daughter helped me make that poster pictured above. My son gave up some time at his party to do something for someone else. And I managed to get a bunch of 2- to 8-year-old kids involved by breaking out the craft supplies.
I had dinosaur coloring pages, colored cardstock, stickers and crayons so the kids could make Jean birthday cards. I'm telling you, on a beautiful fall day that had included chasing each other through piles of crunchy leaves, these kids were genuinely excited to make a boy they've never met and mostly just heard about a card.
They sat there and colored. My daughter tried to learn how to make bubble letters by watching her older cousin. They chose their coloring page as if they knew which one Jean would like best. The girls picked out princess stickers.
I'm telling you, they took some time out of a birthday party to give to someone who lives on another continent. Really, who doesn't want an all-brown dinosaur colored by a 4-year-old boy? He was diligent. I was impressed with and with the others. And I hope this packet of birthday cards and pictures brings a smile to an 11-year-old boy's face when he sees he was celebrated along with our son.
This is the sixth in a series of posts this month in honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month. You can read my past adoption-related posts here. You can sponsor a child through Compassion International here. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.