Give a little, it feels good.
"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good thing that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now and not defer it, for I will not pass this way again."
Quote taken from This is a Soul by Marilyn Berger
About a week ago, two students who live at the SAC Family came to visit. One boy’s backpack was broken, so I sewed it back together with the cheap sewing kit I bought at the last minute before leaving America. The other boy showed me his bag and it was beyond my amateur seamstress abilities…the zippers were “unhinged” and I could not easily get them back on track without doing more damage. The boy’s friend, Phillip nudged the boy, Dan, and told him in a whisper, “Tell her, she is nice, I know she will help.” Dan looked at me with a guilty, almost desperate face and said, “The man in town can fix it for 400 shillings…but I don’t have.” What a dilemma. 400 shillings is less than 20 cents USD. What if I gave him the money and word gets out that Bank of Kristen is open for business? What about those sad, innocent, pleading eyes…? Bank of Kristen is not unlimited…oh those eyes…400 shillings?
I gave him the shillings (I know. I’m weak.) But, I gave him two conditions, “1. Do not tell anyone I did this for you. I will deny it. 2. Come back to me when it is repaired so I can see.”
My hope was that this would keep him honest. It did. He stopped by a week later with many, “Thank you, Madam…Thank you, Madam!” and a beautifully repaired bag to match a beautifully proud smile on his face. SO worth the 20 cents and any future beggars.
I recently read a book called, “This is a Soul” by Marilyn Berger. It is the story of Dr. Rick Hodes’ work in Ethiopia. (I recommend it for a feel-good-read.) I think Dr. Hodes’ view on giving out money whenever people ask has changed my previous opinions. It used to be that I felt offended, even used whenever people request money here. When I think about the options for these orphans and needy children to approach an adult with a problem, I start to realize their situations are bleak. Who is going to pay 400 shillings for the backpack of a child who is not their own? If you made $3.00 USD a day, would you spend 20 cents on an orphan’s backpack? If food for your family cost $1.50 a day, would you still pay for that backpack? These numbers change for every family, and for every needy child, but the point remains the same. Who is going to help if I don’t? I think I need to be careful with giving money—there must be a lot of thought put in, and a lot of caution…I cannot be frivolous, or I will become “That Mzungu” who sets an unreasonable standard for all other Mzungus who come after me.
It is time to change all the same. In a child-by-child basis, I will make an effort to help when it is really needed. It is time for me to start being a better, less selfish Mzungu.
Future kiddos should thank Dan for his sweet and genuinely grateful attitude towards my deed—Dr. Rick Hodes may have gotten me thinking about my actions, but little Dan has made me decide to change.