Monday, April 21, 2008

Compassion tour...did they get it?

Brynn and Callie on their way into the Compassion offices.

After one of Compassion International's employees saw our post about Brynn giving part of her allowance to Compassion, the employee left a comment on our blog inviting us to come in for a tour. Since the girls were off school today for a teacher work day, we scheduled a special kids' tour of the Compassion headquarters.

In the car on the way there, I was explaining to the girls how child sponsorship through Compassion works. I was telling them about the two kids we sponsor (Armando in Bolivia and Maricela in Mexico) and what our sponsorship provides for them. I paused for a second in between sentences and Callie popped in with this brilliant statement: "Mom, Jaguars have really good eyes. So they can see when it's not very light." Sometimes I don't know where she comes up with this stuff. Actually, I know where. She watches enough Diego to be on her way to becoming the next Jeff Corwin. I just don't know why that knowledge surprises us when it does.

When we arrived at Compassion, a friendly woman named Ginger took us for our tour. The girls seemed like they were paying attention to the introduction video that showed three American kids checking out some Compassion projects in Haiti. When the movie was over, Ginger asked the girls how the kids in the movie got their water. "Did they turn on a faucet?" she asked. "Yeah," Brynn replied half-heartedly. "No, the water came from a well and they had to pump it hard to get the water to come out. It's a lot of hard work! And then they had to carry the water back to their house." I'm sure the girls got something out of the video, but the idea of pumping water from a well and carrying it in a bucket back to the house was apparently something they couldn't wrap their brains around.

Later in the tour we went to see a model of a house inhabited by a typical Compassion-sponsored child. It was a small room, about the size of our master bedroom's walk-in closet. There was a desk with a couple of plates, a fork, a Bible, and a kerosene lamp as well as a bed covered by a mosquito net. Ginger pointed out the mosquito net and asked the girls what they thought it was for. Of course, neither one of them had any idea. Ginger explained its purpose to them and then, when she paused to take a breath, Callie let out another nugget of wisdom: "Yeah, and dragons can fly over the top of it." Excellent. Glad you're so focused on the purpose of the tour, Callie. How do you even know what dragons are or that they can fly?

A few times through the tour, Callie mentioned that when the tour was done, the girls could get treats if they were good. Really Callie, don't feel bad about rushing our guide, Ginger, through the tour! There was a bowl of candy at the reception desk and, of course, my girls' sweets radar zeroed in on it as soon as we walked into the building. "Can we have one? Can we have one? Please?" As usual, my answer was no. But then I thought, hey, this could be a good bribe. So, I added, "unless you're really good while we're here. Then you can have one on the way out." Mistake? Maybe. I wasn't in the mood for a tantrum, though. I could start a whole new blog detailing our encounters with candy while we run errands around town. The bank, the liquor store, now Compassion...sigh.

Despite the girls' nonchalance and misunderstanding of some of the concepts that confronted them during the tour at Compassion today, I am sure that the images they saw, the stories they heard, the dirty, broken, handmade toys and shoes they touched were like water on the seeds of generosity that were already firmly planted in their little hearts. As Scott and I continue to cultivate those seeds, I know that we will see their fruit. Maybe they didn't get that kids living in poverty have to carry their water from a well back to their house, but they understand that some kids have to wear their shoes until the soles fall apart. They know that the kids have to build their own toys out of garbage and play with flat, worn out soccer balls. They understand that the kids create artwork that doesn't look all that different from Brynn's and that the kids have a mom and dad and sister just like we do. They get that the kids are just like Brynn and Callie, and yet they live in very different conditions. As that understanding grows and as their natural inclination to care about others is nurtured by Scott and me, I believe that their desire to give others a hand up will grow, too. And, if they can continue to understand that the kids we are sponsoring are just like Brynn and Callie, in nearly every way, I know that they'll grow into adults who care about (and do something to improve) the lives of others outside of our suburban bubble.

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