I mentioned in my last post that I was giving up ice cream for the month of December.
As you may know, I am a bit of an ice cream eater (“a bit” meaning “I eat a large bowl every day.”) In my defense, though, I only eat pseudo-ice cream, and I only do so after eating a salad, but still… that doesn’t make it healthy.
Or low in sugar.
Or a sign of emotional stability.
So as an update: my “No Ice Cream December” is still going strong. I haven’t gnawed off an arm in frustration or set the Ben & Jerry’s store on fire.* Much like dealing with an addiction, or a break-up, the key seems to be keeping busy. As long as I’m busy, particularly in the evenings, I feel okay. Bring on the distraction!
*before you blame me for the mall fire, please note:
1. it happened at Dave n Buster’s, not Ben & Jerry’s
2. the fire occurred before my decision to give up ice cream
The problem, though, is all this other stuff has been turning up as a result of giving up ice cream, like “reflection” and “examining the real problem.” I seem to have opened up a floodgate, and rather than contemplate these things, I’d prefer to illegally stream Friends and enjoy my Chocolate Brownie Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt With Live Active Cultures, followed by a glass of chocolate milk.
Alas, I cannot.
So, I’m going to talk about what I did Wednesday night instead.
He’s also incredibly funny. He debuted by trying to enter the stage from the wrong side, and had to instead cross in front of the stage and come up the other side. After his first song, his introduction was: “I just wanted to say hi. My name is Jason Gray, and as you may have noticed, I tried to enter the stage from over here [points], and that’s not what I should have done…I should have come from over here [points], so instead of doing that, I just awkwardly crossed over, and I think that sets the right kind of tone for tonight’s show—it’s good to set your expectations low.”
And later, because he was suffering from a cold and his throat was bothering him, he asked one of the venue people to bring him a thermos of hot water so he could make tea (which he proceeded to do on stage), and he said, “Umm…do you still have those cupcakes back there, too? I really think the cupcakes are good for my health. It’s the frosting, you know, the way it coats the throat…it’s very medicinal.”
Of course, all of his jokes were made funnier by his inflection and his—I don’t know—nerdy quality? He’s a humble, soft-spoken guy, and his use of sarcasm was charming and oddly endearing (“You guys are all probably thinking to yourself, ‘Man, look at that poor guy. He’s really struggling up there. We should help him feel better by buying a CD.”)
It was an intimate concert that included Christmas music, hooray!, but more importantly, this was the third concert in three months I’ve attended in which the artists have set up a World Vision booth and talked about sponsoring a child.
One thing to note.
I don’t like being put on the spot. I’m not of fan of churches or youth groups putting pressure on people to “raise their hand” or “come to the front” and “be saved.” (Langston Hughes wrote a great essay on that called “Salvation.”) When I attended the first of these three concerts, they administered the church/youth group hand-raising pressure to sponsor a child, and I instantly got defensive. It seemed like they were saying, “All of you people out there with a heart and compassion, please raise your hand and we’ll come around and give you a child to sponsor. The rest of you…well…we know what kind of selfish people you are.”
So I kept my hand down and ignored them.
The second concert felt less judgmental. The band members were—I thought—more genuine about the cause, and they showed a video of going to Africa to meet the children they sponsored, and it was so cool to watch. Those kids over there…they have nothing. Their homes are made of mud and dirt and they don’t have shoes or books or pencils, and yet they are so happy. They have such thankful hearts and are so welcoming. The families who have so little offered everything to the band when they visited. It’s such a different perspective from the “mine mine mine” that rules our mentality. Watching that video made me want to drop what I’m doing (which, let’s be honest, isn’t anything at the moment) and become a missionary or volunteer or teacher or something in one of these villages so I can have a positive affect on others’ lives. It made me want to help.
But it costs $35/mo and I’m barely affording rent and food. God understands, I thought. I’m not in a stable place yet…but once I am, once I have a “real” job, I will totally get involved with World Vision. I put the information into the Notes section of my phone so I wouldn’t forget it, but after that, I started to have a fight with my conscience.
Conscience: $35 per month? That’s one dinner out. You went to Cheesecake Factory the other day and spent $30, and then followed it up with a movie. So—if you were to avoid going out one night per month, you’d save enough money to support a child and his or her community.
Jenny: Yes, true, but that was a rare event. I hardly ever go out and buy a real meal. Even Panera is a stretch. And besides, I support KLove radio station and give money to my church. In fact, I just increased my KLove pledge, so I’m already paying that much money for a ministry I believe in. I’m doing my part.
Conscience: You still have more to give.
Jenny: I’m wearing socks with holes in them. No, I don’t.
And thus it went. My friend Lauren once said (in regard to purchasing clothes or other retail items), if you’re going to leave the store and think about the item you didn’t purchase more than three times, you ought to just get it.
World Vision played in my mind at least three times since the last concert, but I always had my “I’m a struggling waitress/unemployed graduate” excuse to fall back on.
So last night, of course, World Vision was back.
This time, however, there was no interlude of “raise your hand if you aren’t a scumbag and support this child.”
Instead, Jason Gray said a few words that reminded me that how we treat others is a reflection of what we believe. God cares for the orphan, the widow, and the poor, and he repeatedly reminds us that we are to remember them, too. In the Old Testament, there were laws about not collecting the food at the edges of one’s field because it was to be left for the poor. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks to the people about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison, saying, “Whatever you’ve done unto the least of these, you’ve done unto me” (and conversely, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do unto me).
Jason Gray also said something I’ve heard before, but which I’m prone to forget: the best way to not let money have power over us—which it does, it so does…once we get it, we want to hold onto it, we worry about losing it, we worry about not having enough, and we always have to have more, more, more because it’s never enough—the way to not let money have that power over us is to give it away.
Paul Walker is the perfect example of someone who could have been consumed by money but wasn’t. I did not realize the generous spirit he had until after his tragic accident last week. So many people have come forward to talk about the generosity they experienced from him. One couple tells the story of how they were engagement ring shopping when Paul Walker, who was in the store, learned that the gentleman had just returned from serving in Iraq. He overheard them saying they couldn’t afford the ring, so he secretly bought it for them. (It wasn’t until he died that the store manager revealed the truth.) He also started his own non-profit organization (Reach Out Worldwide ), for which his family now asks donations in lieu of flowers and other gifts.
It just goes to show that we’re remembered more for the lives we’ve affected than for our accomplishments.
(An aside. Sorry.)
So, the concert. At this point, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I decided to sponsor a child.
The downfall to not being asked to raise our hand and receiving right there a card with “our child” on it was that we were supposed to go to the booth and choose a child.
Have you ever gone to the pound and seen rows of animals that need to be saved and you can only pick ONE? Do you know how hard that is? Do you pick the cutest one? The saddest-looking one? The one from the best family? The one that you think everyone else will pick over and ignore?
It was like kind of like that, but so much weirder because these were human lives I was choosing. Who gets a good life and who doesn’t? Who’s will I choose to save? I don’t like having that kind of authority.
At first I thought I could do it—just pick a child from the country I’d most want to visit, because it’s not a question: I will show up there one day. (Jason Gray told the story of when he met his sponsored child, he didn’t know how they even found the house amid the jungle. There were no roads. It was “Drive through these trees, take a left at the monkeys, and go straight until you see an orange roof.”)
Problem: I didn’t know how to decide which African country was the best. And then I saw Colombia and thought, hey, my tennis coach was from there. Then there were countries I’d never even heard of, and it seemed rude to rule them out just because I’m geographically ignorant.
And then there was Mexico, which was like my backyard and seemed not-exotic-enough.
Then there was the kid with the name I liked, and the kid whose birthday was a day before mine, and the kid who helps his parents by “bringing water from the well.”
Be still my heart.
It was too much. So, I asked the lady at the counter to please pick one for me. I said, “I’ll turn around. Just shuffle them and choose one, or pick your favorite.”
She handed me this little gem:
I cannot get over how darling she is. Her name is Jhosselyn and she’s two years old, from Ecuador. When the lady at the booth pointed out how her young age will really allow me to “watch her grow,” I almost started to hyperventilate. The math dawned on me, and it reminded me of college, when I wanted to adopt a kitten and my ex-boyfriend said, “That’s an eighteen year commitment. You’ll be thirty-eight when it dies.”
That convinced me to buy a mouse instead, but now—now I feel like I’m adopting a child. I was paranoid about adopting a kitten, and here I am making a huge commitment to a human being. I don’t know what I’ll be doing two months from now let alone sixteen years from now—but I’m promising to take care of this person for all of that time. It’s terrifying.
But at the same time…. it’s really exciting. I’ll receive updates on her life and I get to send her letters (once she’s, like, old enough to read and write), and hopefully someday I’ll get to meet her myself.
And let’s be honest, I’d rather grow up to be the crazy sponsorship lady than the crazy cat lady, so I guess I’m getting my start.
Mom and Dad, behold your surrogate grandchild.
I started the week by giving up ice cream, and I ended it by gaining a child. That’s something I didn’t expect.
Please be aware: I did not write this blog to be like: “Hey, look at how awesome and generous I am!” but rather to bring awareness to these organizations, and also, possibly, to encourage others who might be on the fence about giving. I’m someone who doesn’t know how much money she’ll make every month, and it’s scary to take on a monthly payment when one is not really employed. But I’m trusting that God will provide for my needs.
Sometimes we think it’s too difficult to change the world—what can one person really do?—and so we don’t even try. But it’s not about changing the whole world, it’s about changing a life.
And that we can do one at a time.