Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Awash in Grief

During this month of thankfulness as I consider all that the Lord has given me and my family, my heart is heavy with sorrow for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. I cry out to Jesus for relief for those who had nothing to begin with and are left with less than nothing--not even a blank slate on which to reconstruct their lives. Loved ones are dead or missing, and aid trucks are doing the best they can to meet a need that is too great.


Meanwhile, I drink hot cocoa in my warm home, safe from the storm, my child asleep in his bed.

I do not feel guilty for the gifts I'm blessed with, but I feel responsible for the family of humans on this planet that Christ calls me to love. I know I am to be a steward of what I've been given, and that he calls me to give to those in need. To do any less would be to deprive Jesus himself of food, water, and shelter.

Please, I am urging you to consider a donation to Compassion International or another relief organization in the Philippines today to help provide some relief to the families there who desperately need help.

Help Children Affected by Philippines Typhoon

Matthew 25:21-46
31“But when the Son of Mand comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32All the nationsewill be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,f you were doing it to me!’
41“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.g 42For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
45“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
46“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Prayer Request

Hello fellow bloggers and Compassion Sponsors!

Today is day three of a U.S. federal government shutdown, which means that all "nonessential" government employees are furloughed. My post today will be a little different than before. Today I'm simply asking for prayers for my family and for other government employees who are affected by the shutdown.

My husband and I are both federal employees. We work for a great agency, and we would love to be at work doing our jobs. We have lots of great co-workers who also rely on the income from their jobs to pay their bills. Right now we have zero income. The closure affects not only us, but also those in the private sector whom we would ordinarily support through purchases of goods and services.

On the bright side, I'm able to spend more time with my son, get some things done around the house that have languished for a while, and get a head start on some Christmas gifts. On the downside, I'm praying this doesn't continue for very long so that it has minimal impact on our overall financial well-being.

Please pray for all of the government employees and contractors impacted. I've no doubt many of us are sponsors of children around the world.

Thanks!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Note to Self

Our Compassion blog assignment this month, as we celebrate Compassion Bloggers Month, is to write about what we would tell our childhood selves if we could go back in time and visit ourselves.
That's me in the back--the one with the GIANT Glasses
There are so many things I would tell my younger self. For one, I would hug myself fiercely and assure myself I am fine just the way I am. "You know that person who said you can't dance?" I'd tell myself, "Well she's wrong." I'd assure myself that all children are awkward at one time or another, and that I'd grow up to be just fine ~ that one day the scales would level out.

I'd assure myself that it doesn't matter if I can play sports well (I couldn't, and still can't and guess what?? I don't care!); it doesn't matter if I don't have brand name clothes (my mom & dad, wisely, refused to buy into the latest trends); it doesn't matter if I find reading preferable to playing the latest video game (okay, so then the latest video games were PacMan and QBert but hey, who's keeping tabs?).

I'd tell younger self that the high school sweetheart who is going to break my heart is just getting out of the way so I can find the love of my life later on.  I'd tell myself the crazy roommate who made my life miserable was just encouraging me to move into a house (albeit a really run-down, creepy house) with a friend who would become a sister and stick with me for life, and who would introduce me to my future husband and the father of the greatest little boy I've ever known.

I'd tell my younger self to wear sunscreen, that I really WOULD care later on when my skin started to show wear and tear, but that when it comes down to it, enjoying the day in God's bright sunshine is preferable to hiding inside in order to preserve my vanity.

I'd tell myself a little secret--that nearly everyone is afraid they don't know what they are doing, and that they expect to be "discovered" as incapable or incompetent at any minute. I'd tell myself it's OKAY to mess up, and that failure IS an option, and not always a bad one.

I'd tell myself not to be afraid to ask for help-that it's okay not to know how to do everything all the time the right way the first time you try it. I'd tell myself that making mistakes is not only normal when you are learning, but it's the ONLY way to learn.

I'd tell myself to treasure every moment with my dad; to record in my mind the memories, big and small, because he wouldn't be with me nearly long enough.

Most of all, I'd tell myself to really examine the life of Christ and who he is. I'd tell my younger self to cast aside who others say he is, who others tell me he is, and to answer the question Jesus asked Peter in Mark 8:29... "'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?'" I'd encourage myself to think hard about what made Jesus different from prophets and wise men who existed during the time he was alive. What made his message different? What set his life apart? In what precise way was he a rebel in his community?

Then I'd tell myself to take that spirit of absolute LOVE and apply it to my life and to those around me.

I still struggle with all of those things today. I struggle with the negative messages that pound us through the media we consume with a passion that, if applied to the message of Jesus, would serve to transform the world in a positive rather than negative way. I struggle with the message of unachievable perfection that surrounds our culture. I struggle with the message that money is everything, that we have to look, talk, and think a certain way. I struggle with the need for control and approval. I hope to help my Compassion kids and my own son avoid some of that struggle by sharing with them the small amount of wisdom I've gleaned so far in my life, though. If nothing else, I want them to understand that they ARE loved, not just by me or by a friend or family member, but by JESUS himself. I want them to understand that they are loved JUST as they are, and that their greatest mission is to spread that love to all those around them.

Please help the Compassion bloggers this month by reading and sharing our blogs, and by sponsoring a child today! You can share the love of Jesus and change lives, one child at a time!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blessed

WOW, I have been so busy I have neglected my blog for a bit. Fortunately, part of the business has been with my ETSY shop, which has raised over $600 for Compassion so far (thanks to amazing customers who love Compassion and who have supported me!), and writing my fabulous Sponsored kids who continue to amaze me with their insight and beautiful spirits!

My own son has also kept me busy by becoming a PRESCHOOLER this week!  Wow! Time flies so fast.

 This past Sunday our amazing pastor at Calvary Baptist Church spoke about Paul and his message to the church from prison in the book of Philippians. During the course of the message, the pastor talked about four things that we often idolize, or allow to come between us and a full life in Christ. Those four things, he listed, are our desires for Comfort, Approval, Control, and Power.

We want to be comfortable, to be free of stress and have all the "creature comforts" we can accrue. Sometimes we strive for comfort at the expense of following Christ's direction in our lives.

We want the approval of others, often to the point of denying our true nature as children of Christ because we yearn for others to look up to us.

Many of us are afraid to lose control of our environment, our daily schedule...we grab for control and when we can't control a circumstance we are ruled by fear and anxiety.

Finally, power can easily become the sole focus of our lives, striving for more and more at the expense of other people, even those we most love. In our reach for power we can often compromise our ethics and our relationship with Christ.

As I listened to the sermon, it ocurred to me that these are all things our sponsored children lack. Most, if not all, of our sponsored children lack comfortable surroundings, clean running water, soft beds with multiple sets of sheets and downy pillows, air conditioning, plenty of food...  Most of our sponsored children lack the approval of the greater community because of their poverty. Most of our sponsored children have no control over their daily lives-they wake, and they are at the mercy of circumstance. Finally, the most powerless among us are children, and those children in poverty are the least powerful of all.

As I thought about it, I thought--no wonder God loves these children so much. They are the category of blessed spoken of in the Beatitudes. They embody who God would like us to become in spirit--blank slates, unfettered by material possessions and power, open to his true Love.

I am so humbled to be part of the lives of these children. I know that they will bless me in a multitude of ways they will never know. I only hope I can bless them in some small way so that they can move forward in God's will and share his love with their families and communities.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hope

Media. We have so much access to information - more than we've ever had before. We can Google anything, Facebook with friends and family thousands of miles and oceans away, shop online, and read all the latest news on equipment no bigger than the palm of a hand. Access to all this information can be fun, and may seem freeing. I remember having to actually (gasp!) go to a library and look in a card catalog for an encyclopedia for basic facts...now all I have to do is flip on my phone and with a few taps I've jumped down the rabbit hole of the internet.

The problem with access to so much information is one of discernment. It's awfully easy to get lost on the information superhighway, or bogged down with the excess of bad news that perpetuates in cyberspace.

Here's a ray of hope... Media thrives on bad news. Regardless of your bias, regardless of where you live, bad news sells. We are a species driven by adrenaline, and bad news gives us a small adrenaline rush governed by fear. With brains that are unable to adapt as quickly as technology progresses, we process information the same way we did when it moved at a snail's pace--traveling via word of mouth or pony express. The kidnapping on channel 10 becomes an iminent threat in our brain; the robbery at the convenience store seems an inevitability.

What impact is all this bad news having? Depression...anxiety disorders...in people living in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. People who are pampered.

Meanwhile, children halfway around the globe are still receiving news via handwritten letter. Living in dust with tin roofs and thin blankets...playing in polluted water, drinking the same, trying their best to dodge the mosquito that might carry the dreaded malaria, these same children trust God, love freely, pray sincerely, and rejoice easily.

Hope. Here's what the media isn't telling you. Today, crime rates in the United States remain at historically low levels according to the Bureau of Justice. In 2010, violent crimes were 1/3 what they were in 1994. The odds of being murdered or robbed are 1/3 what they were in the early 1990s, and the odds of rape have dropped to 1/6 what they were 20 years ago.

Why aren't we celebrating one of the most peaceful times our planet has ever known? Despite turmoil in some areas of the world, we are still remarkably peaceful. In fact, some analysts suggest the world is more peaceful now than it ever has been before. Don't believe it? Forget the individual news reports you see on TV--remember, the media seeks to grab you and pull you in to increase ratings, and bad news sells.  Instead, think about what we know of history... the plagues, famines, great wars, torture, murder, lack of humanitarianism... and think of today.

Hope. We have it. Now share it... turn off the TV, pick up a pen, and share that hope with your Compassion kids!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Song for the Weekend



Do you ever have a song that has just grabbed hold of you and held you hostage?  This morning, Chris Rice's "Deep Enough to Dream" has arrested my soul and I find myself listening over and over to the lyrics.

One line that strikes me, in particular, is the imagery of the fly bumping the window for the hundredth time because "freedom calls from the other side."  That line has reminded me of how all of our spirits are held hostage here on earth until we are freed by Jesus. Jesus opens the window so we can fly free.

Today I find myself thinking of my Compassion children and how I yearn for their little souls to fly free with Jesus; to soar above their circumstances and to dream in the brilliant colors that Jesus has clothed them in. They are kings and queens, filled with inner beauty and light that no amount of poverty or circumstance can rob unless they give up hope. Let's help fill our children with the brilliant colors of Christ's love through our letters and support!

Need help getting started or know someone else who does? I have some free downloadable writing packets - print them, share them, use them and come back for more. Also, Compassion offers online writing--be sure to use that great, easy tool!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Jesus Loves the Little Children

"Jesus loves the little children...all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world!"

We used to sing that song in Sunday school when I was little. In fact, along with "Jesus loves me," it was the most frequently sung song by little children in the church as far as I can recall. I believed it then, as a small child, and I believe it now.

This morning I looked at my 3 year old son's sweet, innocent sleeping face and I thought about the millions of children living in destitute poverty across the globe. They are all equally innocent and deserving of love, yet they are there and I am here. I am able to wrap comforting arms arou

nd my little boy and reassure him, kiss his wounds, heal his heart. I won't always be able to do that for him but for now, at 3, I have his love and trust and his abiding faith that his daddy and I will care for him and keep him safe.

Unfortunately so many children do not have that magic elixer of a momma's kiss. Sometimes momma is already with Jesus, or sometimes hands that ought to be caressing, loving, healing are hitting in anger and frustration. So many parents can't reassure their little ones that it will be ok. For so many, it's a strugge to feed, clothe, house the precious little ones entrusted to them.

They are there and I am here. But I don't have to sit silently and mourn. I can make a difference. I can be the voice that cries out in the wilderness for these children. I can be the hope, the love, the healing voice they long to hear. So can you.

Yesterday in the mail I received the amazing gift of a lengthy letter from one of my correspondent children, Chavarro. It was an amazing letter, explaining to me that he would have a summer vacation (the letter was in May, so presumably his vacation has come and passed), and that he would spend it helping his mom at home. He likes pizza, hot dogs, and strawberry ice cream. He is a kid. Jesus LOVES him, and so do I. I try to bless him with photos, stickers, postcards, but mostly with words of love, hope, and encouragement. But it turns out, his words of love in return are an amazing blessing in my life and I find myself longing for letters from my Compassion children as eagerly as they long for letters from me!

I believe Jesus loves the little children, and I believe we are called to do the same. Please consider sponsoring a child and whispering words of hope into their life, and be amazed when you find that they bless your life even more richly than you could imagine!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Gift from India

It's always a great day when I get a letter from one of my Compassion children, but yesterday was an EXCEPTIONAL day!! Not only did I get a letter from my sweet correspondence young woman, Florance, but it was a THREE PAGE letter!  Given that I have some sort of virus that has me really bed and couch-bound for the most part, at least my spirits were lifted up by her words!

I was floored that Florance took the time to write such a long and giving letter to me. I feel like I know so much more about her today than I did yesterday. Besides calling me "Aunty" (which made me feel incredibly special), she expressed concerns about the weather here, and expressed surprised that I mentioned in a previous letter to her that I worry about her.

She mentioned a small birthday gift we sent her back in April, with which she purchased a pedestal fan... her description of how useful that fan will be in keeping her home cooler during the unbearably hot summer months was humbling, to say the least. And to think I was complaining about a few days of rain...

If you've never sponsored a child but are considering doing so...don't even think about it, just do it!  God will provide the means, and I'm here to tell you, these children will bless your life in ways you can't imagine.

Bless you, Florance, and all of my compassion family--my prayers are with you all daily!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Radical Obedience

It's awfully easy to sit in our comfy homes and preach about helping the poor, don't you think? I don't advocate "guilt gospel," but it's easy for me to tell everyone around me to be kind to the poor, to give until it's uncomfortable, to sacrifice in order to help those who can't help themselves... all while I sip my $4 Starbucks in my air conditioned comfort.
Street Child in Bangladesh (Wikipedia)
It's a whole other story to be so RADICAL as to ditch the comfort all together--even for a short time--and BE those whom you advocate serving. That's exactly what Jesus did, and it's exactly what Sango UMC church pastor Rev. Willie Lyle did a couple of weeks ago.

I read about this because Rev. Lyle is the father of a fellow dancer and she posted it to her Facebook page. When I read the article I was so deeply touched and impressed by his story I asked her if I could share it this week on my blog. I feel it's related very intimately to the message of Compassion, even if indirectly.

Rev. Lyle had just accepted a new position at Sango UMC and had yet to assume the pulpit when had a dream. In that dream, God spoke to him and suggested a radical experiment--to give up the comfort of his home and lifestyle for a short time, to experience the lives of those that he often advocated helping.

Rather than brush the dream aside, Rev. Lyle decided to listen and on Monday, June 17, his wife left him in downtown Clarksville, TN to begin his (albeit short) stint as a homeless man. From streets to shelters to church pantries, Rev. Lyle learned a great deal about what life is like for those who are down on their luck in America. Even more striking, he learned how the homeless are treated by fellow citizens, even Christians. In his words, "Generally speaking, people are not kind to the homeless."

According to the Leaf Chronicle, on his final day on the street--which happened to coincide with his first day as pastor of Sango UMC--Rev. Lyle lay under an overcoat under a tree outside the church doors as his soon-to-be parishioners entered the building. Twenty people offered him assistance on their way inside. Still unshaven, but wearing a suit under the overcoat, Lyle approached the pulpit and began to preach. As he did, family members cut his hair and shaved off the beard. His metamorphoses was completed during his sermon, and he went from the homeless man on the lawn to the new pastor of the congregation.

This radical approach mirrors his servant attitude. He told the Chronicle, "We are going to be a part of the solutions to the problems we face in our community. We are going to get our hands dirty as we live like Jesus and help others...God looks inside at our heart and sees the truth."

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I'm inspired. Are you? Do you see how this relates to Compassion? We are called to sacrifice for His name. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Can we be RADICAL in our support of children in need? Please consider helping a child who needs you. www.compassion.com

For the whole story, please visit http://www.theleafchronicle.com/article/20130628/NEWS01/306280035/Sango-UMC-s-new-pastor-lives-homeless-man-before-installation?nclick_check=1

You can hear Rev. Lyle's June 23 sermon via podcast at http://www.sangoumc.org/finding-the-least-used-parts-of-the-body/

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Power of "Can"

Sometimes we forget the power of our words. This morning on the radio I heard a story about a boy with a learning disability--he couldn't listen to someone speak and comprehend very well--but he could read and understand perfectly. This boy was verbally tested by his school and placed in "special education" classes where he continued to do very poorly....until his freshman year in high school. During that year, a substitute teacher noticed something special about him and began to test him in different ways than anyone had before. After a series of tests administered in writing rather than verbally she said to him "I believe you are just as gifted as the other kids--you don't need to be in these classes. Why are you still in special ed?"

As a result of her confidence in him, the boy went back to his teachers and asked to be retested using written formats. He passed with flying colors and re-entered the primary classes at his high school. He graduated with straight A's, went on to receive a PhD, and is now a professor of psychology at a university.

The power of words is astounding. I wrote a brief essay once for NPR's "This I Believe" essay series called "I am a Dancer," where I describe how one sentence affected my perception of what I could do for nearly 2 decades.

I know my mom would never remember this, because she encouraged me to try ballet and gymnastics as a child, but when I was a little girl I overheard someone at church tell her that I didn't have the right "body type" for ballet. Essentially, I was too chubby. Overhearing that one sentence, spoken not out of spite I'm sure, but just an offhand statement that I am certain that mother didn't even know I overheard, resulted in years of an overwhelming belief that I "couldn't dance."

I could play music, I could march in a band--all things that require rhythm--but I "couldn't dance." For some reason that was a forbidden world to me all because of the power of words. Then one day words unlocked a magic door... My freshman year in college I had a roommate who loved to dance... One day she looked at me and said "come on, get up and dance with me!" I said to her "But I can't dance!" She laughed and said "Yes you can! I'll show you how! Anyone can dance!" Her words, "yes you can," opened up a whole realm of art previously closed to me.

In the years since I have taken lessons in ballroom, salsa, swing, contra dance, and Middle Eastern dance and have taught lessons in Middle Eastern dance and have led worship dance programsin church. I've danced on stage in at least 7 states. I'm no star, by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know one thing--I CAN dance.

Praise dance on Stage with the Alexandria Dancers (I'm on the front left)
Have you spoken words of life into your sponsored children lately? Have you told them they CAN defeat poverty? Have you told them they ARE princes and princesses, destined for the kingdom?

This I Believe--these children are VALUABLE to Christ Jesus. They CAN make a difference in their families, communities, and world! Let's speak hope into their lives today!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Using God's Gifts to Give Back

I'm so excited about today's blog post. Recently, I posed a question to sponsors on the OurCompassion forum asking how advocates, sponsors, and other compassionate people are using their creativity to raise money to meet their Compassion goals.

I was STUNNED by the many and varied ways that sponsors around the globe are using not only their unique talents, but also their sheer ingenuity to afford sponsored children and contribute to Compassion's other, equally important funds (for example, child survival, clean water initiatives, at-risk children, and malaria prevention).

The respondents graciously allowed me to share the ways they creatively fund raise on my blog, and I hope that by sharing our stories with you I will not only raise awareness for their stores, products, and efforts, but also spur you into ACTION using your own creative talents for Christ!

Without further adieu....

1.Donating proceeds from sales

There are many amazing people out there who are donating all or a portion of the proceeds from items they make and sell to Compassion.

Lizzie, a teenager and absolutely amazing role model, has an ETSY shop called madefromscratch4u.etsy.com where 100 percent of the net profit is donated to either the child survival program or is used pay for child sponsorships. Lizzie's shop features a wide variety of handmade items, from sponsor bracelets (featuring beads from the countries where sponsored children live) to crochet items.
Lizzie's Sponsor Bracelets for Compassion
Naomi, a fabulous photographer in Sacramento, California (whose photographs are so touching they brought tears to my eyes) donates a minimum of 20% of the gross of all sales to Compassion.  http://www.naomiharrisonphotography.com/giving-back/
Naomi also hosts Mother and Child mini-portrait sessions to benefit the Child Survival Program. http://www.naomiharrisonphotography.com/2013/04/30/sacramento-photographer-mothers-day-portraits/

Katie, operator of Churchill Crafts - beautiful baby gift items and handmade accessories, dedicates 100% of profits from her etsy store to Compassion sponsorships, child and family gifts, and birthday gifts for her sponsor and correspondence children.  http://www.etsy.com/shop/ChurchillCrafts
Fun and Fabulous baby items from Churchill Crafts
Jennifer N operates Shop with Compassion on Etsy - ultra creative and unique nursery book storage slings in gorgeous modern fabrics-- and  100% of her profits go towards sponsorships and child and family gifts, along with trips to visit her sponsored children via Compassion.
Awesome Nursery Book Storage from Shop with Compassion
Amanda Watts. has a facebook business, Watts Knots and Knicknacks (great name!) where she sells hats, bows, headbands, and other items. Portions of her sales go towards child sponsorships. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Watts-Knots-and-Knicknacks/259858294055808?ref=hl
Custom headband from Watts Knots and Knicknacks
Donna Kirckof draws members of her side-saddle forum on their horses at no cost with the no-obligation request of a compassion donation.

Michelle from Blogging From the Boonies has created watercolor paintings in exchange for $20 donations to Compassion.

Kayla tie-dyes T-shirts and sells them to raise funds for sponsorship.

And, finally, I operate an online ETSY store, Conspiracy of Love, where I sell handmade jewelry. 100% of my proceeds go to Compassion child survival program and  at-risk children's funds. I also make soaps and lotion bars for family and friends in exchange for donations. www.etsy.com/shop/ConspiracyofLove
Handmade jewelry from Conspiracy of Love

2. Write a book

Okay, so probably most of us can't do this... at least I know I can't. And I guess technically this is part of the list above, but I was so excited by this sponsor's contribution I felt it needed it's own category. Nineteen-year-old author Sydney Lorraine Danielle (yes, you heard me, 19 - crazy, right??) has just finished a young-adult fantasy adventure titled "This Deadly Quest," which will be available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon beginning August 2013. 100% of proceeds will be used for child sponsorships and birthday gifts. Pre-orders can be arranged via, isamscia@outlook.com. Sydney's website is www.isamscia.com.

3. Hosting Yard Sales

Many sponsors have hosted yard sales to benefit Compassion. I hosted one with another sponsor not long ago, myself, and was amazed at how much we were able to donate as a result. Yard sales are great, low-expense ways to rid your home of clutter and raise money for children who don't have the luxury of all that "stuff"!  Jesus told the rich man to sell all he had and give the money to the poor. The VERY least we can do is sell all the stuff we don't want and give the money to the poor, don't you think?

4. Host events

Lizzie, the same Lizzie mentioned above, rides her bicycle and encourages others to hold bika-a-thons to fund child sponsorships. You can support Lizzie's goal of reaching $1,000 through bicycling at http://gogetfunding.com/project/cycle4compassion
Lizzie cycling for Compassion
Casey, a skin care specialist, will be demonstrating "Water for Life" units in her spa studio and encouraging customers to contribute to the clean water fund at Compassion.

Michelle from Blogging From the Boonies hosted a (soggy) walk for Waters for Life where she was able to raise enough money for 26 water filters! See her account on her blog, here http://www.bloggingfromtheboonies.com/2012/07/walking-in-water.html. Michelle has also participated with her family in "One Meal One Day" where you donate the cost of skipped meals to Compassion. Read her account here: http://www.bloggingfromtheboonies.com/2013/03/thoughts-on-empty-stomach.html

5. Sell your blood

Okay, really your plasma. Honestly, I had never thought about selling plasma for Compassion. It would never have occurred to me. I remember friends in college who sold plasma for a little extra cash, but what a sacrifice to sell your own plasma for the benefit of Compassion! That's what Emily at OurCompassion did to raise money for sponsorships while she was in graduate school. The really cool thing is you're actually doing something good times 2...you're providing much-needed plasma AND donating money to those who really need it!

SO there you have it... I know there are a TON more wonderful examples out there, and I WHOLEHEARTEDLY thank those who sent me their creative fundraising ideas.

I hope you'll take this opportunity to visit the links I've posted, and to support the vendors listed above. Please consider them for Christmas, Birthday, Wedding, and Shower gifts this year to help them in their efforts to reach out to children in need! I also hope you'll be moved to use your own skills for God's honor! 


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Follow Compassion to Nicaragua!

Wow, I have been so very busy that I've fallen behind a bit, I'm afraid! I have so many things to share in upcoming posts, including a sneak peak of an article I'm working on for the Compassion Advocate magazine discussing all the AMAZING ways Compassion sponsors are creating opportunities to raise money for children in poverty. I'm SO in awe of the wonderful things God is doing through people when they put their trust and creativity in His hands!

Today, however, is all about the work that a group of bloggers is doing on the ground in Nicaragua. Four of Compassion's staff bloggers are visiting the country and blogging daily about what they experience there in order to help share the ministry of Compassion. I hope that you'll join me in supporting them by following their posts and praying for them as they tour the country.

The blog post by LifeInGraceblog author Edie Wadsworth particularly touched me. Her vivid descriptions of a visit to a dump on day one, and her photographs of children sifting through layers of rubble to find toys to play with and items to sell left me considering the items I casually toss in the trash at home; the cavalier attitude I have when I pick up some unnecessary item at Target or Walmart.

And then I compare the graciousness of the residents eeking out a living in this trash heap--their willingness to invite in the bloggers from Compassion with an open heart--with my own hesitation to open my doors to my precious friends and family if the laundry is piled up or the dishes aren't done.

Sometimes priorities get all mixed up. Sometimes, though I don't want to admit it, I'm more concerned about what people will think about me based on the condition of my home, my landscaping, whatever meal I offer or some skill I perform instead of being concerned about what people think about the condition of my heart and my relationship with Jesus based on my actions.

When I take my eyes off of myself and focus my eyes on the people around me-the people who love me, the people I love, the people in this world who are desperately waiting for a word of peace and encouragement...then I find satisfaction. There I find Grace. There I find hope, mercy, and love. There I find Jesus.

Please pray for our bloggers in Nicaragua this week, and please consider sponsoring a child for only $38 a month. You can make such a difference in the life of a child.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Scent with Love

So, as is true to my "can't leave well enough alone" nature, I'm dabbling in yet another past time, which is aromatherapy. Actually, I've been interested in essential oils for almost 2 decades, ever since I majored in botany in college and took some courses focused on the human uses of medicinal plants, and on the phytochemicals in plants that give them their various aromatic and medicinal properties. I've also dabbled in homemade soap and lotion-making over the course of the last decade and the use of essential oils in those crafts, so I suppose this really isn't all that new, after all, just a resurgence of an interest.

So I'm rambling on about this interest in fragrance, and I'm sure you're wondering what that has to do with sponsoring children through Compassion. It occurred to me as I have been accumulating the supplies to make some scented necklaces, handmade soap, and handmade lotion bars for my Compassion ETSY store that certain fragrances instill an immediate sense of peace in me. For me, patchouli is a scent that is forever relaxing because I associate it with carefree college years (my husband, on the other hand, detests it). I also love the scent of suntan lotion because I recall summers on the beach in Florida with my family. The smell of cinnamon and oranges reminds me of Christmas, while the sweet, woodsy smell of Balsam Fir, quite possibly my favorite smell in the entire world, reminds me of quite walks in the woods on a warm day, no worries, and a deep connection to nature and to God.

If fragrance evokes such warm, deep memories (and countless research proves it does), then why not use fragrance to scent our sponsored child's world? No doubt our sponsored kids are surrounded by pungent scents of their own that evoke memories, hopes, dreams... but what if we introduce our own scent story to our kids, sending a little piece of scent that they associate with love, with hope, with uplifting strength? Forevermore they will associate that with a sense of well-being, of being cared for and loved. What a special gift, all in an aroma!

So...how to do that when we can only send paper? Here's my plan, and maybe you'll want to do it, too.  I am going to spend some time thinking about what scent describes me. I am going to play around with my essential oils (maybe you have a perfume you love to wear, or maybe the warm smell of cinnamon or vanilla extract makes you swoon), and when I find just the "right" scent, I'm going to stick a cotton ball with several drops of this oil in a plastic bag with my writing paper, stickers, bookmarks, etc.  Leave the paper in the bag for a while and...voila! You have lightly scented paper that will waft out when your child opens the bag.

I'll explain in the letter that I've scented the paper with my favorite scent, one that fills me with hope. Maybe for you it would be the frankincense and myrrh gifted to Jesus on his birthday, or pungent peppermint. Maybe soothing lavender or uplifting orange.

Anyway, I think it's a pretty neat idea to send a fragrant message of hope to our kids in another place. And who knows--maybe the older kids will return the favor by scenting their paper with the spicy fragrance of India or the Jasmine air of Thailand!

Happy Monday!

PS... Look for my scented necklaces on my Compassion ETSY store next week, and soaps and lotions late summer!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Looking for Great Goodies for your Kids?? Dover has 70% Off Right Now!!!

I'm always looking for great stuff to send my Compassion kids. Dover is one of my very favorite companies (I feature a lot of their free samples in my downloadable sponsor packets), and right now they have a 70% off sale going on!

I really encourage you to check it out--I was able to snag a ton of sticker books for just 45 cents each--you can't even get that at the dollar store!  Stock up for Christmas and Easter mailings now, because it'll be time to mail for Christmas in just a month or two (can you believe that???)!

www.doverpublications.com---just click on the 70% off sale banner!

Here are some examples of the great 45 cent goodies I picked up today!






Monday, June 3, 2013

Compassion Garage Sale!

Saturday came and went, along with our Compassion Garage Sale! I teamed up with a friend and fellow sponsor, Sarah, and her family to host a garage sale to raise money for Compassion. First, let me say that I'm horrible about taking photos so, sadly, I have none to show for our hard work. And second, garage sales really ARE hard work!! I started getting items ready for the sale several weeks ago, hauling things out of the attic, cleaning them off, going through drawers and toy boxes and closets and those dusty spots under the bed looking for all the trash-to-treasure items I could find.

What resulted was a driveway packed full of everything from baby clothes to bouncers and swings to household cleaning tools (unfortunately they requre operators, so they don't get used much in my house, hahaha). Sarah's family contributed a load of great stuff, too.

One thing I've noticed--if you advertise your sale to begin at 9, prepare for folks to show up at 8. We were still desperately gulping coffee and hanging signs and Compassion banners when the first buyers made an appearance at ten minutes to 8, and I thought we still had a hour before it started...silly me! Also, though the sale was set to end at 1, we had some folks shopping until 1:45, which was fine by me, because none of that stuff was coming back through the door to my house!!

In the end we ended up making about $330 for Compassion, which I thought was amazing considering my last yard sale barely netted $80! If you'd like to host a yard sale for Compassion, I do have a few simple tips to make things a bit more fun/easier...

1. Team up with another family--it was awesome to have fun company, and our kids were able to entertain each other--I was worried my toddler would get bored and whiney but he had so much fun he cried when it was over!

2. Set up as much as you can the night before, then just move the whole set-up table out to your driveway the next morning.

3. Advertise-ALOT. I wish I had advertised more.

4. Set up a Goodwill truck to pick up stuff when your sale is over. We did not and I desperately wish we had. Now I have to do drop offs today!

5. Serve snacks. I picked up some donut holes and cookies on sale at the grocery store and had water available for people. This made a big impression and people were really grateful-it was a very hot day.

I'm so thrilled we were able to clear out some items we don't use any more and help Compassion at the same time!! The money will go to the at-risk children fun and the child survival programs fund.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Treasure Every Moment

This morning the DJ on the Christian radio station I was listening to was describing how he was feeling about his son's graduation from high school. He was reminding parents everywhere about how quickly time passes, and how your children grow so fast. How often we (I) forget to treasure every moment and to let go of some things in order to appreciate the people we love most.

Dharavi Slum in Mumbai - from Wikimedia Commons
To me, this includes my Compassion children. I get so busy during the week trying to do a billion other things that sometimes I forget to just be thankful for all that I have in my life...not things, but people. I'm so thankful for my sweet son, and all the joy he brings to my heart. I'm grateful to my beautiful Compassion children for making me a better person, one day at a time.

Last night I took some time to sit down with my special notebook that I keep full of my Compassion kids' photos and letters, and to reread the letters I've received so far. I was blessed again and again as I reread each letter and planned what to mail them this week.

Do you write to your sponsored children? Again and again Center directors and pastors, Compassion workers, and the children who have graduated from the program tell us how much it means to sponsored children to hear from their sponsors on a regular basis. And the blessings extend both ways--through the preparations of reading past letters, praying over your children, and writing to them you are developing relationships--between you and your Compassion children and between you and God.

Jesus' ministry was about relationships. He came to save the world, but while he was hear on earth he worked through relationships, one person at a time. He took the time to hold a hand, speak a kind word (or sometimes a stern word), to teach, to laugh, and to love. For those of us who call ourselves Christians, that is our ministry, as well. These are treasures stored up in heaven. We have this moment only once.

If you haven't written your child in a while, please take a few minutes today and do so. You can use Compassion's online writing tool or you can download one of my free sponsor writing packets. Either way, it's easy--all it takes is a few minutes.

If you haven't sponsored a child yet, what are you waiting for? A sweet little face out there is waiting for your prayers, your love, your encouragement. Can you be the hands and feet of Christ to that child? Poverty stinks, but YOU can change the story. Think you can't afford it? Check out this awesome post on Red Letter Christians and think twice: http://www.redletterchristians.org/spoiled-witches-puerile-vanity-and-compassion-international/

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Nine Ways to Explore Your Sponsored Child's World Without Leaving Home

On the Our Compassion sponsor site I've seen wonder how to relate to their sponsored kids. It's true, we are insulated within our 21st-century first-world lifestyles, now. It wasn't so long ago, however, that our grandparents (or even parents!) were walking to and from the well to draw water, or were heating water over a wood stove for a bath, or were washing clothes in the river or going hungry because there were too many mouths to feed and drought killed the first harvest. The days of one-room schoolhouses with no heat or air aren't that far behind us. Grueling chores, farm work, carting produce to market, kids dropping out of school to support the family--that was the norm in rural American life not all that long ago. How quickly we forget!

I've found a few ways to feel more connected to my sponsored kids, and I wanted to share them here. I hope you'll use those you find intriguing to help forge a stronger connection with your sponsored kids. And, if you have the chance, be sure to sit down with the elderly members of your family and ask them what life was like when they were kids...chances are, you'll notice some similarities between their lives and those of the children you touch through your loving sponsorship.

1)  Google Earth - I love Google Earth. If you haven't ever played with it, it's a free download you can install on your computer that allows you to see satellite images on a round globe. You simply type in a location and hit "search" and the program will zoom in on your chosen location. I like to turn on the "photo" feature (on the left-hand sidebar), and find the town or city where my child lives. I explore the town through the photo feature, often looking at the location of the center they attend (you can find the location of your child's center on the OurCompassion website). It's a bit like visiting your child without the cost of a plane ticket! I have learned alot about the types of housing, the communities, the traffic, the vegetation, and the road systems of the kids we sponsor through my Google Earth "travels." In some areas, you can even fly over the city in 3D, with a "tour guide" to point out famous landmarks!

2) Read a Book - I adore the library. Where else can you walk in a room, pick out something you want, and walk out with it without paying a dime???  One of the best ways to understand our sponsored child's community, culture, and situation is to read. I love to read, so I devour books about India, Africa, and Central America at my house, as well as books about poverty, in general. There are many great books about poverty, about the horrible trafficking happening world-wide...and I encourage you to read those...but also take the time to read some less depressing information about the culture your child lives in. Travel guides are GREAT ways to explore the heritage sites in your child's country. If you have children, use these travel guides to make posters at home, printing photos from the internet, as though you've visited the country. Make a scrapbook of your "travels"! Lonely Planet guide to Bogota, Colombia: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/colombia/bogota

3) Cook a Meal - Food transcends language. You can relate to your child by learning about the foods they love and cooking those foods at home for your family. Try something new! Ask your child what their favorite food or snack is, and try to make it at your home....then tell your sponsored child what you thought about it! Take pictures of you trying it out! Your sponsored child will probably think it's funny that you tried their favorite meal. Recipes from Guatemala, where one of my sponsored children lives: http://www.food.com/recipes/guatemalan
Fried Plantains--common to Central America (and SO yummy)

4) Subscribe to the Compassion Explorer Magazine. I love this magazine. It is geared towards kids in elementary school, but I'm not ashamed to say that I like to read it just as much as kids that age do! It's FREE and each issue contains crafts, stories from the kids in various countries that are sponsored through Compassion, recipes, and other ideas for great ways to connect with your sponsored kids and kids of all ages!

5) Play a game. Does your sponsored child have a favorite game or hobby? Give it a try! This is especially great if you have kids or if you are college/high-school age. Drop the pretenses and get a group together to try a traditional Indian past time, or play soccer using a ball made from rags or plastic bags tied together with twine. Take photos and send them to your sponsored child! Some examples from India: http://www.ehow.com/list_6109478_india-games-kids.html

6) Listen to Music. Pandora is a great, free way to explore music from other cultures. Download Pandora to your computer or phone and type in your child's country. Music, like food, transcends language and speaks to the heart. Use that as a jumping off point to ask your sponsored child about their musical interests, and to share yours.

7) Visit the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website. This somewhat well-hidden website is a treasure-trove of information about the countries Compassion works in. The site contains statistics about poverty and hunger, information about the natural resources of countries, rural and social development, and photos and other information, as well as publications. For example, here is a link to the FAO interactive Hunger Map: http://www.fao.org/hunger/en/.  Here is a link to the FAO country page for Togo, one of the African countries I sponsor in: http://www.fao.org/countryprofiles/index/en/?iso3=TGO, which contains not only statistics but also news feeds with information about events in the country.

8) Search the Library of Congress website. Another great resource for free information, free videos, free movies, photos, and much more!  Here is a link to the LOC World History & Cultures page: http://www.loc.gov/topics/worldhistory.php

9) Watch a travel documentary or youtube video! Travel documentaries abound, and there are even clips on youtube from many countries...Instead of the latest Dancing with the Stars, sit down to a travel documentary of your child's country! What a great way to visit without leaving your living room! Free online travel documentaries: http://documentarystorm.com/category/culture/travel/; Free Documentary on PBS about how our American cotton subsidies contribute to poverty in Burkina Faso, a Compassion country: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/310/

I hope these have given you some thoughts about interesting and unusual ways to be more in tune with your sponsored children and their cultures and lives!

Prayers for Oklahoma

Early this week a massive tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma. My prayers and heartache are with those who suffered great loss, whether through the loss of their homes or the loss of a loved one. Please remember those families as you go about your daily routine this week. It's a reminder that life can change at a moment's notice for any of us, so live in this moment as fully and completely as possible.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Six Thousand Prayers

Six thousand days. That's roughly how many days a mother has with a child if she can keep watch over them a full 18 years. Six thousand days...sounds like a lot but what a precious short time to share love, impart self worth, instill faith and compassion, joy and memories. Six thousand days full or prayers and kisses, hugs and whispers, hopes and dreams.

What happens to the children without a parent, or a parent who leaves or dies too soon, or a parent who just doesn't care? Six thousand days of loneliness. Six thousand empty nights, waiting for a word of hope. Six thousand prayers for someone to love them, give them encouragement. Six thousand prayers for someone like me or you to reach out and share out richly blessed lives.

Please sponsor a child today. There are six thousand reasons you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Compassion in Thailand

Temple in Chiang Mai
Last week I had the honor of traveling to Thailand for work. I posted previously about the sponsor gifts I was able to carry with me, and how touched I was by all of the love these wonderful sponsors were sending their children.
Chiang Mai

Learning Traditional Thai dance
Thai Soap Flower (carved by hand out of soap!
Thailand is an amazing country. The people are sweet and gracious, and the countryside is lovely. My meetings were in Chiang Mai, the northern capitol city that has become a major tourist destination in the country, and one that native Thais are quite proud of (and rightly so).

Hmong woman with child
Sunday Market
One of the most amazing experiences in the city of Chiang Mai, to me, was the street market. Every night there are night markets in the city with a variety of artisans creating and selling goods right in front of visitors; food vendors selling items from yummy, amazing banana waffles to somewhat less enticing insects and unusual fruits; small shop owners hocking souvenir items; and Hmong women toting children on their backs and baskets on their chests selling all manner of jewelry and ubiquitous wooden toy frogs.

(Not so) Yummy
In addition to the night markets, there is a weekend market on Sunday that we were able to squeeze in (we were a bit jet lagged, so we more or less staggered through the Sunday market). There we saw more beautiful handwoven purses and silks, artwork, and amazingly intricate soap carvings. At one point in the Sunday market a man came over an intercom and began what sounded like a political speech. When his speech concluded, he announced in English "please stand for the national anthem" and immediately all movement on the street stopped....entirely. It was as though Times Square ceased all activity in one moment. All people, tourist and native, stood completely still.  I can't describe the eeriness and yet powerfulness of the complete silence and stillness in that moment while the anthem was sung....and then as soon as it began it stopped and the bustle was immediate.

Riding an Elephant
My new Friend
On the third day of the conference meeting we had field trips related to forest industry in Thailand. In the country, elephants were used historically for logging purposes. Thus, elephants are a massive part of Thai forest industry history. Now there is a domestic population of elephants that seek work elsewhere, as work is necessary to feed these intelligent giants. The result is a booming tourist industry revolving around elephant camps. We visited the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, which is devoted to training mahouts to treat elephants in their care humanely, and which provides free hospital services to elephants who are injured or sick. Their goal is the conservation of the domestic elephants in Thailand.
Bath Time!

As part of the field trip I was honored to participate in the mahout training show, and learned how to mount and dismount from the elephant, how to ask the animal to pick up an object I had dropped, and other training commands. We also watched the animals demonstrate logging techniques, and we were able to watch them bathe (they absolutely loved the water!). I also helped make some elephant dung paper--a really interesting process--and we learned how elephant dung can be converted into biogas for fuel.

Compassion Thailand Mailroom
Compassion Thailand Representative
Finally, and perhaps the pinnacle of my visit outside of the work we completed while we were there, was my visit to the Compassion Thailand office. The office is a 2-story, fairly modern building in Chiang Mai. It seems to be in an area where many other humanitarian organizations are located. It's a modest office, with a handful of cute little animal statues out front. I was met by a lovely, friendly staff member who was happy to explain the inner workings of their office. I was able to see the mailroom, which was a real eye-opener for me. I was amazed to see the pile of letters waiting to be translated. I learned that they deliver from the main office to the local offices once monthly, around the 20th of each month. When letters arrive at the main office they are sent out in small groups to the translators, who have about 7 days to complete translation and return the letters. Then the letters are placed into bins and when it is time to deliver the letters they all go into gigantic manilla envelopes for deliveries. Sponsor gifts like those I dropped off are delivered separately, as soon as can be arranged.

Compassion Thailand
Compassion Entrance
Thailand was beautiful and amazing, but it does have a dark side. One evening coming back to the hotel from dinner we walked down a road we were unfamiliar with. Signs of the infamous sex trade in Asia were ever-present, and left me feeling very depressed. In the airplane from Bangkok I read the book "Only 13," a poorly written but nonetheless heartbreaking account of a girl introduced into the sex tourism industry in Thailand at age 13, and a cataloging of the culture that lead her to that point and that ended in the development of severe mental disorders. Nothing could have concreted my opinion that Compassion and other aid organizations are desperately needed in Asia more than that happenstance walk through the red-light district.

I ask that you please pray for the poor in Thailand, and particularly the poor women and children who are exploited in southeast Asia. Shame on the tourists (and locals) who prey on these women.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Outpourings of Love in Ziplock Baggies

My mailbox has been overflowing. Not with letters from my Compassion children, but with gifts of love from sponsors throughout the US, Canada, and Europe sending small bits of hope to their children halfway around the world with me via my luggage as I prepare to travel to Thailand in a few days.

With each arrival, it has been an honor to check off the name of the sponsor sending the gift and open the package to see the lovingly selected, packaged, and labeled gifts to their child. Each package has a distinct fragrance...one floral, one musty, one sweet...carrying the heart and flavor of the region and home from which it traveled. As I open each one I savor the sweet letters the sponsors have included for me, unnecessary but appreciated thank-yous, and much appreciated prayers, when it's really me who should be thanking them for the opportunity to witness such compassion. I smile at the items that sponsors have carefully chosen for their kids, each sponsor knowing the individual desires of their children from countless letters and prayers, trying hard to pack freighter-truck sized love into quart-size ziplock baggies.

Stuffed animals, bracelets, candy, cars, balls...all small items with a big message--"You are important. You are loved by me and by Christ. You matter. You can make a difference."

I have had several sponsors tell me that they appreciate that I am willing to carry these gifts to a country where I don't sponsor, on a trip that is business not pleasure, and when I will have very little free time. Oh, but what I want each of them to understand is that the blessing has ALREADY been far sweeter than the small amount of space dedicated in my luggage, than the few minutes it will take to travel the short distance from my hotel to the country office.

This outpouring of love in ziplock baggies has reminded me once again of the great love fostered by Compassion International, and of the great miracles God has worked to place me within almost-walking distance of the country office during this unrelated trip.

My trip to the Compassion office will be a short one--just long enough to drop off the packages--but I know that the impact these sponsors have had on me and on the children to whom these items are destined to reach will be eternal.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Involving Young Children in Compassion International

Michelle over at Blogging From the Boonies has started a blog link-up this month about how to involve our kids in Compassion International. Sometimes with really young kids (mine is 2.5), it's really hard to know how to get started. In fact, sometimes it's just hard to get dressed and get breakfast on the table, much less try to do something for someone else in a meaningful way that touches the heart of your child.

Children seem to be easily and naturally compassionate, to me, and capable of understanding more that we give credit for. They also have a "can-do" spirit that means they aren't afraid to give things a try. It's a great time to get kids involved!

With my young son, I mostly try to impart a sense of cultural diversity to him by giving him the chance to try new things. Compassion makes this SO easy by providing the free printable (and hard copy) Explorer magazine. Though it is really targeted at older kids, my son still gets a lot out of the activities and pictures. We take the magazine and look through it, and pick out one or two things we'd like to try.

In one issue there were instructions for making a homemade soccer ball out of plastic bags and twine. We did, and my son still plays with it months later! We have practiced carrying plastic produce in baskets on our heads, and two days ago we pulled out our Explorer magazine and made a featured cake, Tres Leches, together. We listened to Mariachi music and ate nachos and talked about our Compassion child in Guatemala (okay, so the article in the magazine was about Mexico, but it was as close as we could get).

Besides the magazine, we also pray daily for our Compassion kids at dinner time as a family, and we have the pictures of our kids hanging at eye level for our son, so that he can see who they are. We read their letters to him, and he draws pictures for us to send them on occasion. I also ordered him a special shirt from the Compassion store, and involve him in my advocacy efforts.


In an attempt to come up with another way to involve him in correspondence, I developed some Sponsor Writing Templates for very young children--you can see them here:Letter Writing Templates for Young Children

I am committed to teaching my son the value of compassion for others, and I hope that by doing so I will foster a sense of social responsibility--and have fun in the meantime!!