It’s the Little Things…
- Garrett Kenyon
- 2009 6 Feb
One late night, as the road passed beneath her truck, Linda was listening to her favorite radio program. The show’s host, having sponsored a child through Children International, was holding a drive to sign up as many sponsors as possible. As he talked about what sponsoring a child meant to him, something stirred in Linda’s mind. Before long, she found herself on our website, browsing photos of the hundreds of children waiting for sponsorship. That’s when she found Jonathan, from Valparaíso, Chile. Looking into the eyes of the little 4-year-old, Linda asked herself, “How can I say no?” She made the call.
Right away, Linda got involved, exchanging letters and photographs with Jonathan and sending gifts on birthdays and holidays. Before long, Jonathan had become an inextricable part of Linda’s life. She knew every member of his family by name, and her family in America knew all about him. “Before every holiday,” Linda tells us, “my mother reminds me to send my gift for Jonathan so he gets it in time. He’s really become a part of our family.” Linda knew it was time to take the next step.
Though she knew Jonathan well from letters and pictures, she had never met him in person. “When a child becomes such an integral part of your life,” she tells us, “you want to look them in the eye.” She contacted Children International and, finally, after more than 3 years of steady correspondence, she went to meet Jonathan and his family in Chile. The trip affected Linda in ways she hadn’t expected – dramatically changing the way she looks at her own life. She was kind enough to answer a few questions we had about her trip.
What made you decide to visit Jonathan?
It just seemed like the next natural step to take. When I saw him in person, my heart was filled with joy and my eyes with tears. After corresponding with him for over 3 years, it felt so good to finally be able to hug him. That was the cherry on top.
Was there anything about Jonathan’s living conditions that you weren’t expecting?
I realized Jonathan’s home would be modest, but the trek to get there was surprising. To reach his house you have to climb a massive hill and then wind your way through lots of little alleyways. Just getting to school, work, or the store is a chore for Jonathan’s family. Their home didn’t contain many items we take for granted in America, like a refrigerator, but it was obviously filled with lots of love – the most important commodity of all.
Tell us about an experience that helped you understand the difference sponsorship is making.
Jonathan was extremely proud of his school, and I know sponsorship provides him with a uniform and helps his family pay tuition. He is a very smart child and really seems to enjoy learning. At one point on my visit, he picked up my guidebook and started reading and sounding out the English translations of Spanish phrases. I know that a good education will be Jonathan’s ticket out of poverty. Also, just seeing how comfortable he was at the field office and knowing that he has that safe haven was evidence of how Children International affects these children’s lives.
What was your favorite moment of the visit?
We had such a good time it’s hard to pinpoint just one, but seeing Jonathan and his siblings enjoying themselves at the zoo and just being able to be kids was particularly heartwarming. At one point I bought Jonathan and his family some drinks. A couple of hours later, we passed another snack stand and I had the interpreter ask them if they wanted another drink. There was a moment of silence. They couldn’t believe I was offering them another drink. Their eyes seemed to say, “But we already bought drinks – just two hours ago!” That started me thinking of all the things we take for granted in this country, and how lucky we are to live where we do. Then, later, when we were at Jonathan’s house opening the gifts I had brought for his family, he told me I was his “second momma.” I can’t tell you what an incredibly wonderful and overwhelming moment that was.
Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with sponsors who may be considering visiting their child?
It’s difficult to put into words how much a visit can mean to you and your child. It is so worth the trip. Once you see your child eye-to-eye and hug them, there is such an incredible bond – it really brings everything together. You start looking at your life and realizing how much you truly have. The little things you take for granted take on new meaning. Visiting Jonathan made me feel blessed.