Monthly Archives: May 2015

Looking Beyond with Unbound

FullSizeRender (2)Way back when our kids were small, and managing on a single paycheck felt particularly painful (I don’t claim it’s any easier now) it dawned on me that compared to most of the world, we were extremely well off.

I wanted our kids to realize this as well. Which would take a little effort, since from their viewpoint—compared to friends and acquaintances, that is—, our rental house and battered belongings looked decidedly Goodwill. (Well, they were.)

I wanted us to look beyond: to families who would view our threadbare sofa as a luxury item, never mind its tendency to leak stuffing when anyone sat on it. To children who would delight in the fact that yes, we were having beans for supper AGAIN, because they would be delighted by the fact that we were having supper at all.
(Bureaucrats call that “food insecurity.” I call it hunger, and no child should have to endure it.)
Not that our kids ever complained, though there were occasional comments about the minuscule size of our elderly television. They didn’t even ask for candy when we checked out at Kroger. (Well, they knew better: though I do remember my baseball fanatic toddler having difficulty leaving behind a certain big orange plastic baseball bat–in fact, I’m not so sure we left that bat behind when we left the store….)

308926_10100383332730025_734996296_nBut I had a horror of raising kids who took things for granted.

So I found CFCA–Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, and we began sponsoring needy children around the world.

CFCA—now called Unbound—works particularly hard to foster close relationships between sponsor and sponsee.  We were able to trade frequent letters, photographs, cards and drawings, and through these and Unbound consistently providing information about each child’s country and “project”, we felt like we really did have children around the world: in our case, Africa, India and Central America. Children who were receiving education, clothing, health care, food assistance, because of us.
We’ve always sponsored one child for each of our own, and back almost two decades ago when we started, asked for children whose ages matched those of our own three. Because of the flow of letters, all of which I’ve kept in special files, we’ve been able to watch as “our” girls grow from cute little ones to strong, beautiful women.  One child who was nine when we began writing to one another is now in her last year of college, training to be a lab technician.

 

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We learned a lot about other cultures: our African “goddaughter”, for instance, lived in a mud hut with grass roof, her mother cooking in one of two pots over an open fire. I remember the letter in which the girl thanked us for giving her a new pot for Christmas, which helped put our home Christmas into perspective. A year or so later, she thanked us for the gift of a goat, which would provide the family with milk and cheese. (She wrote a few months later to tell us one of their neighbors had eaten it….)
We’ve always sponsored girls, because I had the notion that female education might be a last priority in some societies. I like the fact that Unbound maintains mother’s groups in its projects, and that the women come to believe that they CAN change the outlook for their family, that it nurtures community.
Nowadays, you don’t even have to have to buy airmail stamps to stay in touch. Unbound lets you send e-letters and upload photos. They also have a feature where you can go online and from pictures and a brief history, choose your own child, young adult, or elderly person. They have an unbelievably small administration/promotion budget, (A+ from Charity Watch) which means that almost all of the dollars we send go directly to our children and their project, and the monthly cost to us per child seems amazingly low.
Do I sound like I’m pushing Unbound? Well, I guess I am. I love getting letters signed “your loving child.” I love the fact that somewhere “over there”, another family is aware of ours. I love the fact that half a dozen girls–and their families–have had their lives changed because of us. I love that our eldest son and his wife have their own sponsored child now.

Unbound, which is working with over 300,000 sponsees in 21 different countries, has a waiting list of over 1,000 children and elders who have been hoping for sponsorship for over a year now. (Pictures of some of these can be found on Unbound’s website, http://www.unbound.org). I wish you’d talk with your family about the possibility of taking on another member….

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Whatever DID Become of Eeyore?

eeyoreGreat, just great.

As if it’s not bad enough to see the world darkly when everyone else seems to be viewing it through spandex-hot-pink-colored glasses, I just heard that according to a new study from an epidemiologist at Harvard’s School of Public Health, people with chronic depression have a 66% great chance of stroke than other people. (I almost said, than “normal” people, thus contributing to our cultural prejudice against those who suffer “mental” illness. . . .)

For those of us who struggle against chronic depression, even those of us who use every tool in the arsenal against it  (and yes, I include heavy-duty exercise, therapy and pristine nutrition in that toolkit, as well the usual pharmaceutical aids, so please don’t tell me it will disappear if I go gluten-free) this is just one more burden to tote.

Bad enough that it’s one of those invisible illnesses which our society makes almost impossible to use as explanation when its presence puts the kibosh on some scheduled activity. (“But you don’t look sick!”)

Bad enough that some of us battle such persistent internal “demons” that simply smiling can sometimes seem an effort as great as climbing Mount Everest.

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(I use the phrase “internal demons” advisedly, given statements like the following which a dear friend with bipolar disorder was handed: “We don’t believe that’s a real illness. You just need to pray harder.”)

Bad enough to have an illness which most people aren’t comfortable talking about, which apparently still conjures up ominous images of locked wards, barred windows and straitjackets. Even in this world where a description of every inch of one’s digestive tract makes the list of acceptable topics at friendly dinner parties.

Now the medical world is predicting what our old(er) age may very well look like, and it’s not a pretty picture.

Now that’s depressing.

One Moment in May

IMG_0045That I haven’t posted for several months has less to do with over-scheduled and more to do with loss of heart. I got into a funk state, thinking, “oh no, the year is almost over, and I still haven’t figured out this life-post-children thing.”

It didn’t matter that my spouse, who is pretty much the Pooh to my Eeyore, reminded me that transitioning from 25 years of one kind of work may take longer than just a few months. My brain was too busy blaming me for all the things I wasn’t doing to listen.

Relevant is the fact that when I look out to my flower garden, what I see are all the weeds I should have already pulled up. Or never allowed to appear in the first place.

My spouse tells me to LOOK at what I’m already growing.

FullSizeRenderWhich, when I actually look, is quite a lot. (In addition to the weeds.)

(Which, in cosmic terms, I’m aware I’m not actually responsible for putting there in the first place.)

So, what have I accomplished these months in addition to my mental weedy-ness?

Read and finished, yes, finished, War and Peace, with the online reading group, House of LitnLife, which I moderate, as well as a whole bunch of other books whose titles are too low-brow to lay claim to.

Signed up for and mostly attended weekly ballroom dance classes with my husband, ending up with a dinner-and-dance with live band, which is more la-de-dah socializing than I’ve done for years. Maybe decades. Not counting weddings.

Finally found the right companion dog, who, after months of exploring shelters and online rescue groups, was waiting not twenty minutes from us at the Franklin County Animal Harbor.

Finished a couple of swim challenges at the Rec Center and the CASA “I am for the Child” Walk. Which I ended up winning in my age group (every year, this gets easier to do…)

Plodded and continued to plod through a fiction manuscript, which is much worse than having a senior thesis hanging over your head because there’s always that insidious inner voice pointing out that you really don’t need to do this, and wouldn’t life be a lot easier if you just shredded the whole thing and took up, well, gardening?

And–transitioned back to mother-with-‘child’-at home when our eldest moved in for a few months while he waits for his wife to finish her teaching year down in Texas and join him in Huntsville, where he’s started a new job.

Who is your Pooh? Who helps you clear out your mental weeds?