Monday, December 29, 2008

A Brutally Honest Post

In the few weeks before Christmas I asked each of my kids for some ideas of what they would like for Christmas, and every one of them (except for Ava of course), asked for another brother or sister to adopt. They wouldn't mind getting a couple of extra things too, of course, but first and foremost on their list was to help out a child in need, and give them a forever family.

They get it. They understand God's heart and the true meaning of giving at Christmas.

I, on the other hand, went out and spent $700 on a bunch of crap that is now laying around cluttering the house, being tripped over and not being played with. Sure, the colorful green and red presents looked pretty lying under the tree, and the anticipation of wondering what was inside them was sort of fun, but when it is all said and done, it is still just a bunch of junk, temporal, wasteful, and having no eternal value.....cluttering our house and our hearts. My kids got that and I missed it.

I am ashamed that I went out the day after Christmas to see what kind of deals I could find, and I am disgusted remembering the long lines of people I saw that day, people buying more junk, and exchanging the stuff they received for the stuff they wanted.

It makes me sick that we live in a society where breast implants, fancy houses, fake nails have become the norm. We don't lack anything, we cannot even fathom what suffering is. And even in an "economic crisis", the lines at Walmart the night before Christmas are a mile long.

I hate that we try to measure success by the kind of car we drive, the size of our house, the brand of purse we carry. I hate that.

Last night I watched this video and cried the whole way through it. (Thank you Christine and Christina for sharing it). I found myself being critical of those people who could do so much and yet do so little to help. I found myself wanting to scoop these children up out of the dirt and feed them, clothe them and love them. And then how quickly my own selfishness and greed were revealed as I realized the thoughts that were going through my mind....... I'd have to give up so much...... There are too many comforts here I couldn't live without..... My family might suffer....... It might be dangerous....... Surely God wants us to stay right here and enjoy the freedom and blessings of being American. Instead I'll just stay here and watch some YouTube videos about the suffering of the world, maybe send a few dollars for someone else to do the dirty work.

Once I read about a human behavior/social experiment that was conducted and I was so surprised at the results that I am still thinking about it years later. In a crowd of people, a person pretended to be having a seizure, or a heart attack or something like that. I was shocked to learn that nobody, not one person offered their help. Everybody stood around staring but nobody helped. Surely I would help, surely I would, I thought to myself. I would go against peer pressure and offer my help. Wouldn't I? But then again, how many times have I heard about a shortage of clean water in third world countries. Did I rush in to help? I have read all about countries and people facing famines and starvation, little children being sold as child prostitutes. What have I done to ease their pain and suffering?

I am turning over a new leaf this year. Instead of the usual reaction of "How sad", "How tragic", or "What a shame", I am going to start asking myself what I can sacrifice to help bring hope to a dying and hopeless world. I may not be rich, and you may not be either, but we all have something to share, and we can make a difference. I heard a pastor share that if Americans just gave a portion of what we spend on Christmas alone, the world's water shortage could be completely eradicated.

I am going to be thinking and praying about what I can do. I hope you will too. Let's make our New Year's resolutions not about us, our weight, our pant size, our finances, our accomplishments or status, but about what we can give and how we can make someone else's world a better place. In a couple of days I will post my ideas and I hope you all will give me your ideas too. Please, please join me!!!

James 4:17 "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." Please watch the video, even if you have to come back later to do it, and tell me how you were impacted. Please.


Marlita said...

Wow! What an amazing video, I wept. I too wanted to scoop them up and bring them home and give them love. You have a very good point and I want to make this year a year of change.

Tim Rovenstine said...

Your dad here, tis a tragic video, but all of the Christians in Western countries won't be able to fix this, until they themselves, and their governments, their culture fixes the things that are the things that are broken. How can we nurture a caring culture that will take care of their own needy children? Us taking care of them, and THEY being able to care for themselves is an age old question. I hope to get an answer in 2009.

Melissa said...

You aren't alone in your feelings. I was at the mall today looking around and having the same feelings. Disgusted at those who "don't get it", but yet I find myself wanting to buy that cute top or lipgloss that I probably won't use.

Looking forward to reading more. I don't want to just pray and cry over these issues I want to DO something.

Alicia said...

Hola, I read you always, and this video is so touching, Im crying here and blessing the kids, but I find myself also thinking too much on what to do. I always say that if I could adopt I would, or if I could travel and helo I would do it, but yes I havent done ANYTHING HERE! I want to travel miles and spend too much money that I dont have, and instead I should travel a few miles, and help and do SOMETHING to the kids in need in my city, in my state. I can do that! and I havent done it, but after your post I know I cant left it for later anymore, I need to do something, I have so much pain in my heart for orphan kids, kids living in poverty from other countries that I havent look around and see that in Mexico there are kids in need too.

thank you, god bless

McKenna said...

We must be on the same wavelength today...I posted Reese's "Happy Birthday" post/plea and included this same video.

DoveFamily said...

Thank you for sharing. Your honesty causes others to do some deep, personal reflection - something I personally really needed to do. I get angry at people being wasteful, but I do the same things in my own ways.

Anonymous said...

It is a great organization that helps families take care of themselves. When you give you are buying families items that can help them make a living, such as $20 can buy a chicken, with that chicken they start a flock.

Anonymous said...

First off I can’t see the video because my computer blocks utubes but some thoughts come to mind from your post:

“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

You do need to help the world when you can, God sometimes calls you to do this, as he did with Ava; but you can only take care of what God has put on your plate today. It would seem that at the moment raising your kids and creating a good place to live for your family would be the thing. I think mom’s have so much influence on the dynamics of a family. You are creating wonderful people to live in the world.

I often think of what Mother Theresa said, that you don’t have to go to India to save the world if you just look around there are always people in need everywhere.

Another thought is that when Mary washed Jesus feet with expensive perfume, and she was scolded for not spending the money on the poor, Jesus defended her. He said there would always be poor but we would only have him for a short while. It certainly did not bother him that Mary bought expensive perfume.

And my final thought is when you mentioned that people when faced with someone in need no longer respond. There was a really good TED talk on this.
It was a talk on evil and good.

(In this talk there are some graphic terrible pictures between 5 and 7 minutes of the talk- you can skip through that part). The last part, 19 minutes to 23 minutes, he explains how to have a hero mentality and it is the best part of the talk.

jennifer... said...

I get it, too.  The whole Banks family talked about this over Cmas (btw, we didn't exchange w/ each other this year) and it was a very good conversation.  Conclusions?  A combo of what everyone is saying.  We are sinning if we know what is right and don't do it.  But we are "doing" in vain if we aren't following specifically what the Holy Spirit leads us to do.  I think our core problem is that we aren't in the consistent relationship necessary to hear His whisper.  That's my conviction. 

Mandy said...

I seen the video on Christina's blog and it made me sick to my stomach. I just kept thinking about the Christmas we celebrated on Sunday with my in-law's and it made me feel even worse. Instead of standing up to my husband's sister, I went along with the traditional gift giving. FIVE minutes and all the toys were left in the middle of the living room and the kids were playing tag. What a waste of money :(
I really hate that I'm a people pleaser sometimes - what is that showing my kids?

Jeremy and Melanie said...

These are tough issues with now easy answers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and this video to help us all stretch to discover what our part needs to be in seeking justice for the oppressed and caring for the orphan and widow. I thought of this many times this year as I was preparing for Christmas. Wondering what I was teaching my kids...whether they would learn generosity in my giving or if they would learn greed in having so much.

One of the things I have been passionate about is finding ways for ordinary people to do ordinary things to have an extraordinary impact on this world. I especially desire for women and mothers to be able to have the impact that so many of us desire to have on this world. While part of that takes place as we raise our children and develop their character, I still feel that there are active things that we can do as women and mothers. In my own life, I'd like to start having regular garage sales to purge the "stuff" and give the the income to an organization who is working on sustainable development.

By the way, someone mentioned World Hope which is an agency that I have worked for and they work very hard not just to provide disaster relief, but sustainable development that will offer long term hope and independence. One of their larger projects is the community orphan trust which assists a community in developing an economic endeavor which then supports the orphans and widows of the community. Each self-sustaining orphan trust can support hundreds of people depending on the needs of the community. I'll be looking forward to hearing what other ideas you may have and joining with you in your efforts.

Thank you for your honesty and your heart!

Amy said...

Hi Charissa!
Love your honesty! You have brought up alot of really valid issues that face our society as a whole... While it would be great if we could get over the consumer-obsessed with having all material things - we'd all be better off!
I truly believe that each and every person is responsible for making a difference - leaving the world a little better place than they found it.... Many of us already have... by saving a life! I adopted 3 kiddos that were considered socially unacceptable, and probably would not have ever experienced a family, let alone love.
You know from all the blogs, etc that you read, how many orphans there are in the world... how many children die each and every day due to the fact that they were born in the wrong country, at the wrong time. We can't change everything or everyone.. but we can take the time to make our own "little" world a place where we accept one another and teach our children to get along and make choices that will benefit all...
Your post, while really honest, made you sound so down on yourself or you were feeling guilty... DON'T!!!
You have given all the readers of your blog, your friends, your family the gift of Ava... and given Ava the gift of life!! You are spreading the word about Downs, and showing others the unconditional love that these children give....
You are a great role model, a great mother and a great person... you ARE doing your part!!!

Ok - off my soapbox!!!! :)


Christina L said...

While I haven't watched the video, I feel that you definitely have a point about the overabundance we try to consume. I know this year with one side of the family we decided to not give gifts. I felt really good about it, but the kids still walked away with a bunch of stuff. Even though we toned it down this year due to many different factors, it was a really nice Christmas. Less was More.

I wouldn't get down on yourself because, "you didn't get it". You did get it. You had it last year when you decided to adopt Ava and make her apart of your family. You can't eat an elephant in one gulp, you take one bite at a time. Spreading the word of adoption on this blog and inspiring others to do their part is just that. You may never know who and how your influenced, but you have been planting the seeds for real change.

Maybe next year you can give your children the gift that they wanted this year. Delayed gratification, right? Who knows.

Christine said...

Great post! I love your heart!

kirsten said...

Charissa, you have a beautiful heart.

Alexandra Mikaela - Awareness Warrior said...

I didn't get a chance to watch the video (yet), but I must say...bravo!

Susan said...

My Christmas was sort of all over the map this year. Literally, as I traveled to be with relatives, flew back home, repacked, and went to Christmas Country Dance School at nearby Berea College (with about 340 others, from all over the place), and just got home a couple of hours ago. Whew.

Predictably, I fell apart physically by day seven of this marathon, with flu-like symptoms despite my shot. Gotta simplify more next year...but this year, to keep things real, I made a number child-oriented charitable donations and contributions,including the Salvation Army's Angel Tree, Reese's Rainbow (Ava's story was part of the inspiration) and a local church-affiliated home for endangered children and youth. I also help a disabled family member with expenses, give to the old church cemetery fund where many of my family rest, and make other contributions that do not directly affect children.

My gifts to family and friends included a lot of books, some "secondary market" items for collectors, a few small,jokey things(a family tradition), plus practical but pretty things I'd purchased on sale (-70%!) last spring when local department store closed. I also baked holiday treats for neighbors and other friends and kinfolks. And while I don't give toys to many children these days, I think that toys which were around in some form in the 1950s are best for creative, stimulating play. This includes windups and a few battery toys - but nothing computerized. Depending on imagination instead of computers for directing play can do wonders for a child!

I did some "shopping" in my house and in my booths at the antique mall,too, finding things that suited others better than me, and tried to shop at locally owned small businesses as much as possible.

Like many others, I also donated items (vintage books on dance, music, a sparkly Kentucky geode I'd found, outgrown dance clothing) to the scholarship fund's popular silent auction at Christmas School (I took home a pair of great little hand-carved cedar trees to go in my cabin by the creek). The auction's proceeds will help less well-heeled folks attend next year - they'll sweep floors, prepare refreshments, etc. to help earn their keep and their tuition.

I think I got to the mall one time before Christmas, for a specific basic clothing purchase and to enjoy the decorations. I've been too busy to go back and don't really need anything, anyway.

I am glad that I did all of these things, and none of them were difficult at all. But like you, I feel that there's more I could be doing...and will watch for those opportunities thoughout the year.

One thing which comes to mind is to ask those with whom I usually exchange gifts to consider donating to agencies which serve children, and to make gifts to such agencies in the names of friends and relatives. I'd far rather have that than a well-intentioned gift that just doesn't work for me and will collect dust.

So thanks for the reminder. It's a thoughtful way to start a new year...

Susan in Ky
Cousin to Two from Ukraine