I support a 6-year-old little girl named named Birtukan through Compassion, an organization, like many others, that provided for children in poverty. In addition to the measly $32 a month for her support, I made it an even $40 to support AIDS prevention as well. I started supporting her right after I got a job. It was a long process for me finding a job and I'd resolved that when I actually had some cash, I would do some good with it. I was good to my word and started sponsoring Birtukan. I'm glad to be doing something. I wish I could do something more real than just making a monthly payment like paying for gas at the pump or my cell phone bill. Somehow, just giving money seems too disconnected. Money, money, money. Like it can really stand in for genuine love.
Today I got an email from Compassion asking to donate for Christmas gifts to be sent to Compassion children. Part of me simply feels guilty for not writing Birtukan more than that one time I did 2 summers ago. Part of me feels guilty for having so much money and material excess and giving so little love. And part of me just wants to give out of the abundance that I have. It's a mixed bag of guilt, compassion, and generosity; it's rarely a single good or bad motive. I try to focus on the good motives and do it out of love, but I know that's not my only motive. What's more is that no matter what I'll feel guilt again later for just giving money but not love.
This afternoon, as I left work, there was a car in the parking lot with the hood propped open. I saw three figures standing around it as I walked to my car. I knew I would be the first to pass by and I knew that I should roll down my window and offer to help. I didn't want to. But I couldn't drive by and stare, or drive by and pretend not to notice. As I pulled closer, I rolled down my window.
"Do you need help?" I was still hoping they would say no.
"We've got someone coming with a car and cables. We're fine."
"I've got cables." I couldn't believe I was pressing the offer. Drive away, they said no!
The gentleman paused ever-so-briefly, glancing at the others. "No. We're okay."
"Alright." I said and pulled away. Somewhere inside I felt like I actually would've helped. Somehow I felt like the person I appeared to be--the generous, willing man--could actually have been me. Sometimes, doing something leads you to wanting to do it, but many times I don't let myself do it without the right impulse, so I never find out.
I donated to Compassion this evening, and more than I intended. It was equal to my monthy cell phone bill, which I don't give a second thought to paying. It was simple: a matter of entering my credit card number and name. I did it over the internet, while I reclined on my couch, in between checking emails and writing a blog post.
Was it love?