25 Mar Giving and Receiving
“It’s better to give than to receive.”
This bit of pithy wisdom was originally attributed to Jesus by Luke (or whoever wrote the book of Acts), and it’s most often used by adults to encourage kids not to be so greedy. As every parent knows, “Mine!” is the word of choice for most young humans while the concept of sharing takes many tear-filled years to develop. Some people never learn it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about giving and receiving this week; our SCHOOL DESKS FOR ORPHANS campaign on Indiegogo has put the concept front and center in my life. If you’ve been following along, we hit our $10,000 stretch goal two nights ago, around 9:30 PM, just nine days after we started! Clifton and I were in the office, reaching out to friends, sending “thank you” notes…when I refreshed our page and saw the number.
It was like being in a start-up company when the seed money finally comes in. We were high-fiving, dancing around the office. I ran and woke up Rick, the Mission Director. Clifton woke up his wife Priscilla. It was a party.
At the risk of sounding cocky, I knew we’d hit our goal. And so I’ve been working hard and fast, putting together a “WE DID IT” video. I’ve wanted something big, something fun, something that got all the Mission kids involved. It took the better part of four days to complete, and I was assisted by the most unusual production crew ever assembled.
Seeya and Rena are in the nursery here at the Mission. Seeya is eight years old. Rena is seven. The three of us managed over 70 camera set ups in two days! Rick built me an adjustable track for my skate board slider, with three different pipe heights. Each time we’d finish a shot, I’d say, “OK. Let’s move out!” I’d grab the track, the camera and the board…and the girls would grab the pipes and stands and away we’d go. I’ve never had a more obedient, harder working or cuter crew.
It’s been a lot of work. At times I have been surrounded by children all wanting to be seen, to adjust the tripod, to look through the lens, to be a part of the action. “Oops. Don’t touch,” I said hundreds of times. Then: “Shhh. OK, look here. Nice and loud. Quiet please. Everyone hold still one minute. Quiet feet. Hit the music, Rena. No throwing rocks, Danny. Here we go and…action!” And in this way, I spent a few happy days.
“The children don’t bother you, Uncle,” one of the older boys asked me as I knelt in the middle of a swarm of chirping commotion. And you know, the truth is…they don’t.
In fact, they fill me up. They encourage me, inspire me…as they have done for so many people around the world who’ve gotten involved in our campaign. Aside from the 117 donors who have given the $10,822 raised so far, our project has been shared over 1,200 times. Facebook friends have reposted, writing the most beautiful and encouraging notes. Many have even launched their own fund-raising efforts. One teacher friend is starting a penny drive in her school. Another 12-year-old girl I know, wrote and asked if her volunteer club in Middle School could raise money for the orphans. (I said yes!) A man in Tasmania is selling honey for the kids. A friend in New Hampshire has offered to help Clifton set up a non-profit in America. And the love just keeps pouring in.
How high can our campaign go? We have no idea. But I do know this much. Jesus was wrong about one thing. It isn’t better to give than to receive. Because giving is receiving. It’s almost selfish, really. Whatever I have given to these kids is nothing compared to the love they have given me. Which is probably exactly the same way they feel.
When we premiered our second video, we played it on Rick’s TV in his bedroom. All of the younger Mission kids showed up to watch and I sat on the floor with them. It was dark in the small room and the air grew quickly stale and hot, smelling like bodies in need of a bath. Mosquitoes buzzed in the blackness. But none of that mattered as the video began to play.
I’d seen the video countless times already, so I mostly watched the kids: their smiling faces, their full body laughter. And then I felt a small hand on my shoulder. I looked at the tiny fingers, but they were not calling for my attention. They were just set there like a butterfly, wanting to connect, to share this moment with me more directly. Soon another hand reached out for my arm and another hand landed softly on my back. A fourth hand touched my knee as a small girl crawled into my lap. I was surrounded by cheering, connected in a way I haven’t felt in years, lost in another swarm of chirping commotion.