In a rural part of eastern India, there’s a boy named Navin who knows my name. While we’ve never met, in some ways we are quite intimately connected. You see, I’ve been sponsoring Navin through Compassion International for several years. He’s about sixteen now and we’ve been writing each other several times a year. I’m quite sure that writing to some lady on the other side of the world is probably not his favorite task but he’s been very faithful about it and I enjoy hearing about his life.
A couple of years ago for his birthday, I sent an extra donation. It was a small amount by American standards, only $20. At the time, I really didn’t think it was all that significant. I got an email saying ‘click here to send your child a birthday gift’ so I did. A few weeks later, I got a letter from Navin thanking me for the gift and telling me that he had selected two items: a piece of candy and a goat.
Reading this, I was struck by the cultural difference between us. Having a son that’s only a few years older, I can’t imagine any American teenager being happy to get a goat for their birthday. And yet, to Navin’s family, the goat means a source of sustenance and economic opportunity. I was struck at the selflessness of his choice – picking a gift that was good for his family rather than just something for himself.
I think sometimes that in America we’ve lost our way on this point – we are culturally so much about the cult of the individual and ‘what’s in it for me’ that we miss the opportunities to help others. In my case, I feel blessed that this little guy (now mostly grown up) has let me into his life to share a bit of my abundance with him. In the end, I think I get as much out of the relationship as he does.