A brood of charity

Sierra's Brood of ChicksFor Christmas, Sierra received money, some clothes, some toys, a couple of stuffed animals in the shape of garden vegetables, a handful of ladybug-themed baubles and a carousel that plays music.

She also gave a brood of chicks. And of all of her gifts, it may be the one that gives her the most joy.

My mom came up with this idea. She assumed that Sierra wouldn’t be experiencing the materialistic joys of Christmas, what with her inability to understand materialism, so a gift of this sort seemed to make perfect sense. Along with a cute, girly outfit, Sierra received a brood of chicks. Or, I suppose, a brood of chicks was given in her name, to a family somewhere, through Samaritan’s Purse, a non-profit organization that provides Christmas gifts and ministry throughout impoverished countries.

Because this is a difficult gift to illustrate, (Hey, I gave $20 bucks in your name! Merry Christmas! Here’s a card!) my mother cut out an illustration from the Web site – the picture shown above – along with a short explanation of the gift.

From the Samaritan’s Purse Web site:

Gift 38 – A Brood of Chicks

Which came first—the chicken or the egg? For impoverished families that have neither, what actually comes first is the compassion of Christians who minister to their communities by distributing baby chicks provided by Samaritan’s Purse. A brood of chickens, ducks, or other poultry can provide enough eggs to feed a family, with some left over to sell at market. For about $20, we can provide a starter brood of 24 chicks.

We taped the picture up next to her changing table, where she could easily see it. We laughed about it, saying that Sierra’s first crush was going to be on the boy in this picture. We assumed it would be just another adornment on the wall.

It isn’t. It’s become a daily routine. She has looked the young boy in the face nearly every morning and every evening. She smiles at him, then laughs. She waves her hands around and kicks her legs and grins like she’s meeting a long lost friend. In her hierarchy of recognition, I imagine the boy in the picture is ranked just below her parents, her grandparents and her daycare provider.

There’s a connection there that I don’t think we understand as adults. We’ve lost the childhood freedom of recognizing every other child as just that – a child, safe and ripe for friendship. She doesn’t know that she’s staring at her first act of charity. She just identifies with the size of the boy in the picture. She smiles at the chickens. She thinks it’s beautiful. Who knows what she feels about it, aside from happiness.

In years past, Kerrie and I have put together Christmas shoeboxes through Samaritan’s Purse for children in third-world countries, filled with items that were both sensible and fun. We’ve since focused more within our own community – on organizations like United Way and Public Broadcasting. We like to think we’re giving for the entire family – Kerrie, myself, Sierra – even Becket. But truthfully, we’re not.

Sierra hasn’t made her own choice in regards to charity. That’s a decision she needs to make on her own, when she’s older and understands what’s important to her. Right now she doesn’t know how to “give” – she doesn’t even know what the word means.

So it warms my heart every morning and every night, to see the recognition, to know that she feels a connection with that little boy – his face and his youth – and that even though she has no idea what the ramifications of that boy’s picture could possibly mean, she knows that both of them are young. Both are fragile.

In her name, a bit of that fragility was taken away. A little bit of salvation was given. In her name, that family is able to raise chickens for eggs and meat. In her name, she has already made a difference.

Which is definitely more than I could say at the age of six months.

This was lovingly handwritten on January 21st, 2008