i always wanted a little sister. when i was growing up, i'd ask my mom if i could have one, as if i was asking for a cabbage patch kid and we could just go to Target and pick one right up along with some shampoo and q-tips. i learned quickly that was not the case and decided if i couldn't have one--i'd at least try to act like one to other young girls. in high school, i started volunteering in the recreation therapy department at a children's hospital and helping out with the youth group at my church. that's where i met sarah.
many things struck me about her: the way she was so comfortable sitting in her own skin, her loud laugh and beaming smile, how she expressed herself clearly. but the thing that stood out most was this sponsored child she had, a boy in el salvador who she helped take care of.
"how?" i asked.
"by sending money each month," she told me.
"like that thing on TV?"
fifteen dollars a month, i thought, i can handle that. so i filled out a form, marking the boxes for Philippines and Girl and waited for the thick white envelope to arrive. i figured if i was going to sponsor a child in a foreign country, it may as well be a filipino girl. i still remember seeing her photo for the first time and running to show my mom. "she's pretty, isn't she?" i told her. "her name's abigail."
she looked sad in the photo, but my parents told me they probably just encourage that expression, so that the sponsors feel more sympathy. maybe, but i've since seen that face inches away from my own and the sadness in the eyes is forever etched in my mind.
both times i went to see her we met at the children international agency, with the social workers, some family members and her mom all standing by. it was only about an hour or so each time, and we sat in awkward silence on vinyl couches, taking photographs and exchanging gifts.
"give mommy christine a hug," her mom told her. she shyly wrapped her skinny arms around me for a brief moment and latched back on to her mother. i brought her a jumper, some hair clips, a stuffed teddy bear and a bag of candy, and i remember her eyes lit up and she cradled all the items as if she'd never seen so much stuff and was afraid to lose it.
sometimes making my sponsorship payment is like just another bill, one more check written and slipped into an envelope around the 8th of the month. it's easy to forget that it helps feed, clothe and care for somebody. i wish that i could just go to her house myself, bringing balloons and an armful of gifts. i'd love to watch her tear them open and stuff her face with cake. i'd love to treat her like the sister i always wanted but never had, but i guess in my own way i already do.