My two favorite Christmas gifts growing up were both from my grandparents. The first one was a dollhouse that my grandpa made. He put so much time into the details such as adding different flooring for each room, selecting paint colors, and even including curtains that were delicately draped from each window. Every detail demonstrated how much he knew and loved me. I played with this house for years and took extra care of making sure it was well maintained. My grandma also sewed me my very own satin and ribbon rainbow mobile to hang in my closet after she finished reading my favorite book, There’s a Rainbow in My Closet. This book was about a grandmother who came for a long visit with her granddaughter and during that time she taught her the importance of being different.
Why did I love these gifts so much and how can I still vividly remember the day I received them? It was because they were constructed by the hands of my grandparents and made with the desire to make me feel special and full of joy.
I’m not talented in the ways my grandparents were, but I still value the importance of giving a meaningful gift. Last year, I had pictures and stories of 20 kids from Uganda who had cancer. Their families couldn’t afford treatment which was approximately $1,000 to completely fund supplemental cancer treatment. I told my kids that we were going to pick one child and sponsor their treatment as part of our family Christmas gift.
My kids started reading the story profiles and looking at the pictures. They began making notes and preparing their decision. My oldest, Morgan, picked the child with the worst-case scenario and the one that would most likely not be picked by anyone else. My youngest, Shea, picked the girl her age who had a treatable cancer and wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. Shea said she reminded her of my mom and thought she had the most potential to impact others if she survived. My middle child, Sam, refused to pick. He asked, “How can you ask me to make such a choice? They all deserve to get treatment. I don’t want to decide who lives and who dies.”
This decision was very hard, but we ended up picking Vincent. Vincent was a 12-year-old boy with 6 siblings. He had Burkitt’s Lymphoma which is a treatable cancer if detected early. He wanted to become a mechanic when he grew up. We have two girls in our family, so we thought adding another boy to make it even was reasonable; Vincent had a lot of siblings which made it more financially challenging for his family, so we thought his ability to get cancer treatment on his own was very unlikely; and his cancer was treatable, and we were hoping for a happy ending.
The decision to pick Vincent that day didn’t stop the discussion. My kids were adamant about getting everyone sponsored. Now that they had seen their faces and knew their stories, they became real. Every couple of days, I would give a report on who got sponsored. They wanted to know who got picked and who sponsored them. They also wanted to know if the donor provided any explanation for their decision. They were all in.
This project was a success. By the end of the year, all 20 kids were getting treatment. We felt true satisfaction and accomplishment.
The real lesson is what came next. Over the next several months, we followed the stories of all the kids getting treatment. We received regular updates, and some were devastating. Esther, Bernard, Mary, Brenda A. and Paul lost their battle with cancer. I had to share the news with their donors which was harder than expected. I felt like I knew 6-year-old Paul who was being raised by a single mother. He was shy and sweet, and he loved to draw. He wanted to be an artist when he grew up. The donation couldn’t save Paul, but it gave him a fighting chance. His mother didn’t have to worry about how to put food on the table, and she didn’t have to feel alone and desperate during Paul’s last days on this earth.
The success stories were joyous! I read them over and over again. Agnes, Arthur, Gift, Happy, Brenda, Jimmy, Stella, Vincent, Saidi and Sharon were all in remission. They were back in their villages and going to school. Here were a few of my favorite highlights:
Jimmy is performing well in school and he was elected Assistant Head Prefect at the beginning of the year. He is now in grade 3.
Gift Nadia completed her chemotherapy and radiation treatment cycles after surgery to remove her left eye. She was discharged to go home in May. She needs to have a prosthetic eye fitted.
Brenda Nangobi underwent surgery to amputate her left leg that was affected by cancer. The surgery was successful, and she subsequently completed her chemotherapy and radiation treatment cycles. Brenda is currently walking with the help of crutches. They took some getting used to, but she is a brave girl and managed the transition well. The doctor recommended that she get a prosthetic leg made for her.
These stories were precious gifts to me. They made me sad and happy, but most importantly they gave me fulfillment. My effort, love, and persistence had purpose, and what was meant to be given was returned with far more meaning than anything I could have ever expected to receive.
My hope for you this holiday season is that you’ve been able to give and receive in a way that has significant meaning and makes your heart full. May this fulfillment continue to bless you and others throughout the new year.
If you’re still looking for that opportunity to participate in meaningful giving, I am unashamedly asking you to consider giving to the Moyo Hospital Power Project. Pipeline Worldwide and my family are committed to providing light, hope and power to a hospital that serves a district of 300,000 people. I am once again reminded of how this pursuit to give will provide an abundance return to all those involved. You can read my Power Struggle blog to learn more about this project.