The Gift That Saved A Baby’s Life

Old man winter has started knocking on the door. While the full-on-cold hasn’t quite hit, my family has pulled out our winter coats, and added extra blankets to our bedding.

We have one blanket that was given to us as a gift a few years ago. It’s big, and ridiculously soft. It’s heavy, and the best blanket to snuggle up with on a cold day with a good cup of dark roast coffee. Every single person in my household loves this blanket. My toddler often calls “Toddler Property Law” when it is in use by someone else (read: “If I want it, it’s mine). He affectionately refers to this blanket as “Bee Bee.”

When said toddler was a little younger one of his favorite things was being wrapped up in this blanket to nurse. He was warm, and felt secure. All was right with the world when he was in his mama’s arms being nurtured while wrapped in the cozy goodness this particular blanket offers.

But many mothers and babies throughout the world suffer lack of basic needs, and have no such blanket to keep them warm during cold seasons. Imagine giving birth, and being unable to shield your newborn child from the cold. Many mothers worldwide helplessly struggle to keep their babies healthy, and often lose the battle as their infants succumb to diseases like pneumonia.

If you know me at all you know that I am passionate about the work that World Vision is doing globally to combat dire poverty and injustice. One of the ways that World Vision is working is by aiding mothers and babies by providing essential items such as blankets, diapers, soap, and baby-care education classes and support. Mothers and babies being helped by World Vision are overcoming odds, and are surviving and thriving because of items we so often take for granted.

How many of you out there own a Thirty-One bag? I have two that I LOVE: a utility tote that I use when I travel, and a computer bag that I use every single day. Maybe a few of you reading this are Thirty-One consultants. If that’s you, then you already know your company has a great product.

But did you know that last year, Thirty-One Gifts generously matched $1,000,000 of Giving Tuesday donations to World Vision with product to be used in their programs?  Items like blankets are being provided to mothers and babies in some of the neediest areas of the world. Even in warmer places, keeping infants warm is essential to keeping them healthy, and can prevent pneumonia and other diseases.

Even better, this year on Giving Tuesday (November 29, 2016), any gift given to World Vision will be generously matched with a product donation from Thirty-One Gifts up to $2,000,000! That means that any donation you make will have TWICE the impact for helping families in need around the world.

By contributing generously to World Vision, you are helping real mothers like Margaret in Uganda. Margaret is nursing her nine-month-old daughter, Esther, who is sick with pneumonia. Esther has been sick for two weeks, having spent one week in the hospital.

giving-tuesday-blankets-uganda
Photo: ©2013 World Vision/photo by Sylvia Nabanoba

Apart from the medication that Esther is receiving, this swaddling blanket has become one of Margaret’s treasured possessions. “Whenever it gets cold, I wrap her in it so that she feels warm. Even after bathing her I put it around her so that the cold does not get through to her,” Margaret says. She explains that the nurse at the hospital told her that although pneumonia is caused by bacteria, it is exacerbated by exposure to the cold. She explains that it has been really cold lately because of the rainy season.

You’re also helping young mothers like Anxhela. At the age of 17, she was one Albanian mother who longed for help as she prepared for the cold winter weather. Her family had recently been displaced from where they had set up their makeshift shelters. The land was not theirs so when the owner returned, they were forced to abandon their shelters, their possessions, their jobs, their routines, and everything familiar.

giving-tuesday-blankets-albania
Photo: ©2014 World Vision/photo by Klevisa Breshani

Anxhela delivered her first son, Gersi, only three months before she and her husband lost their home and were forced to move to the Transitional Emergency Center. “It was chilly and the room we live in is very humid,” she explains. “The clothes I received, for my son, for me, [for] my husband, and the blanket for the baby really helped,” she says.

I recently wrote out my Christmas shopping list. I get so excited about shopping for the people I love. I love to give gifts that tell someone, “I love you, and I’m glad that you’re in my life.” But as I analyze and evaluate the gifts I want to purchase for people, none of them are really necessities. I give gifts as tokens of my love, but nothing that I give to the people on my list is going to help them survive another day.

Buy by adding a New Mother and Baby Kit to the gift-buying list this year, gift giving can become life giving.

I’d like to invite you into a bigger story; a story of great compassion, justice, and joy. Consider partnering with me to invest in the well-being and survival of mothers and babies across the globe. While many items we give and receive this year will one day rust, break, wear out, or be forgotten, the lives changed by our willingness to step in the gap for these women and their babies will leave a lasting legacy.

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The #1 Thing You Should Teach Your Children About Compassion

We often ask children the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Our intentions are good; we want to inspire dreams, encourage goal-setting, and cast vision for what their little lives can become. But sometimes we ask this question and inadvertently teach children to believe that until they are “grown ups” they have to wait to do anything significant.

As we seek to instill compassion into our children, the number 1 thing they need to hear from the adults in their lives is that they do not have to wait to make a difference. There is no “magic age” that a child needs to reach before they can impact the world.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Children perceive that the world is not as it should be; injustices exist, and needs are real. But children can also be equipped with a deep-seated belief system that tells them that heroes are also real, and they can be those heroes.

Last summer my then five-year-old son found me crying on our back porch. He asked what was wrong, and I tried to muster up words to explain the Iraqi and Syrian refugee crisis to him.

I will never forget his teary-eyed response to me: “Mom, I want to help them.”

He knocked on the door of compassion, and I could have chosen to say, “That’s so sweet of you, buddy. But the problem is too big, there’s not a lot we can do.” I saw the desperation in his eyes—the hurt he felt for kids like him who can’t go to school, who have no shoes or warm coats—and instead I invited him into the story.

My son spent weeks making beaded bracelets to sell to raise money for refugee relief efforts. He named the project, “The Green Refuge Project” and raised $150. That’s a drop in a bucket for such an incomprehensible social justice issue, but my little boy did something big before he even stepped foot into a kindergarten classroom.

Something miraculous happens in each of us, regardless of age, when we decide to act. Our hearts seem to somehow grow, our courage and resolve strengthen, and our belief that there are things worth fighting for is renewed. Imagine the possibilities if we invite the current generation of children into the bigger story now while their eyes are still bright-eyed and not yet jaded by the brokenness of the world.

Here are five ways that you can engage your children in acts of compassion:

  1. Invite your child to join you in sponsoring a World Vision child.

By sponsoring a child with World Vision, you not only make a huge impact in the life of a child in need, but your own child will be opened up to—literally—to a whole new world. Your child can draw pictures, and write letters to your sponsored child. They can also help you pick up little treats to send your sponsored child (stickers, pencils, notebooks, personal photos, etc.).

  1. Have your child help you pick out food items to donate to a food pantry.

1 out of every 5 children in America does not receive enough food to eat. Your children go to school with other children who may not know where their next meal will come from. Talk to your child about this, and then engage them in being a helper by going to the store to pick up nonperishable items that can be donated to your local food bank, or directly to your school to be distributed to other children in need.

  1. Get crafty for a cause.

Make bracelets, sell lemonade, hold a bake sale, create greeting cards…whatever creative bug your child has, fan the flame and show them how they can use their interests to raise money for something they care about.

  1. Invite your child to join you for service projects.

Compassion, like most character traits, is caught rather than taught. Your children are watching your lead, and when you volunteer to serve you show them you mean what you say about the importance of taking action.

You can take this a step further by inviting your children to participate with you in service. You will not only bond closer to your child, but you will provide them with memories, and cultivate their heart for help and service.

  1. Pray together.

Prayer is critical to instilling compassion in the heart of a child. God is the author of justice and compassion, and it is He who equips us with His heart in order to be His hands in the world. Praying with our children is a powerful way to ask God to use our children to meet needs in the world, as well as a great way to model a life of faith for your children to follow.

As a practical bonus, World Vision has a fabulous new resource called the “Play It Forward Guide” that will help you leverage this summer with your child as an opportunity to change the world.  Be sure to check it out, and watch your child flourish as their compassion for others grows.

The hearts of children are large, and full of dreams. Let them dream of who they will one day become, but teach them that they do not have to wait to be heroes in the bigger story. They are little people, but powerful forces in this world.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley