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Compare and Share




by Nancy Canwell



“Don’t compare yourself to other kids!”

How many times have your parents, youth pastor, or teachers told you this? Probably quite a few. But with Thanksgiving next week, I’m going to ask you to do just the opposite. I want you to compare your life to the lives of a group of kids that Rachael lived with for five months.

Right after the holidays last year Rachael stuffed a 50-pound suitcase full and flew to Central America to work in a children’s home—an orphanage. The majority of the children living at the home had been placed there by Social Services. Others had been dropped off by their own parents. A few were runaways who had been caught by officials as they tried to escape to a different country where life might be better.

As you compare your family, your home, and your belongings to theirs, I think that your list of “thanks” this Thanksgiving will be a long one.

Parents are priceless


“I became extremely grateful for the parents I have,” Rachael told me. “As a teenager you naturally have conflicts with your parents from time to time, and maybe even have a falling out for awhile. But you don’t realize the value of parents until you’ve stepped into the life of a kid who doesn’t have any. All of the orphans at the home had faced some type of abuse or neglect by a parent.”

When she told me that, I thought of the many teenagers who have complained to me about their parents. “My dad is way too strict!” or “My mom is old-fashioned and just doesn’t get me.” But these teens would do anything to have a parent—regardless of the fact that no parent is perfect.

“These kids are their own parents,” Rachael told me. “Some were only 10 years old and had to parent their younger siblings. They never had a childhood. As a child I was blessed with safety. I was blessed with compassion. I was blessed with time and attention. I was blessed with rules to protect my innocence. These kids lost their innocence at an early age.”

Home sweet home

Do you ever complain that you have to share your room with a sibling? Or how about having to share a bathroom? Once again, compare yourself to the kids at the children’s home.

“The bedrooms were crowded,” Rachael told me. “The 30 boys all lived in one room and shared one bathroom. The 50 girls lived in three different rooms—but they also had only one bathroom!” Can you image that? Sharing a bathroom with 49 other girls?

 Whatever bedding they have was donated. They don’t have the luxury of changing their comforter and curtains to a new pattern when they’re tired of the old one. They keep everything until it wears out, and hopefully someone will donate another set. 

These kids don’t have the luxury of a well-groomed backyard to play in. There’s no gym. No pool. No skate park or bike track. No ice-skating rink. They play in a bare, fenced field. 

It’s all mine!

“What do the teenagers at the children’s home have that they can call their own?” I asked Rachael.

“A box,” she answered. “Every student owns a box. It’s about two and a half feet long and about a foot tall. Each box has a lock so that the little they do own can be kept safe.”

“What’s in the box?” I asked.

“Their change of clothes, a toothbrush, lotion, school or personal books, hairpins and beads, and shoes. Stuff like that. A boy’s most treasured possession would be any type of sports gear. Everything they own is donated to them. So if someone donates a basketball or a uniform, it’s cherished. And for the girls it’s definitely high heels! They love high heels!”

When Rachael returned from her five-month stay at the children’s home, she was amazed at how much clothing she had. “I opened my closet and pulled out dress after dress after dress! I just sat there feeling overwhelmed. They were mine, and I could do whatever I wanted to with them. It was very humbling for me.”

As we finished talking, Rachael and I agreed that you don’t have to go to another country to find broken people to help. This Thanksgiving, you can find them in your school, your neighborhood, or your community.

So go ahead! This Thanksgiving, compare. And then go out and share.

Nancy Canwell writes from College Place, Washington. She’s a writer, speaker, and former youth pastor. She has written the Review and Herald 2015 junior/earliteen devotional book,
He’s Got Your Back. It’ll be available this fall.
 





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