Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To discuss my son, and how I can't get rid of him

I have a son.

Now, sure, some might say he's not a "blood relation," that he "lives in Zambia," or that he's "my sponsor child."

But those are just words, really.

As far as I'm concerned, Davison has always been my son. I even have his photo on my fridge, a space I normally reserve for Dominos, Post-it notes and Post-it notes reminding me how much I eat pizza so I feel guilty.* (* Not true. You can never eat too much pizza).

Davison is 9. He lives with his parents and three siblings in a concrete block house probably the size of my bedroom, without electricity or indoor plumbing or Tivo. He's from Zambia, which I'd point out to you on a map of Africa if ninth-grade geography and years of American ethnocentrism hadn't screwed me.

His family monthly income is $46, which is about how much I spent at Olive Garden last weekend.**

And here's the thing: I can't see a possible scenario in which I can stop sponsoring Davison.

Now, it's not like I need or want to cut him off right this second. But there have been many times in the four or so years I've been sponsoring D-dawg that I thought,"Good God, I can't afford a freakin' snack cake, and yet I'm sending $22 a month to a boy on the other side of the world."

As some of you might have experienced, it's like when they ask for donations at church, and you wonder when they will set up a charity in your honor.

Four years worth of $22 a month works out to be about $1,000. Being that I'm a journalist, $1,000 is the equivalent of about 10 years' worth of salary*** (*** Exaggerated for effect.)

But, in Zambia, that's enough each month to help feed a family, to help ol' D go to school, get medication, update his Facebook status, and to get clothing, although hopefully nothing that was soooo last fall.

No matter how hard it may be here from time to time, it's much tougher there. I don't even need a Sarah McLachlan song to play for me to know that.

And that, my friends, is how I'll likely end up Davison's sponsor until he's an adult. Or has become a dad. Or has moved to America to be on The Real World/Road Rules Challenge.

Really, there's no way out, and I think Children International knows it. It's quite the racket: Once you start sponsoring a kid, you can't ever stop.

It's not like you can write them a letter saying, "Hey, I know you were counting on my money to help you eat and all, but dang it if Verizon didn't offer me an Internet upgrade for my cell. Now I can Google 'Megan Fox' while watching a movie with Megan Fox! C'mon, Davison, it's Megan Fox! Transformers! You know! Wait, you don't know? ... You don't have a movie theater around you? ... There's not a flat screen to be found? ... Well, surely you just jump on Firefox and... not that either? How do all the teenage boys spend their time, then, if they can't sneakily look up dirty photos? ... They what?!?"

So, Davison, I guess we're in this for the long haul. I pray that although Children International says you are 4-foot-2, you are actually 6-foot-11 and a basketball prodigy who will remember your pops when you sign your first pro contract.

But if you don't, I guess I'll be satisfied knowing I helped keep you healthy all these years. I am keeping you healthy, right? You're not just stuffing this money under your sleeping mat so you can save up for rims, are you?

If you do, I won't blame you. Just e-mail me the pho ... I mean, just keep sending those crayon-colored drawings. They look nice on my fridge.

** That was for a one-year anniversary dinner with Capricorn. Happy anniversary, babe. It's been one year since this happened. Thank you for not ending up like this girl and instead becoming the love of my life.


Sam_I_am said...

I was going to write that I'm glad I never sponsored a child, but then I thought that might be me sentenced straight to Hell... oops, I said it, didn't I. Hopefully 3 nights a week of Girl Scouts is enough penance.

A year already. Wow, blog-time flies by, doesn't it?

Ben said...

1) I loved everything about this post.

2) Is it weird that your anniversary pretty much marks OUR anniversary - i.e. when I found your blog?

3) Probably shouldn't have brought that up...now I seem creepy.

4) What else is new...

Soda and Candy said...

This is why I never started anything like that.

I would totes look after the kid if they sent it here though!

PS - Happy anniversary, I can't believe it's been a year!!!

Andy said...

Sam- It really does. What a good year it has been, though.... and good luck with the Girl Scouts.
Ben- 1) Thanks. 2) Strange coincidence 3) Seem creepy, or are creepy? 4)It's part of your charm.
Soda- I'll tell D he's got a mommy waiting for him. And thanks- it seemed like yesterday she and I were walking through PetSmart.

Miss Tiff said...

I never have sponsored a child before just for the fact that I would feel horrible when it came a time that I decided to stop sponsoring them.

Happy Anniversary! Wow, this year has flown by.

Sarah said...

Good post! Loved the train of thought about how to explain stopping following...it's a good way to put things in perspective.

Kellie said...

Now you've got me salivating over Olive Garden and feeling bad b/c I'm not sponsoring my own child. But damn it. I need my iPhone and DVR and shopping sprees and...

Wow. I sound just like a greedy bitch don't I? Oh well. I like it that way.

Anonymous said...

What a sweet thing you do. I also now feel bad that it's not something I do...

P.S. Happy Anniversary to you and lady. Calling her the "love of your life" was too cute!

Amy xxoo said...

I have a sponosr child too Andy - but unlike you, i have only last week written that letter asking to please stop my sponsorship.

But, hey, dont look at me like that! I sponsor through World Vision and they sent me a letter saying that the local project that my child, Sergio, is sponsored through in Ecuador is just about to finish. Meaning Sergio and his community are now considered stable and self-reliant and he would no longer be my sponsor child anyway.

So, before they could transfer my money to another admittedly-in-need-of-help child i decided to stop the sponsorship. That way i'm not letting now 15 yr old Sergio down, and i'll have enough money to feed and clothe my own bubba when he arrives in January.

So, i'm not a bad person - right ?

P said...

In all seriousness, I do think its a really nice thing to do.

I'm not that nice, sadly.

Tia said...

i think that it's really nice that you do that.

i am totally guilty of changing the channel when one of those commercials comes on, but i make a healthy donation the ASPCA every year.

so i guess that counts for something, even though it means i like animals better than people.

Jenners said...

So Sally Struthers got to you, huh?

Seriously, I can't watch those commercials. I feel so incredibly guilty. I just want to know that the money FOR SURE goes to the child and really helps him and doesn't pay for crap like mailing labels or bad tote bags like some of the charities that ask me for money. I guess I should do some research because now I'm feeling really guilty.

Only you could write a post like this and get away with it. Funny yet heartbreaking. Guilt-inducing but not in a bad way. You're a good man Andy. Capricorn is lucky.

Zan said...

That is sweet.

And I also change the channels when those commercials come on. But I mean, would it really kill me to send $22 a month? I'm so ashamed of myself.

Andy said...

Tiff- Like I said, it's like there's no end to it. Ever... And thanks!
Sarah- I've always wanted to write this post. I just got a letter in the mail the other day from him, so that's what brought it on.
Kellie- Eh, what can you do. We're Americans.
Motown- Love of my life is the best description for her, and the most accurate.
Amy- A loophole! And yes, it's OK to stop sponsoring a kid if you have your own kid on the way.
P- I still think you're nice.
Tia- Animals, people- they all need help.
Jenners- I think it was actually the old white guy with the beard... Funny thing is, I never meant this to be a guilt trip- just a "isn't it strange you can't really ever stop it?"
Zan- I figure those kids are getting help, one way or the other, for the most part. So don't feel too bad.

spleeness said...

This was a really great post. Touching, funny and educational all at the same time. Happy anniversary!

Rosie Posie said...

Good for you! I worked for three years managing the child sponsorship program for Africa Renewal Ministries and I still sponsor one of my favorite girls from Ggaba, Uganda. I'm lucky to have been to the country, worked in depth with the organization and known what the program was like before sponsoring a girl I had already met in country. Most people don't get that assurance.

They'll probably graduate your son from the program eventually (once he graduates high school or college, if he goes) but they'll be sure to offer you the chance to sponsor someone else!

As someone who has had many people cancel their sponsorship I want to thank you. For those who've had to cancel, don't worry. They are being taken care of. The people in country genuinely care for these children and do everything they can to stretch every penny to cover as many children as possible.

Ok, that was a lot more than I planned to say, but I mean it all.

Andy said...

Spleeness- Wow, the trifecta! And thanks...
Rosie- A sincere thanks for that, as you gave some insight I couldn't offer. Davison, looks like you've got a few more years with me, buddy.

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