I sat down to write a blog post tonight, but before starting my post I surfed a little bit. As I glanced at CNN’s homepage, I saw a few headlines about Myanmar and thought I’d catch up on the most recent news about the cyclone survivors.
Almost immediately, I found that tears were running down my cheeks as I read about the continuing devastation there. Most people, already living in poverty, have lost everything they own and have no place to go. The situation is dire; because of the uncooperative government and logistical problems, most of the survivors have yet to receive any aid and might not for a long time. The desperation and despair must be crushing.
And it is always the children who suffer the most. It’s almost easier not to think about their suffering because it’s so painful to contemplate. As someone who has loved and served God my entire life, situations like this lead me to wonder just what God is up to. I have no answer for the suffering of the innocent, and no one I know has ever given me a satisfactory one.
But this I do know: when these kinds of disasters happen, we must do something. This morning at church, my dad (who is a pastor, as most of you know) prayed that God would show mercy to the people of Myanmar. If God answers that prayer, he will most likely decide to work through people who care enough to do something about this tragedy.
Most of us have been blessed beyond belief. We are spoiled and comfortable. It’s easy to forget that there are millions of children around the world who live in unspeakable conditions of filth and hardship. Our own children find it even harder to contemplate. They never have to worry where their next meal is coming from or whether or not they have a safe place to stay at night.
Maria Montessori had an enormous amount of compassion for children who were on the fringes of society. Whether they were erroneously labeled “retarded” by the government, or whether they lived in the slums of Rome, she saw the need they had to be treated with respect and dignity.
I think Montessorians (i.e., anyone who follows the teachings of Maria Montessori) has an even greater obligation to help out than the average person. You see, we know so much about the delicacy and worth of each human being – each “miraculous being”, to use Maria’s own words. We are called, by our very adherence to Montessori, to be kind, generous, and helpful.
Recently, I spent some time talking to one of my customers on the phone. She runs a Montessori school in Pennsylvania. About 20 years ago, she decided that she wanted to get back to the roots of the Montessori philosophy by opening a Montessori school in a poor area and keeping tuition low so any child who wanted to could attend.
Today, 20 years later, her tuition remains the same: $150 per month for an all-day program. Her school stays afloat through donations from friends and the community. She asks wealthier Montessori schools in the area to give her any materials or equipment they don’t need any more. And naturally, she spends quite a bit of her own money to make or buy materials for the school.
What a great calling she has! Would that many more at-risk children could attend a Montessori school. A quality education can make a huge difference in the life of a child. It can seem like the needs are too great and too vast for us to have any measurable impact. But as I talked to her, I was reminded that even helping one child can bring about change. Like ripples in a stream, touching one life can touch other lives.
As always, I highly encourage you to talk with children about world events. Tell them as much as they can handle for their age. Most likely, you will not say much, if anything, to children five and under. But above that, children are ready to learn about their less fortunate counterparts. Engage them in the act of giving. Have them run a bake sale, donate their allowance, and write letters and cards. Let them research the affected areas of the world and learn about different countries and people groups.
I am always amazed how compassion comes pouring out of children when they know about others in need. They are so creative at thinking about ways to help, and generous beyond measure. I would go as far as to say that children are in a sensitive period for generosity; if you encourage it now, it will carry over into adulthood.
Here are some ways to help, both for the Myanmar tragedy and at-risk children in general:
Make a donation to a worthy, reputable charitable organization that is offering relief efforts to Myanmar. My favorite is Samaritan’s Purse, but there are many out there. Visit Charity Navigator to evaluate and compare charities.
Take a few minutes to pray for the people of Myanmar, and for the governments of the world who are willing to help. The greatest barriers seem to be the hostile Myanmar government and the lack of existing infrastructure (airports, hospitals) needed to provide aid directly to the people. You can pray for safety for aid workers and for shipments of supplies. One boat carrying supplies sank on the way to Myanmar. It’s dangerous work. Pray for the children, especially those who have lost their families and who are terrified and alone.
Let children find Myanmar on the globe. Read up on the country and its history. Consider doing a project on Southeast Asia along with fundraising. Make sure kids know where the money they raise is going.
Choose a needy child to sponsor at Compassion International. You’ll be able to learn about and correspond with your child. I also recommend visiting their new blog; it’s really eye-opening – especially their posts about children in poverty.
While it is unlikely that any of us will be able to go to another country to provide aid, right in our own neighborhoods there are people with needs. One of my friends volunteers for a shelter for homeless women, taking the women shopping to help them buy clothes and food. Another volunteers for an inner city children’s club that provides tutoring and mentoring for at-risk kids living in the housing projects of Chicago. There’s really no limit to the ways we can help.
Link back to this post from your own blog, or forward the link to this post to friends and family who are looking for a way to help.
One last thing: when you read posts like this, don’t you always wonder how much the author of the post is personally donating, if anything? I know I do. I want to be credible and practice what I preach. So, here’s the deal. I will donate 10% of my total sales for May to my favorite charity, Samaritan’s Purse, specifically for the relief efforts in Myanmar. I’ll let you know in June how much that turns out to be. If you’ve always wanted to buy anything from me, this would be a great time!