what really happens when you give to the poor

The day her letter finally arrives, a letter from Xiomara, the girl in the middle of the frame and the only sponsored child I’ve met, I rip into it anxious, and part of me soars.

We had wheeled happy the day we met, the happiest day.

How long has it been since that day in Guatemala with Compassion Bloggers that had undone me, them showing me the bare heart of Jesus?

She is always there, by the chalkboard, by the table, by the door where we come and go, with all their framed faces smiling, the other half of our family, our Compassion family.

We can always carry carry hope with us and let it fly free.

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The paper trembles in my hands, it all thrumming wild in my chest.

I read it and read it again and read it again: On my birthday I wore my pink dress.

And I laugh all liquid happiness.


I remember picking that dress out in town.

And by the time I got back to the farm, not knowing if that pink dress would fit a nine year old and calling out to Levi with his hammer in the shed to beg him to try it on his nine-year-old frame because there’s no returning a dress you’re taking to Guatemala.

And him saying no way he was trying on anything pink and me saying it was for her, please, and him saying, “Okay… just because it’s for her.”

And I remember how when I met her, I had held it out shyly and told her the story of Levi loving her enough to do it for her, and when I asked if we could take a picture of her in it for Levi, how happy she stood, her black hair like a silk night under my hand.

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She wore the dress on her birthday.

Her birthday on the 11th, Remembrance Day, the day when the only thing I could remember was her and how she had birthed me into something that was realest real, His Kingdom coming. She was remembering too.

“And I am reading the book you gave me.” The Jesus Storybook Bible!

In that windowless, corrugated tin room where all six live, with  the cat she named Negro slinking across a shelf at the ceiling with its gaping cracks and her mom and dad loving deep, she is reading the The Jesus Storybook Bible !


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I can still hear her, her reading this line to me from the Bible, us both sitting at the end of one of the two beds in this broken-cement floor room: “Because God created everything in His world to reflect Him — to show what He is like…

To show what He is like, to reflect Him…

“So when you come again, I will read it to you with great enthusiasm.”

The happy joy of it throws my head back, and grace makes me laugh loud and there are three thousand miles in between her and this letter I’m holding here in Canadian winter, and I feel it right in me, her enthusiasm, warm and alive, the reflection of Him.

So when you come again…

So when I come before Him… will He recognize me as one who reflected Him? One who sacrificed too?

Levi sits at the study table.

He’s drawing Xiomara a bird house. Over his shoulder, I read his words: “Dear Xiomara, I drew you a birdhouse because I love birds and I thought you might like birds too.”

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Doing this for her, birdhouses and birds.

Because he’s really loving enough to do it for Him.

And the day he writes this, February the 2nd, is the day when Christ’s Love Body remembers Joseph and Mary bringing their sacrifice of two birds to the temple because they’re too poor to bring a lamb (Lev. 12:8). But Joseph and Mary, they carry Christ. When Christ was presented in the temple, He was presented by the poor.

Those so poor, carry in their arms the Christ, the only true wealth in all this world.

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“How do you spell with?” Shalom asks with her pencil mid-air. She’s writing her own letter to Xiomara.  I pray the faithful Compassion translators can make out her letters?

“W-i-thththth” Tap running at the sink, I say the sounds to her and emphasize the last two letter phonogram with tongue between my teeth.

Shalom leans over her page, pencil crayon gripped tight. “I know how now.”

I wipe off the smudged, crummy counters, gather up the ends of four cut straws, scraps of yarn, two torn paper napkins, three lego men, all remnants of a napkin parachute gone wrong, and one very dirty, balled-up sock left on the counter, and I wonder why.

And Shalom holds up her sheet of paper for me. “Done, Mom!”

Hands full of stuff, I turn towards the table.

Shalom’s standing up on her chair, holding her letter out like a sign, “And I told her the important thing.”

And there it is, the important thing, in most important penmanship: “God is with you.


God is with the poor and so why not take turn the ladder of the American Dream upside down and descend and God is with the thirsty so why don’t I hand out more cups of cold water? And God is with the broken and oppressed and hungry so why don’t I want to be with Him more and when I give to the least, I’m reaching out and touching the very Lord and this is the important thing. God is with you, God is with you, God is with you.

The poor carry Christ, the only true wealth in all this word. It is the “poor” who offer us the priceless gifts. “That is what makes us content—the contented, deep joy is always in the touching of Christ—in whatever skin He comes to us in.

Giving to the poor, I give to Christ and I am the one presented with Christ.

Shalom jumps off her chair. “God is with you, Xiomara, God is with you, God is with you….

Around the kitchen Shalom dances with her letter, with her Xiomara, both spinning in certain flight.



How to Make Your Life an Endless Celebration
Tips from Compassion children on why letter writing means so much to them
The video of Xiomara reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible to me
The complete series of the Guatemala experience  …