Teaching Hope

Shannon’s been asking the best questions lately.  Like how do we teach our kids about poverty without messing them up (my paraphrase)?

Compassion has some guidelines for their graphic designers that help them decide what pictures from field photographers to use and which not to.  They want to avoid what I call “poverty porn.” You know, the images of skeleton-like kids swatting flies away from their faces.  Images of the worst of the worst, potentially used to manipulate.  Ironically, these images manipulate us into doing nothing for the kids in the pictures, convinced that their case is hopeless and that nothing we can do will make a difference. 

Compassion’s designers are encouraged to show the hope and progress of children in the third world instead: a kid eating breakfast, another reading a book, a mother playing with her baby, a group of five year-olds singing songs under a steeple.  These images remind us that our help, well, helps.  There is hope.  There is progress.  We celebrate with photographer. And we give expectantly.

Two of our sponsored children – Yancey and Yoseph – have birthdays in May.  We’re celebrating those days as a family.  It takes a while to get mail to them so we started early. Today we made their birthday cards.  My kids colored in the letters I drew and then posed for their pictures.  It was all Becky’s idea.  Then we each wrote something inside and slipped them in their envelopes.


When their birthdays finally get here we’ll have dessert and say a prayer at bedtime thanking God for giving Yancey and Yoseph another year of life.

We’re trying to show our kids a picture of hope, not despair.  It’s lesson after lesson crafted to be inspiring, not devastating.  Hopefully, if we celebrate the lives and progress of Yancey and Yoseph enough, our kids will believe they’re letters and prayers and loose change really do matter.  And then, we hope, they’ll naturally and expectantly help people when they have kids and mortgages and $32 a month of their own.