“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.”
“You may have been born in poverty, but poverty was not born in you! So dream big, reach high, and never be ashamed of where you’ve come from. When you achieve your dream, always remember to be grateful, and reach back to help lift others toward their dreams.”
I have spoken these words to thousands of young men and women around the world at their graduations from Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program. Many of them I held when they were small children in their Compassion child development centers, just beginning their journey out of poverty. It is fascinating to hear them tell their stories as young adults. They remember the hopelessness and despair they felt as young children, the steps that led to their escape from poverty, and what the key people in their lives said or did that encouraged them to believe in themselves.
This issue features a few of the many children who, despite being born into desperate poverty, dared to dream big. Some Compassion graduates have been entrusted with powerful platforms and are currently serving as elected officials. One young man from a slum in the Dominican Republic escaped a violent family life so he can become a pediatrician. It is heartening to see so many come full circle — from being blessed to being a blessing.
So what does it take for a child oppressed by poverty to rise up? At Compassion we do a great deal of empirical research to make this strategic aspect of our ministry even stronger. Most graduates point to the moment they gave their young hearts to Jesus as the catalyst. Understanding their heavenly Father’s love and sacrifice for them, and that He has a plan for their lives, gave them hope and purpose.
But something else they point to as vital may surprise you. Thousands of formerly sponsored children, now young adults, say their sponsors were the key to their successes. They cherished their sponsors’ letters and built their lives on the encouragement the letters offered. Often, it was a sponsor’s comment that came into a child’s life at just the right moment. Your child took to heart each message of "You can do it. … Don’t ever give up. … I’m proud of you. … We love you and are praying for you." As a sponsor, you not only faithfully provide the financial resources so your child can be a part of Compassion’s church-based child development program, but our research has confirmed that your words of affirmation and challenge have a life-changing influence. And sometimes you accomplished that with a single sentence in a simple letter.
If a few words in a letter can launch a life, then surely a face-to-face moment of encouragement with a child can have the same profound impact. This insight inspired me to write Just a Minute, my new book in which I make the case that “in the heart of a child, one moment can last forever.”
If God brings a child across your path, it may well be a divine appointment. You might be the one to say or do just the right thing, at precisely the right moment, that creates a lifelong memory that really matters. Just a Minute tells the stories of 68 people who remember that moment of impact in their childhoods (including some as famous as Albert Einstein and Colin Powell, along with unsung heroes such as Compassion program graduates and sponsors). They tell how that pivotal moment shaped their lives — how they relate to others, how they feel about themselves, what they’ve done in the world. Author Graham Greene caught the concept this way: “There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.”
What was your moment? Who believed in you before you believed in yourself? What did they say or do? Perhaps you have built your life from a single uplifting moment, one kindness or challenge. Who or what set you on your course of being a compassionate-enough person to help lift someone else — your sponsored child — toward his or her dreams? I hope Just a Minute helps launch a groundswell of gratitude for the people God brought into our childhoods who made an important difference in our lives.
But I also hope Just a Minute will inspire us to be that person — to open our eyes and be aware of every child around us. What if we determine to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us every day to make a difference in the young lives we encounter? As a sponsor, you have the power and privilege to be the hero who changes the whole world for your sponsored child, and I thank you for doing that! But my prayer is that our hearts will also be stirred to reach out and bless all the children with whom we come in contact, even if only for just a minute.