By: Steve Spriggs — Child Sponsor & Compassion Staff   |   Posted: September 20, 2022

Read how one Compassion sponsor discovered that sometimes the most meaningful thing to a sponsored child is the most unexpected. But be warned, you’ll probably never be able to pass up a tacky postcard again.

“Really? That was your favorite thing you ever got from your sponsor?!”

Read how one Compassion sponsor discovered that sometimes the most meaningful thing to a sponsored child is the most unexpected. But be warned, you’ll probably never be able to pass up a tacky postcard again.

Written by Steve Spriggs — Child Sponsor & Compassion Staff

To protect the privacy of individuals, some names have been changed.

Carlos with his sponsors

That was the question running through my mind when Santiago, a Compassion graduate from Guatemala, shared the most meaningful letter he’d ever received from his sponsors.

It was a moment I’ll never forget — and a reminder of the impact we can make every day in the lives of the children we serve.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of joining Santiago, a Compassion graduate from Guatemala, on a visit to meet his sponsors for the very first time. It had been 18 years since he graduated from the Compassion program. His sponsors still live in Wisconsin. He still lives in Guatemala. And while the little boy in the photo that hung on their refrigerator for so many years has grown, and the vulnerabilities of poverty that once chased him were now just a memory, Santiago’s life still tells a small part of the story God began writing long ago. 

To Santiago, his sponsors are two heroic characters God used while writing this story.

To be on the outside looking in on a Compassion graduate meeting his sponsors after so many years is quite beautiful. It’s filled with moments loaded with thanksgiving, love, appreciation and validation. Trust me, never has a Hampton Inn lobby been transformed into such a sacred space. However, one of my most significant takeaways from that weekend came from one simple postcard.

What’s So Special About a Postcard?

Santiago brought a backpack with him that day. Inside was every letter and photo his sponsors had sent him over the years — carefully and proudly carted all the way from Guatemala. Letters of encouragement. Reminders of constant prayer. And photos of his sponsors’ children, who Santiago knew by name. Santiago had kept these letters because to him, they were life. They were some of his most prized possessions.

Just as the long lunch was wrapping up, Santiago asked if he could show his favorite letter. After all the things I’d heard them talking about over the past few hours, I remember thinking, “Wow … this one must be incredible!”

Surely it had to be packed with theology and life to have had such an impact on Santiago. Anyone who has ever sat down to write a letter to their sponsored child would want to know the formula to writing the “favorite” letter.

I waited in anticipation as Santiago produced a simple tourist postcard with three raccoons on the front.

Santiago smiled with pride.

I was confused. Maybe I needed to read the deep wisdom that was on the back of the postcard to fully understand?

I took the card and flipped it over to reveal the life-giving message his sponsor had written to Santiago so many years before. Here is what it said:

“We see many of these creatures along our roads by the woods.”

front of the postcard
back of the postcard

What?! This was far too simple to be called the “favorite.”

It lacked love, scripture and anything else that I thought would be memorable to a child. I had to ask Santiago why it was his favorite.

He explained that he had taken that particular postcard and hung it up because he thought the raccoons were “neat.”

It didn’t make sense.

After going a bit deeper, I realized that this simple postcard had held an important space in the backdrop of Santiago’s home as he grew up. It was an indelible childhood memory to him, similar to that one old toy that you loved as a kid. The toy that your parents never knew meant so much to you. The thing that you remember every once in a while as you reminisce about your own childhood. The one you search for on eBay just to see it again — and remember.

I was struck with the simplicity of that sentiment and the lack of everything that I once believed was so important to tell my sponsored child when I write. I try to pack so much into these letters I write to my child. I mean, this is really a big responsibility. That “A game” type of pressure can often keep me from writing at all.

Why Raccoons?

The next day, I was still thinking about that postcard. So I asked his sponsor why he had written something so simple.

He told me a story from his own youth. He had left his tiny hometown in Montana immediately after turning 18. He couldn’t wait to leave. But he confessed that during his time of finding his way, he was extremely homesick, often feeling so small that not even God could find him in the massive landscape of the big city. Being unknown is painful. He told me that during these times of homesickness, his dad would sometimes send him random letters. Inside were simple messages like “Getting warmer here … ready for the rain to come. — Dad”

He shared that it didn’t matter what his dad said in those letters. Just that he sent them.

“When you feel so alone that no one knows who you are, just to be known means everything.”

He went on to tell me that he had always sent postcards to Santiago with simple messages like this. Santiago even had many of them in that backpack. Postcard themes of cows, milk, green fields and cheese were the mainstays of the collection. Remember, his sponsor was from Wisconsin. And it’s probably no surprise that Santiago is now the CEO of a dairy company in Guatemala.

The Real Takeaway

The real takeaway for me is that it really may not matter WHAT you write to your sponsored child but THAT you write your sponsored child.

We must remember that simply being known and thought about is an extraordinary blessing that reflects the very heart of God. The soul does the translation — that you were being thought of and you were worth writing to. Some days that’s all we need to keep going.

How I Write Now

My sponsor child now gets some pretty corny postcards from everywhere I visit. I chuckle every time I send one because it’s hard to trust their simplicity. But because of Santiago, I know that it’s most often just about being known.

If you’re wondering what to write to your child, relax. Go find your own raccoon postcard and send it on. God will translate.