It's almost Mother's Day and there are a lot of dads with high blood pressure trying to find something special for the kiddos to give mom tomorrow. So I thought I'd share about one of the best gifts my family ever gave me and let you dads copy the idea. (If you're a mom, forward this post to him with a "wow, this would be a sweet idea" wink wink.)
Before I can share about the gift, I must first tell the story behind it.
You see, I've kind of been going through a "mid-life crisis"--not a "need to buy a sports car" kind of thing, but a "need to have purpose in my life" kind of thing. I'll share in another post the events leading up to this yearning to do more, but part of it is realizing that I have only a finite number of years to raise my children in a way that they will make an impact for God's glory.
I know there's always been evil, I know there's always been tragedy, but because of technology, we are able to see it through photos, read it from articles, live it through video right as it happens. While some days this just makes me want to turn every electronic device off indefinitely, I know instead this is can be a way for us to find out about a need. We are able to help others in a way that people couldn't when my mother and grandmother were raising their kids. This also means that we are responsible for things that were once too far out of reach for us to be able to help.
My inspiration came from an article shared by a friend on Facebook. It was posted the day of the Sandy Hook elementary shootings, on the heals of the announcement that Russian adoptions would be closing, and in the midst of reading articles on gendercide, abortion, and forced abortion such as this one.
My TV, my computer screen, and my phone seemed to be sounding the same alarm and screaming the same cry for help--we are living in a world at war against the innocent. This is the holocaust of our time and yet some days we feel defenseless to do anything.
On the day of the Sandy Hook shootings, I had kept the TV off--I couldn't bear to hear the updates of this unthinkable tragedy and didn't feel like my younger kids were able to handle the news. I spent much of the day just praying for those families and praying over mine.
But my daughter Ava got on the family computer and saw the news about the shooting and came to me to ask what had happened. I shared what I knew and what I felt was appropriate and she simply asked the same question that the world was asking . . . "Why?"
It was a rare night of one-on-one time with my number 2 daughter--the boys at a birthday party, Olivia and Brad at a basketball game, the baby asleep. I was searching for words of wisdom, of comfort, something to show that as the mom I had all the answers, yet came up with nothing. Instead I grabbed an article I had printed earlier that day before the world fell apart. I had first read about this courageous woman from a link that had circulated through Facebook--the beauty of her life story seemed overtake the ugly of the day. I had needed to hear something good in the wake of such bad and thought perhaps Ava did, too.
There are many accounts of this woman's amazing story but this is the article I read to her, found at The Journey website.
Irena Sendler was born in 1910 in Otwock, Poland, fifteen miles outside of Warsaw. Her Father was a doctor and most of his patients were poor Jews. Undoubtedly Ms. Sendler was influenced by her Father's compassion for his patients. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Irena was a Senior Administrator in the Warsaw Social Welfare Department, which provided meals, financial aid, and other services for orphans, the elderly, the poor and the destitute of the City. She enrolled Jewish families under fictitious names and often used quarantine for such infectious diseases as typhus and tuberculosis to keep nosy officials at bay.
In 1942, however, the Nazis walled off sixteen blocks of Warsaw, herded Jewish families in, and created the horrific Warsaw Ghetto.
Horrified by this new development, Sendler joined Zegota, the Council for Aid to Jews, organized by the Polish underground resistance movement, and recruited ten of her friends to help her. In order to get into the Ghetto, she obtained a pass from Warsaws Epidemic Control Department and posed as a health worker. Sanitation and basic services were lacking. The Nazis saw little need to provide these things, but were concerned about the possibility of disease epidemics that might escape the Ghetto.
Irena was deeply moved by the plight of the babies and children. Initially she and her fellow workers smuggled in food, clothing and medicine as they performed their work as sanitation workers, but knowing that 5000 people a month were dying in the Ghetto, Irena was compelled to do far more. She and her 'fellow employees' smuggled babies in their tool boxes, older children in sacks and boxes on their trucks. They often sedated the children so they would be quiet but she is said to have used a dog on one of her trucks who would bark menacingly whan soldiers would approach to inspect it. The soldiers had no desire to get close to the dog and left the interior of the truck unsearched.
Sendler, a young Mother herself, had to convince other Mothers to hand her their babies and children. One Mother asked her: "Can you guarantee my child will live?" Her answer was the harsh truth that if the child stayed, he would surely die. "In my dreams," she once said, "I still hear the cries when they left their parents."
"Irena Sendler accomplished her incredible deeds with the active assistance of the church. "I sent most of the children to religious establishments," she recalled. "I knew I could count on the Sisters." Irena also had a remarkable record of cooperation when placing the youngsters: "No one ever refused to take a child from me," -- Jewish Virtual Library
Most of the children who left with Sendler's group were taken into Roman Catholic convents, orphanages and homes and given non-Jewish aliases. Sendler kept the only record of their true identities in the hope that one day she could restore them to their families. The names of 2500 rescued children were placed in jars which Sendler buried under a neighbor's apple tree.
On October 20, 1943, the Gestapo, who were becoming increasingly aware of her activities, arrested Irena Sendler. Even under torture -- they broke her legs and feet -- she refused to give up those names. She was sentenced to be executed but her friends bribed officials and she was able to escape.
After the war Irena dug up the jars and worked to reunite children with their families. Sadly many had no family to go to anymore. The woman they had known only as 'Jolanta' was sad that she could have not done more for them.
Honored by international Jewish organizations - in 1965 she was accorded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashemorganization in Jerusalem. In 1991 she was made an honorary citizen of Israel.
Irena Sendler was awarded Poland's highest distinction, the Order of White Eagle. She died at the age of 98 on May 12, 2008.
When I was finished, Ava didn't say a word--a rare moment with the talkative girl we call the "Speaker of the House."
I told her that for every person who acts out of hate, there needs to be hundreds acting out of love. Already emotional from the day's events, I confided in her with tears rolling down my cheeks and simply added the words: "I want to be an Irena Sendler."
And she grabbed my hand and said, "I do, too."
It was a sweet moment that I had kind of forgotten about until Christmas morning. The kids handed me a gift bag and inside was this.
It was an old Mason jar. Inside it Ava had typed out the names of all the children in our family including our Xin Xin waiting in China. She had also included the American, Chinese, and Guatemalan flags "to add some color." Love her.
And then my husband let me know that he had given a donation to a family adopting who is very dear to my heart--a link to read about the precious Garcia family is here on their blog or here on their Reece's Rainbow page. Lisa Garcia is Ava's voice teacher and we followed their blog during the Christmas holidays as they made their first trip to Bulgaria to meet their 3 boys ages 12, 10, and 6 (unrelated, in different orphanages). Reading their blog during the holidays helped us focus on others during a time that we unfortunately start focusing on ourselves. Their story was a bright spot amongst a dark time. When these boys come home in just a couple weeks and they are forever free of the prisons they live in, we will add their names to our jar. Not as a way of patting ourselves on the back for doing something so small, but as a way of inspiring us next time to do something bigger.
In the coming weeks, I'm going to introduce you all to some modern day Irena Sendlers because here's the thing--Irena could not have done all she did by herself. She needed others to help her. Every name on every slip of paper was an effort of love and sacrifice on the part of many. God just used Irena to organize it.
The Irena Sendlers of today need an army behind them as well, but we often do nothing because we don't know about the need or the need is so great that we think our trite contribution is worthless. I'm going to show how you and your family can fill your own glass jars, how you can build a family with purpose, how you can focus on good in a world that seems so filled with evil.
So tomorrow, give your wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, a glass jar and read them the story of Irena Sendler. (You don't have to use a Mason jar--they sell some really pretty apothecary jars at Hobby Lobby, Michael's, TJ Maxx.) I may eventually upgrade mine as it fills up. Tell her that she exemplifies the love of Irena Sendler and you want to honor her with a gift of purpose. What a sweet way for a husband and children to "rise up and call her blessed."
You can also start this jar yourself at any time of the year. You might want to pick a time that you have family devotionals to introduce it.
Put inside the names of your own children/grandchildren if you have them. Then find a child or family who needs your help. Sometimes our impact on others will be significant, sometimes it will be small, but everything done with love makes a difference.
The Garcia family would be a great place to start. They have worked tirelessly to raise the $30,000 needed to bring their boys home--even their children have sold many of their toys and treasures to bring their new siblings into their family (they have 9 other children--4 currently living at home). They are only $2,000 short of raising what is needed to bring these boys home debt-free--the amount shown on their site doesn't show what they have saved or raised on their own. (Wouldn't it be an awesome Mother's Day gift for this sweet family to be fully funded?) Decide what your family is able to do. You could, for example, donate $10 a week to a different child or family in need, then put that child's name in your jar. Perhaps you can do more, perhaps you need to do less, but it is better than a life with an empty jar. How special it will be to read off each name at the end of the year.
One of our modern day Irena Sendlers is named Andrea Roberts. She started an amazing organization called Reece's Rainbow that helps find families for typically hard to place children with various medical and developmental needs. I'm going to write more about Reece's Rainbow in a future post and am going to start a new feature on my blog that will be called "Fund Me Fridays" to highlight a different deserving family each week to help any of you wanting to fill your new jars. But you can go on their site today and find many families like the Garcias or donate directly to a child still waiting for their mom and dad to find them.
Much love to you all as you celebrate the gift of mothers from our Heavenly Father.
With Much Love,