By Vincent Kituku
“I just want a poor child to have a chance for a better tomorrow,” said my friend, Mary. Because we had not seen each other for about five years, and we had a lot to catch up on, the impact of that sentence didn’t register immediately.
Mary was forced to retire due to a work-related injury involving her foot. She also suffers from unspecified stomach illnesses that affect her appetite and what to eat. Her ailing mother reached a point where she had to be taken to a nursing home. One of her brothers, the closest one to her, has been suffering from a myriad of health issues, including Parkinson’s disease.
Mary’s ordinary day includes visits to doctors, spending time with her mother, which is often a challenging experience, and visits with her sick brother. She also has her own children, and a close-knit relationship with each. She checks on how they are doing regularly.
All that might not be unusual. What is unusual, and sets people like Mary apart, is that she has been saving whatever spare change she gets just to be able to pay high school tuition through Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope for a child in Kenya who has lost her parents to AIDS. This year, Mary informed her family and friends that she would be donating the money that she intended to invest on their Christmas presents in order to educate a child.
Over the years, Mary has sent me notes or emails expressing her willingness to contribute something even though her financial circumstances were not favorable. But that didn’t stop her from championing the needs of orphaned children and those from poverty-stricken homes through social media. She posts positive comments that encourage people to learn more about Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope. Mary has inspired her children to be just as kind, and to give what they can.
I cried after our brief visit. Here is a woman whose leg will be amputated soon, her mother is on her sunset season of life, and the prospects of her brother’s illnesses are not promising. Yet she has a great desire to save a needy girl from being forced into early marriage, prostitution or child labor. She had saved $725, which will cover one year’s school fees, room and board.
Mary’s kindness and personal challenges have occupied my thoughts for days. What is it that motivates people to be kind and generous? Must they have the means, the financial capability, before they can offer help?
People who transform the living conditions of others have the quality of empathy within their being. They make other people’s pain their own. They don’t have to have the financial means in order to help. They can pray, share the stories of others with their family and friends or give whatever they can afford to – be it used clothes, a can of food, time to visit the sick or those who are grieving or in prison.
The key factor that triggers kindness and generosity is awareness of a cause and belief that what one person can do matters. There is also an intrinsic factor: the desire and commitment to make a difference. People who transform lives normally start by caring for those who are closest to them. I have yet to see someone who is unkind to his/her own mother but relishes the chance to protect and save young girls to whom he/she is not related.
Mary has cared for other needy children and adults in this country but when she talks about her family, even with the up and down dynamics that are experienced in all families, you can tell that is where she hatched her caring spirit.
© By Dr. Vincent Muli Wa Kituku, motivational speaker and author of “Overcoming Buffaloes at Work & in Life,” is the founder and executive director of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope, a non-profit organization that raises tuition and fees for poor orphans and other children from poverty-stricken families in Kenya. Contact him at [email protected] or 208-376-8724.