Would You Like To Buy A Goat?

28 Jan

I pull up to the nearly empty parking lot.  I take a chug of coffee from my plastic Starbucks travel mug.  I close my eyes for a moment, take a deep breath, and get out of my car.

I walk the path up the slight incline to the doors the custodian just unlocked. It doesn’t matter that I burnt my toast this morning, that my dog peed all over his own paws as I rushed him to go so I wouldn’t be late. It doesn’t matter that my mind is groggy and my back is aching and my make-up can’t hide the bags under my eyes.

I smile widely as I walk through the automatic doors, into the familiar miniature world that is my local mall.

I am not here to check out the clearance at Forever 21.

I am here to change the world.

Change The World. 

It’s a phrase that pressed through me, altered me, motivated my decisions as a girl, drove me to live somewhat crazy as a teen and early 20-something.

A phrase that ultimately became tired and cliché, and all but eliminated from my vocabulary.

Until, it began to creep back in, subtly without force or cause.

I answered an ad on Craigslist looking for people to represent World Vision for a Christmas campaign in the mall. Truthfully, I was sick of my current job and needed the extra money.

But, I also knew that since my India trip in 2010 I was in danger of losing something precious and deep within me. I was so overwhelmed by the pain and poverty I saw, I crawled inside my head.

It’s not that I stopped caring, it’s just that I distracted myself so I wouldn’t care too much.

Because caring too much hurts too much.

So ironically, I found myself  standing in the mall, stopping random strangers who were just there to shop, asking them to care.

“I’d love to share with you how you can change a child’s life today!”

Change the World.

If they stopped I would share with them how sponsoring a child changes an entire community, how they could help build a well or buy a farm animal to be donated to a family,

“Would you like to buy a goat?”

Ordinary people, who didn’t come to buy a goat. They came for a sale on leggings, a new purse, a gift for their sister for Christmas.

There were moments when time stopped and people really listened and I opened up  and told stories.

I spoke on behalf of those I had met face-to-face: a little girl born in a brothel in India, taken out and given an education and a new chance of life.

I spoke on behalf of those I had never met: a small Haitian with two 2 sisters and 3 brothers who likes to play jump rope and read.

I  used my imagination to fill in the blanks. Where the fear in his eyes came from, or the scar above his lip. What it must be like to live in a one room hut and walk five miles a day to collect gallons of dirty water.

A lot of people wouldn’t stop or listen. It was too much for them to make space in their hearts for what I wanted to say.

But a lot of people tried, and did.

A sick woman in a wheelchair, who desperately wanted to go work as a missionary, who said “Thank you,” in my ear as I bent down to hug her, tears falling down her face.

A 12-year-old who spoke like a wise and understanding soul and quoted, “Children are like flowers, they need love and sunshine to grow.”

An old army vet who told me his story of picking up a homeless woman on the side of the road and how she changed his life.

A 19-year-old who took the time to ask, “What’s your passion?” And then prayed encouragement and love over me.

A cynical and humorous young woman who bought some gifts in her brother’s name because, “He’s a heartless bastard,” then proceeded to buy three more for, “Other f$%#in’ jerks who need to learn some selflessness.”

A gangster looking hispanic guy with a teardrop tattoo who I almost let pass by, who ended up donating to give a cow. When his friends came over to make fun of him, he just brushed them off and exclaimed excitedly, “I just bought a cow!”

I love how every stereotype and prejudice I had arose to the surface and quickly died. Those I judged as caring usually didn’t have the time of day for me. Those I thought were too poor or too naive, gave.

Then I would play reverse psychology with myself and switch it around, and be wrong, again.

You just never know a person’s heart until they show it.

Sometimes I would surprise myself at the way I opened up and the things I said.

And the more I spoke, the more these children became more than just stories. 

I would bring myself to tears, remembering, feeling, caring deeply. Digging out the passion that I’d buried deep hoping nothing would stir it awake for fear it would cost too much.

The more I shared, the more I began to believe my own message.

Change a child’s life, change the world. 

And as I watched a beaming young couple walk away with a packet containing a photo of a little girl from India with a face weathered from hardship, and eyes black with eyeliner, I knew that I was.

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