Once in a while, child sponsors get the opportunity to come to India to meet their sponsor children. What an incredibly special thing! To be face to face with the child that stole your heart from afar, who you’ve been thinking of and praying for. This was kind of my experience with meeting Jeff. Except when I met him, I wasn’t sponsoring him (yet.) In fact it was meeting him and the effect that had on me that led to me feeling like I absolutely had no choice but become a part of his life.
Jeff lives at Faith Home, specifically in Faith Orange, with six other foster brothers. Most of them, like Jeff, are in wheelchairs or have limited mobility. Jeff was born with cerebral palsy and because of that he has difficulty controlling his muscle movement. He is thirteen years old, has big brown eyes, and a fantastic smile. Jeff totally stole my heart. It wasn’t just his Bambi eyes though (there are a lot of those at SCH...) It was his enchanting and inspiring perseverance.
The day I met Jeff, I found him sitting at a table working on stacking some colorful rings. I had the very same toy when I was growing up, so that might’ve been the first thing that caught my eye. I faintly remember playing with it as a toddler, more clearly I recall my younger siblings using it. My first reaction was to feel sad for Jeff. This boy, probably 11 or 12 at the time, seemed too old to be playing with such a toy. And he wasn’t even playing. He was focused, concentrating, working SO hard to close his fingers around each ring, one at a time, lift the ring, and then drop it on the base. It was enormously difficult for him. I watched for a few minutes while he tried and tried again, each time either dropping the ring too soon or missing the pole coming out of the base by centimeters. It almost pained me, like watching someone try to win a stuffed animal with one of those claw machines. The closer you get the more frustrating it is! But I saw no sign of frustration or anger on Jeff’s face. This special guy just kept at it, with a look of determination on his face that any boy his age would make... Perhaps in a slightly different context: maybe practicing their swing in baseball or trying to beat a new video game. But even though the task at hand was different, the face was the same. Jeff was in it to win it and he wasn’t giving up.
I believe what I saw next was one of the most beautiful things I’ll ever see. I can’t believe how blessed I was to be there that day! After struggling and trying but failing, Jeff did finally get a ring on the pole. He slowly and awkwardly closed his hand around the ring. With a stiff motion he raised his arm and positioned it over the base. He paused and assessed. Tightened his grasp for a moment. Then released. The ring dropped perfectly onto the pole and spun a little as it settled itself at the base of the toy. And Jeff’s. Face. Lit. Up. His eyes opened wide and then darted around to the rest of us sitting or standing around the table. A big beautiful smile spread across his face and seemed to just keep growing. He clapped for himself and cried out with satisfaction. He was thrilled. I could’ve cried.
I didn’t need to feel sorry for Jeff working with these stacking rings. He has spastic cerebral palsy. That’s just the reality of his situation. He’s not working on his swing in baseball or playing video games like some other boys his age are. But like any other thirteen year old boy, there are some things he can do well and some things he’s still working on. And making progress and experiencing victory feel just as good to him as they do to anyone. He’s hitting home runs in his own way with the things he has to work on and accomplishing what he can.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this amazing guy after my trip to India. I knew I wanted to be a part of this journey he’s on. Jeff receives physiotherapy 6 days a week and attends on-site special education classes 5 hours a day, 6 days a week. His teachers and therapists are partnering with him to see him grow, learn, and reach each and every goal that’s within his grasp. I wanted to be a part of that team. And we still need more people to join! Jeff is not fully sponsored. Will you become a monthly sponsor today? Your story with him will be a little different from mine, but once you become a sponsor I highly recommend a trip to India if someday you can arrange it. Meeting Jeff will change you. It changed me.