Two of my greatest teachers share a birthday today. The first is my second grade teacher, Miss Sweeney, who inspired me to dedicate myself to the education of children, and the second teacher is a young woman named Diribe.
Diribe is turning thirteen today. She loves to play group games like hide and seek, her favorite color is green, and her favorite animal is a cat. When she grows up, she wants to be a doctor.
I have never met my teacher Diribe. She lives in a village in Ethiopia. She is a second grade student whose legs have been crippled by Polio. Diribe's father passed away so her mother takes care of Diribe and her siblings. Diribe helps her mother with cooking and running errands.
Every month, $38 dollars is taken out of my bank account to help support Diribe through supplemental food, clothing, and education. When I am able, I send extra money for special occasions like her birthday. I also write her letters as a means to send whatever encouragement I can.
You may be curious how on earth I could call a thirteen year-old girl in second grade who lives all the way in Ethiopia, my teacher. How can this child be a teacher to a nineteen year-old adult, especially when we've never even met?
I can tell you the answer in just a few words: soap, shoes, and a blanket.
No, that's not what's on my weekly shopping list. Those were the items listed in a thank you letter I received from Diribe this year. That's what was purchased for her by the child development center she attends with my Christmas money.
Let me repeat that. Her Christmas gifts this year were soap, shoes, and a blanket.
And here's where my lesson comes in, here's where she becomes my teacher. The letter she sent me in response to receiving those gifts expressed how happy and thankful she was for those items.
Do you know many people who would be content with soap, shoes, and a blanket for Christmas?
Or, like me, do you know people who would feel insulted by those gifts? Do you know people who would scoff and complain about receiving such things instead of the latest Apple technology? Do you know people who would find a Christmas gift of soap, shoes, and a blanket beneath them?
Diribe has wisdom. She has taught me more than a thing or two about thankfulness. Since the beginning of my sponsorship journey with her, she has taught me how to count my blessings, and through her letters I have discovered how rich and abundant my sea of blessings actually is. Because of her, I notice the little things. Through a little Ethiopian girl who wants to be a doctor, a little girl content with soap, shoes, and a blanket for Christmas, I have learned some of my greatest lessons.
Happy Birthday, my sweet teacher Diribe! May you one day understand how thankful I am for you.