My life has been changed by a girl named Stephanie.

Two weeks ago she was a picture sitting on my counter. Now she is a face I’ve touched, a child I’ve hugged and a life I know.

We haven’t known each other for long. Our paths first crossed December 25, 2008. It all started with this. I knew my heart was in trouble with this. And then, one week ago today, we met face to face, and my heart melted to an enormous puddle. She’s 9, too young to have any inkling that she’s impacted a life. But her oblivion only sweetens the transformation. Often it is those who don’t set out to be significant that end up becoming characters in the pinnacle moments of life.

I smiled when the Compassion truck pulled up to the New Missions base on June 10th, the familiar logo painted on the side.

It’s my turn now, to experience firsthand what organizations like these do every day.

Stephanie sat in the back with her mother and the project director. She anxiously straightened her hair and  new dress, made just for this occasion, looking nearly as nervous as I felt. I stood flanked by Troy, Ryan and Jacob, straightened my own wrinkled skirt and waited for what seemed like an eternity.

Then the moment came. After the Compassion liaison introduced us, Stephanie walked slowly toward me, her unrestrained smile erasing any nerves as I wrapped two arms around this precious, precious child.

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Why didn’t I do this sooner?

For the next two hours we shared lunch, talked about school and got to know each other better than we could in a dozen letters exchanged over months: She shares the same birthday as my youngest (February 14); she has one brother and one sister (they get along very well); her favorite subject in school is reading; she likes coloring and playing jacks; her favorite color is pink; she’s wants to be a dress maker when she grows up; and she’d never traveled so far as she did the day she came to see me.

Who am I that I get to be a small part of this child’s life?

We gave her a backpack stuffed full of school supplies, toiletries, clothes and a photo album we’ll soon fill with all the pictures we took that day. She kept saying “Mesi, Mesi” (“Thank you, Thank you”), asking the interpreter to tell us again and again how thankful she is that we chose to be her sponsor. Ironic, as I’m convinced I’m the one who’s received the greatest gift in this new friendship.

Now, with every glance at the picture of the girl on the counter, I’m praying—my whole heart holds it’s breath with hope—that maybe someday a girl named Stephanie will be able to smile and say “My life was changed a little by a girl named Michele.”

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(NOTE: Several organizations create connections between needy children and adult sponsors. In addition to Compassion International, New Missions offers sponsorships of the children I worked with all week in the Leogane Plain in Haiti. Approximately 1,000 children currently await sponsorship for about $30 per month. For more information, click on either New Missions or Compassion International. Or both.)

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