When our Episcopal priest in Raleigh, NC strongly suggested that we sponsor a child from World Vision, I hesitated. I had heard that some of these organizations do not really get aid directly to the children, and other reports that were not favorable. I also knew that we really did not have any “extra” money each month to donate on an ongoing basis. I did go to the parish hall after the service that Sunday because we were going to put together dried meals as part of the “Stop Hunger Now” efforts. When we got to the parish hall, our priest again gave a talk about how completely he trusted the folks at World Vision and that he would in fact, “give them his last dollar” because he knew the director and felt this was imperative for all who possibly could, to sponsor a child. He related to us that he had several of his own, and that his daughters managed to cram all sorts of things into the six by nine inch envelope that was permitted to be sent to a sponsored child. He insisted that it was deeply rewarding to do this and it sounded like this was a major WWJD action to take. Still, I hesitated. Nevertheless, I left my station of pouring dried corn kernels into plastic bags for a moment, and perused the sea of children’s faces on the two tables in the back of the room. The majority of the children were dark skinned and had names that were foreign to most. Neither of those things were deterrents to me, but, rather, they made this all the more appealing. Some of the older Southern women were put off by the names and tried pronouncing them unsuccessfully. As it turned out, one table was all boys, and one all girls. Both looked alike since it seemed that most girls’ heads were shaved as were the boys. But, in all fairness, I am the mother of six sons, five of whom are living and there has been enough testosterone in my life to get me pole-vaulting into my grave when the time comes. So, of course, I browsed the table of girls. It seemed that there were literally hundreds of children and it was overwhelming to the point of simply walking away. But then, something odd happened. There was this one face that leaped off of the table and caught my attention. I could not take my eyes off this little girl named, Halima. While most of the children had big smiles on their faces, screaming, “Take me, choose me, I am happy, you will be happy,” Halima did not smile at all. She looked angry and determined and somewhat sullen. It looked like a “photographer” had said, “Smile” and she had said, “No way!” She had on a little printed dress, some earrings, and a small beaded necklace around her neck. I was stunned. She was my girl and I could not walk away from her. Being only eight years old at the time was not so appealing to me, since I knew I would want to write and hear back from my sponsored child, but there was no denying, that this girl had drawn me in. In some ways, I believe she reminded me of myself at her age. I was sullen and struggling with the chaos and sadness in my home that was buried in mental illness. I fought through the years of my childhood, simply learning to survive and acting like all was well when amongst my friends. Halima on the other hand, seemed to have pushed that aside and allowed her struggles to show on her face. And so began our relationship, where I would write (never often enough) in English, through World Vision, and they would in turn, translate into French for little Halima. In the profile sent to me, I came to understand that her parents were both farmers and that she had one brother. Her parents struggle to meet their family’s needs in this poor, rural community where homes are made of clay and mud. Halima was in primary school and enjoyed drawing, so you know that my six by nine inch envelopes were regularly filled with colored pencils, papers and small notebooks. I once managed to smush a pair of rubber flip flops in as well. Although I heard from Halima infrequently, I came to love her and feel that indeed I had a part of a daughter. I imagined that someday, I might come to visit her, yet, when I saw pictures of her school with nothing but dry dust and dirt, I also imagined this would not be easy. I really believed that there was no way I could truly envison what life is like in Niger and what made for a “good day” or a “bad day” or if perhaps, one was simply the same as another. I also accepted the fact that I did not probably grasp the Muslim beliefs in this culture and I looked forward to Halima getting older so that she could share these ideas with me. World Vision sent a lot of mail. Often, it was advertising and often, I discarded their mail or set it aside. It is now March, 2014 and in cleaning out a file of mail, I found a letter from World Vision from September, 2013. I am glad I opened it, because in it was a recent photo of Halima, about to turn 11 years old on February 19, 2014. She had changed some and although, she was still not smiling, she was also not scowling quite like she had been. She had made a little drawing for me, said she loved me and that she wanted to be a nurse and most importantly, she was in good health. Somehow, I had missed her birthday, so I began putting together the packs of stickers and papers I had bought to mail the next day, as she would turn 11. But, before I got to the mail, instead, I received a letter from World Vision saying that Halima had flu-like symptoms, had been taken to a hospital and had died. As I read these words I had trouble taking a breath and kept yelling for my husband, Shep. “Oh God, Oh God,” I said, “How has this happened?” I stared and stared at Halima’s latest photo and how healthy she looked and I just could not fully absorb this news. Halima had died 11 days before she turned 11. She would never know 12 or being a teenager or a woman or a mother or any of the other joys that might have been waiting for her. I am filled with the logical questions like, “Why? How? Flu? Cholera? Antibiotics? Rehydration? Why, why, why?” And yet, I know that none of this really matters much at all. So, mostly I don’t get how I came to choose this child. That is my selfish perspective of wondering how one so traumatized as I am by the loss of a child, would be put in any position of remote closeness to this. I lost my child to drowning when he was two years old and though I am mentally healthy and functioning, in many ways, I have never recovered. It is not in my best interests (again, selfish) to be close to this at any time. So, I have spun around for a week now, wondering what exactly God had in mind for me here. Perhaps, it is as simple as me being the one who knows this secret club in hell, that no one wants to be a member of. I know it well enough, to have already written a letter to Halima’s mother and yes, I will keep writing my English letters Google translates into French. I know and she knows, that there are “no words” but I write some nonetheless.