It's been almost 11 years since Jhonny and I entered one another's lives.
He'll be 19 in a few weeks and has begun the trek into adulthood. I'm knocking on thirty's door and excited to see what's on the other side.
Jhonny is the young man from Bolivia that I sponsor through Compassion International. We've never met face to face. I hope to change that this year.
How neat to have been a part of his life through his letters. How cool to have let him into mine through my letters. I sat down to write him last night, which is what got me reminiscing.
It was fall 2001 when I embarked on a life journey with this 9-year-old kid. I was 19. I wanted to do something that was bigger than myself. Compassion is an organization I'd heard about and respected for a long time. Thanks to my babysitting job, I finally had money to sponsor a child. I especially loved the letter-writing and the idea of having a pen pal in another part of the world.
I didn't know where to start. Since I like surprises, I let the organization pick the child for me. I was thrilled when the packet arrived at my parents' Brooklyn home. I opened it and found a picture of this dark-haired, brown-eyed boy staring back at me.
Through the years, I've heard about Jhonny's progress in school, his father's illnesses and recoveries, his resilient mom who works hard in the market to provide for the family. In between chores, helping with siblings and academics, Jhonny enjoys soccer and running.
Life has been hard at times but his letters always contain hope-filled updates and colorful pictures, particularly around the edges. One time, though, he sent me this full drawing, which I've kept it on my fridge for years.
I've started setting aside "Bolivia money." I'm excited about the possibility of taking a trip to the South American country someday to meet Jhonny.