I am delighted to turn over today’s spotlight to my dear friend and respected colleague Gary Baker of Elzufon, Austin, Tarlov & Mondell. Not only is Gary a formidable adversary in his everyday role as defense counsel for any number of local employers , he is also an active participant in Compassion.com. Gary has some interesting and no doubt heartfelt observations about the impact one can make in the life of a child:
As many of you know, from time to time I have been privileged to meet some of my sponsored kids in person and spend time with them. I want to tell you about one in particular. His name is Raul and he lives in Bolivia. When one of my sponsored kids left the program I was randomly presented with another child. However, I felt that I should sponsor Raul. I'm not sure why I was drawn to him. Maybe it was that our birthdays are just 6 days apart. Maybe it was... I don't know. But there was something about him that reached out to me. Still, I thought about it for some days because sponsoring him would mean that I would not be sponsoring the other child that Compassion had presented to me as I could not do both. Ultimately, I decided that I would sponsor Raul and did what I felt was the right thing.
From the outset Raul was a prolific writer. I always save all my letters from the kids. But Raul's became the biggest pile of all. Some days I would get two letters on the same day. He would tell me about his life, his family, his school, his friends. But mostly he would tell me how much he appreciated that I was his sponsor and send encouragement to me, almost as if he saw it his job to look after me rather than mine to look after him. I always thought it would be nice to visit Raul, but because of the distance to Bolivia and because I did not sponsor anyone else there, I put it off. However, one day I received a letter from him asking me to keep his family in my thoughts because his "little sister was now with God". Once again, his concerns were not for himself, but for others. At that moment I decided that no matter what I was going to go to Bolivia and see him.
The day came and I journeyed deep into the valley of La Paz, remarking to myself how far the distance from the airport. What I did not know was that Raul was from a far village called Cochabamba. In order to meet me in La Paz he had boarded a bus at 8:00p.m. the night before and traveled all the night. He never mentioned it, other than to say he was a little tired. He just talked, shyly about how glad he was that I came to Bolivia and checked throughout the day to make sure that I was alright. He also handed me a personally made scrap book full of photos of his family, other siblings and home with little notes to me on each page.
Although he is very reluctant to talk about himself I asked him how many sponsors he had in the past. Most of the kids I sponsor have had prior sponsors. Raul, who is now 17, answered simply that he had never had a sponsor before and had been waiting for over 2 years for the chance to have one. As that reality settled in my mind, I began to understand why I was meant to sponsor him. I answered in the only way that I could think to, by telling him I was sorry he had to wait to so long but that I was very glad I had the chance to be his first sponsor and that he would never need another. I thought about this loving child who never asks anything for himself who had to sit waiting month after month and then year after year for the chance to share with someone all that he had shared with me, the countless letters, the scrapbook, his hugs and his love.
I was also able to uncover that he arises every morning at 4 a.m. to work in a butcher shop for several hours to help his family make ends meet before heading off to school for the day. By the time school ends in the afternoon he has already had a 12 hour day. Again, he said nothing about it other than that he was glad to help. As I looked at him there was an obvious scar on the thumb of his left hand reflecting the difficulty of his work.
We did have a lot of fun together that day. We went to a gorgeous place called the Valle de la Luna, a place of great natural beauty. He played around on the mountainous ledges almost like he was a part of them, but always stopped to extend his hand to help me and the Compassion staff members to make sure we did not trip. Later it was off to the zoo to see the animals, taking pictures of each one with his new camera.
After lunch we still had some time to go before he would have to board the bus again for another overnight trip back to Cochabomba. So I suggested we go to the movies since surely all teenage boys love that. We chose Ironman 3 and luckily a showing was about to start that was 3-D. Raul loved it. He thought the 3-D glasses were super cool. He smiled at the funny parts, took in the action and walked out thrilled as if he had seen the best movie ever. I wryly asked him if he had ever seen a 3-D movie before, half hoping that he was getting the chance to do so for the first time so that we could have another "first" together. His answer was not what I was expecting at all and caught me completely off guard. He replied softly, "I've never been to the movies before." I was quite stunned. I tried to comprehend what I had just heard as my mind could not accept it. After all, who hasn't been to the movies before? Kids always go to the movies. And yet this 17 year old young man who gives 4 hours daily to support his family, 8 hours to his studies and cares for his younger siblings after that, had never had the chance before to do something as simple as that.
I am sure there are lots of Rauls out there and I am glad to help those I can. I will be forever haunted by those simple words "I've never been to the movies before" and will surely never take for granted again the things that we get to share and enjoy in this life without even thinking about it. I hope Raul and his story will enhance your appreciation for the many privileges we share every day as well. And if you get the chance to help someone like Raul I know that it will change your life in ways you never thought possible, maybe even in as many ways as you change his.
I am fortunate to know Gary well enough that I already realized he had a beautiful heart. Whether it is a rescue animal or a financially and culturally disadvantaged child, Gary’s compassion has no limits. And given his skill in the adversarial system, it really is his “softer side.”
Sending funds monthly to sponsor a foreign child–a practice made popular by Compassion International–has recent and strong support as to its beneficial impact. A 2013 report from researchers at the University of San Francisco reveals that sponsored children are more likely to
> graduate both secondary school and college
> have salaried employment
> be leaders in their communities.
This data really encouraged me, as my husband and I have two “daughters” in Rwanda through World Vision (a similar program) that have blessed us these last 10 years. I cannot say that we have visited our girls, but we did purchase a goat and prepaid medical care for the family.
Thank you, Gary, for sharing a small piece of your journal with us and for blessing Raul with the gift of a motion picture. Man, how cool is that?
Irreverently yours, Cassandra Roberts
Visit Delaware Detour & Frolic, a law blog by Cassandra Roberts
For more information about LexisNexis products and solutions connect with us through our corporate site