People working on personal finance goals come from all sorts of interesting backgrounds. There is no summary demographic, or any racial, social and ethnic marker that collectively defines us – which is great! We are all very different people. Yet, what binds us together as a ‘community’ in the vast internet space is our single-minded focus on our goal to reach financial independence, despite many challenges we face along the way. While working on your goal is great, the journey also has to be worth your while.
We are often told to stop and smell the roses along the way. Or better yet, the ‘rose’ can become the reason we seek. Roses that involve large material purchases don’t give happiness for long, at least not for me.
A pleasant experience is what ‘smelling the rose’ quote is all about. That can be a cherished vacation with family, or a quiet walk along with your significant other on a Tuesday afternoon, or being the only dad who shows up for a Thursday event at your kid’s school (you don’t have to quit a job for this, just find one that accommodates such requests, even if it pays less), or simply enjoying your morning latte sip-by-delicious-sip as you hear the buzz of cars zipping along the highway during the morning rush hour (you can do this while working in a job, if you can arrange your work to be flexible).
For me, the ‘rose’ that I particularly enjoy is hearing about my sponsored child in India. Through a chance article about World Vision, back in 2009, I came to know of their work. I was reading it at a time when I was already thinking of educating two poor children – specifically, a boy and a girl – preferably of the same age as my son. World Vision told me of their work in a small village in a southern state of India. They sent me a picture of a 3-year-old emaciated girl. I was instantly moved and decided on Sandhiya, which was her name. Her name means evening in Hindi. Being unwanted in the early ‘morning’ of her life, I wasn’t sure if she will even survive to see the evening.
Sandhiya was an unwanted girl child born in a poor family who were living on the fringes of an already poor economic environment in rural India. Similarly, there was another 18-month old baby boy whose parents had given up for adoption and knocked on World Vision’s door. They sent me his picture and I decided to be a small part of that little guy’s life as well. These two kids became my ‘sponsored’ children. I get yearly updates on their progress, in addition to any other communication the child wants to send. Most of the kids adopted by World Vision cannot read, write or even speak. I decided to be an anonymous sponsor so the kids know me only by my sponsor number. Any communication, if the children wish to send, are addressed to a sponsor number, and only the agency has the database to forward it to the right sponsor.
Fast forward 7 years.
Sandhiya is now a confident 10-year-old girl, pictured along with her parents here. What she is holding in her hand is a small birthday gift I sent her, which World Vision sends me a timely reminder of. See how even $10 (a cheap dinner for many of us?) can mean a new set of clothes for this child. Every child likes to get something on his/her birthday even if a sponsor takes care of the basics throughout the year. And for kids who are on the poorest fringes, a birthday is no different than any other day – one of bare subsistence. Many don’t even know their birthday.
Sandhiya is doing well in school and is learning both English and her native language. What you see in this picture is a bright and confident young girl, completely at odds with the image of an unwanted child when I first ‘adopted’ her. Even her parents, seeing her progress, have happily taken her back in their own home. Since all costs of raising Sandhiya are covered by the sponsor, her parents no longer see her as a burden.
Any abandoned child can grow up to be a normal, healthy person if given care during the early childhood years. Sandhiya has become a beacon for her community because she is the only one in her family who can read and write. She is lucky. If not for World Vision’s care, Sandhiya’s fate would have been very different. Many others like her are unfortunately not so lucky. They are destined to become another sad statistic about poor children worldwide. Do you know that over 12 million children annually don’t even survive past the age of 5? Or if they cross that age by some miracle, a child like her would grow up as a destitute, ready to become another victim of human trafficking, sold into slave labor or forced into sex trade. Statistics can make you numb, but a person makes it real.
I was really happy to receive a letter today from Sandhiya. I am sharing it with you all here (click image for readable size). Consider, until recently, she could not write or read one word of any language, leave alone English. Sandhiya is that rose for me on the days I ask myself why am I still working in a demanding corporate job. I have her picture in my office along with my family picture to remind me of what the journey is all about. This rose is part of what makes my 10! journey absolutely worth it. World Vision’s line Give, because joy travels both ways, has proven to be so true for me. I think of Sandhiya whenever I feel tempted to tweak the retirement model ‘success’ on what is enough.
What is your rose? If you like World Vision, feel free to explore their site. There are thousands of Sandhiya’s waiting for a caring sponsor like you.
Raman Venkatesh is the founder of Ten Factorial Rocks. Raman is a ‘Gen X’ corporate executive in his mid 40’s. In addition to having a Ph.D. in engineering, he has worked in almost all continents of the world. Ten Factorial Rocks (TFR) was created to chronicle his journey towards retirement while sharing his views on the absurdities and pitfalls along the way. The name was taken from the mathematical function 10! (ten factorial) which is equal to 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 3,628,800.