Back in the '80s, my women's Circle at church sponsored a family living in poverty in rural Mississippi through The Box Project. We sent a box each month for several years and developed a warm relationship with the family. When the youngest child became a teenager, and the older children were working, we stopped our sponsorship and moved to local charity projects. A couple of years ago, we decided to support another family through The Box Project.
We paid our fifty dollar membership fee and received the information for a family headed by a young single woman who I'll call Jennifer. At the time we "met" her, Jennifer was in her mid-twenties and had three or four children under five. Members of the Circle took turns pairing up to send her a box valued at about fifty dollars each month. The first month was December and I remember buying pajamas for each member of the family, and someone contributed a copy of Goodnight, Moon.
Each month we receive a brief thank-you note from Jennifer in response to our box. She keeps us up-to-date on things that she needs, on the children's sizes, and every once in a while something that is going on in her life. She told us when she moved to a different home, when she joined a church, and -- to our surprise -- when she was expecting another baby. When that baby arrived, she wrote that she was not going to have any more children, that she was going to get her GED and then enroll in the community college to study early childhood education and try to get a job in a day care center. We were delighted to receive this lengthy communication and hear of this goal, which seemed possibly attainable, and encouraged her, asking how we could help. We anticipated that her mom, who by this time had moved in with her, would provide child care when she went to school. We believed that at last a real relationship was developing.
But a year passed, and there was no further mention of the GED or of her aspirations. And then came the concerning news that she was, once again, expecting.
My Circle sisters and I have a dilemma. There are members who are not eager to continue to support a lifestyle we disapprove. There are members who don't think we have the right to disapprove of a lifestyle. The word "enabling" has been mentioned. So has the word "abandon." No one in the group feels any real sense of connection to Jennifer, the way we did with the family we cared for years ago.
We've now received our annual renewal statement from The Box Project and have a decision to make. The issue will be resolved at our September meeting, and I imagine that each of the Circle members has her own question to answer regarding the Jennifer situation. Mine is this: How important is it that I have a personal feeling of satisfaction from giving? The need is there, whether I have that feeling or not.