Just the Stick, Please

Her mouth curved into a frown. Her eyebrows narrowed, and she looked up to me with desperate eyes, focused on the treasure she gripped firmly in her hand. With Spanish cries, she pleaded with me. “No,” I repeatedly said, wishing I knew Spanish phrases to help her understand. “Uno?” she asked; she wanted just one. She begged for just one of the small, useless Popsicle sticks that she held on to so dearly.

We were instructed not to allow the children to have anything unless it was a craft he or she created. Her persistence and desperation to keep just one of the useless sticks in her small hands amazed me. I was torn between a desire for her happiness and staying loyal to the rules I agreed to follow. I was struck by the idea that a miniscule, useless object as simple as a Popsicle stick would be treasured by anyone.

I allowed the begging girl to keep a single stick. She returned the rest to me and walked back to the building she stayed in. She lived in an orphanage with hundreds of other kids, and she had nothing. She shared a three-bedroom home with 4-5 other girls that was half the size of the average McDonalds. That stick meant the world to her.

Last May, my mother and I were blessed with the opportunity to volunteer in Cartgo, Costa Rica for a week. Our group spent every morning working at an orphanage. We assisted in housekeeping tasks and spent time with the children in activities we planned. Each day we brought two large bags replete with toys and craft supplies for the children to use and play with, and often the children would try to keep miscellaneous supplies we had brought, though they were only allowed to keep crafts they created.

The encounter I had with the girl who desired just one small Popsicle stick taught me several life lessons that will continue to stick with me (pun intended). She made me realize how valuable the most insignificant possessions, utilities, moments, and people are, and how often we overlook the small blessings granted to us. This little girl didn’t have the privilege of having new clothing, a personal bedroom, or her own parents or adult family members to guide her.

Jesus said to give up all our possessions in service to others (Mark 10:21, Luke18:22). Some interpret this to mean Jesus was using possessions as a metaphor for giving our lives to him; however, I believe Jesus meant what he said concretely. I think we appreciate our blessing more when we are surrounded by less unnecessary materials and focused on serving others with our gifts. I don’t think Jesus said to become homeless, but I do believe he commands us to live a minimal and humble life. Why by unnecessary gadgets when the money spent can be used to fund kingdom work? Why take up three closets in your home when you only where clothes out of one? We are commanded — not asked– to rely solely on Him, and in this, we are able to see more clearly the smallest of blessings that are granted upon us.

I also believe that in acknowledging what little we have to ourselves, we can treasure the unique agape Love God has for us as individuals and the spiritual gifts He has specifically chosen for us. Jesus died for all, but God created us differently and creatively in that our talents and abilities may be used in an exceptional way to bring glory to His name. After all, there is only one of you, and only one of me, but God lives in both of us when we accept Him, and in that He uses us to do more than we can ever dare to ask or imagine, according to His will, differently than anyone else in the world (Ephesians 3:20).

Help the author win a trip to return to Costa Rica! Just click on the link and VOTE. It’s quick. It’s easy. It’s free and painless.



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