I've found a charity that makes the most of this very human tendency. Through Compassion International, I've been sponsoring a girl named Eduru who lives in India. Compassion has a program where you pay a small amount of support each month which pays for a child's education, food, medicine, recreation and church-based training. The biggest benefit, though, is that you can correspond with your sponsored child by mail. If there is a language barrier, Compassion arranges for the letters to be translated.
I have to admit that Eduru's letters have been a little unsatisfying. Some sponsors report great relationships with their sponsored children, but many have an experience similar to mine. At the beginning, Eduru's letters were mostly form letters. Now that she is composing the letters herself, they are still pretty general and vague. Once in a while, though, I learn something that really puts my own challenges in perspective. Eduru's father is a day worker, which means that sometimes he works and sometimes he doesn't. Her mother appears to be chronically ill, and there are other children in the family. Once I received a letter in which Eduru reported that the recent monsoon had damaged their house and her family didn't know what they were going to do. Another time, I sent her something for her birthday and she used the money to buy a large pot, I presume for cooking. She was seven.
I've found that through the experience of sponsoring one child, I can see a clearer picture of how many others also live. There are a lot of really good charities out there and I wouldn't suggest to anyone that they drop a favorite and add this one, but if someone wants to know a way to make a little difference and see the results, Compassion has a great program. We really do have so much.
(This is my contribution to the APLS March carnival: Where do you want to give?)