I first met Juma in 2006. I didn’t know much about AIDS, poverty or what life is like for an orphan at the time. But a dream only a few months earlier had led me on a quest to Tanzania to find out more. So on that December morning, I just “happened” to run into Juma on the main street of the quintessential African city of Tabora.
Juma, a nine year old boy, raised in a Muslim home, had lost both parents to AIDS. His eyes were dull, lifeless and distant. His clothes were ragged, and a light shade of dust from the dirty roads covered his dark complexion.
I’m not sure if he had ever interacted with “mzungu” (white people) before. But through Elias, my interpreter, I learned that he had not eaten for a couple of days. He was scouring the streets together with his friend Haruna looking for food, or money that would give him enough food to satisfy not only his growling stomach, but his body’s demand for nutrition.
After getting him some food and some clothes, Juma brought us to a local African trades’ center. It was basically a very old and decrepit building that looked more like a barn, and was used by the trades’ people to sell food and essentials.
Behind the stores were the rubbles of an unfinished house that served as the home of Juma and his friend Haruna. The foundation of the house was made up of rocks with dirt on top of it. Amazingly enough, grass and weeds had found its way inside the foundation of the house, and had become their place for rest and sleep.
Surrounding the two boys in the unfinished house was broken glass because the stores used it as dumping ground for glass bottles, including beer bottles. But the broken glass didn’t seem to bother the two boys, who bare feet strode through the unkind ground like it was smooth sand. I could not help but wonder how it’s possible for anyone to live like this.
Armed with a million excuses, my mind tried to quiet my giving heart with such “rational” arguments as “I don’t have the money,” “who knows how my money will be used,” “it’s the government’s problem,” “there are so many charities to support.”
It’s interesting how quick many of us are to make a judgment that excuses us from doing something. I know from experience that it doesn’t take long for the guilt to dissipate once I return to my comfort, and their story seems like nothing more than a distant memory.
I had been through it before – on several occasions. But this time, it was different. This was not just about them. It was also about me. Who am I really? Why am I here? Could it be that this very moment placed before me was an opportunity to let go of my excuses?
Maybe this was an opportunity to step into a world where unselfish love is the motivator – where living to give is my destiny. And where my giving does not only serves others, but ultimately it benefits me. I didn’t understand it at the time. But love in me removes my insecurities and my self-judgments. When love has completed its work in me, my subconscious no longer disqualifies me for the happiness and success that I inherently was made to live.
I don’t mean to bore you with my contemplations. But I discovered that giving based on guilt is far inferior to giving based on a genuine love from within. Guilt gives to save face. Guilt responds to fear. Guilt gives to stem the tide of the negative internal conflict that we instinctively know leads to depression, stress and even bad health. But it cannot stop the tide. Only genuine love that gives from a thankful heart can.
Giving based on love transforms your world. It gives you the motivation and ability to accept yourself so that you will live your destiny. It lifts you out of fear that condemns – that makes you feel like you are never quite good enough. It communicates that you are capable of being and doing more than you ever imagined or dreamed possible. This is the transformative power of Juma’s World. When we give of ourselves, which includes our hearts and our finances, we experience the transformation.
Yes…Juma’s world changes too…Today, Juma, our inspiration for Juma’s World, is in high school, and doing really well. He has all the food he needs, and lives in one of the houses that we built for him and other orphans. We also helped him experience the transformation. Juma doesn’t see himself as a beggar anymore. His internal view of himself has been replaced with a new picture. He sees himself based on love, self-respect and unlimited potential.
There are no limits, in Juma’s mind, to what he can do. His goal is to lead. He once said that he wants to be the President of his nation. The other day I received a letter from him where he told me that he is studying very hard in school because he wants help and support children the way I supported him.
But that’s not the entire story. Helping Juma did something in me…I’m not the same person I was before I met Juma. Not only do I care more about others, even those I have nothing in common with, but I’m secure and confident in the love that I feel within. It has propelled me to both accept and attract good things to happen to me.
I’m inviting you to experience the power of Juma’s World. Please join the movement that lives to give, and therefore receives more back than you can ever imagine.
– David Youngren