He had the cutest cheeks. Or at least I thought he did. I had never seen such rosy cheeks anywhere in my life. It was in December many years ago, and I had never been far away from home during the holidays. But I was at one of the most beautiful places in the world—Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. 

And here was this cute little kid staring up at me with the rosiest cheeks. In his hands were a bunch of little green and red birds made out of colored string, felt and feathers. He held them out to me and looked up at me with expectant eyes. I don’t know exactly why, but he reminded me of Tiny Tim.

Obviously he was poor. Someone called him a penny capitalist. I’m not sure what that means, but I think it means that he didn’t want to take a handout. He wanted to exchange goods even if he was poor. I noticed that the hotel where I was staying was fully staffed even though we were the only guests. The workers wanted the dignity of a job even if there wasn’t a guarantee that they would be paid for it.

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

As I later discovered, his rosy cheeks weren’t really a rosy situation. He was malnourished. His cheeks were not only red but also cracked because he had eaten too much corn and not enough of other nutrients.

He held out dozens of Quetzal birds to me. I bought them all. I love them. When I see them on my Christmas tree each year, they bring a happy smile to me like no other ornament.

It was my first encounter with a child living in poverty in a developing nation. It would not be my last. My eyes had been opened. I was told that the small amount of money that I paid for the birds would provide the boy and his family a good Christmas. I hope you know that the small amount that you give to a CRF child can also make a difference this time of year. And I hope it makes you smile.

“God bless us, every one!”