Last month I wrote a story for Seattle’s Child that touched me in several ways.
It was a 2011 story about the sweet birthday wish of an about-to-turn-9-year-old girl named Rachel Beckwith, who was the same age as my youngest daughter that year. She asked her friends and family not to buy her gifts for her birthday, but instead donate money to an organization building water wells in remote African villages. As a mom, I know birthdays are a big deal to kids and opening gifts is part of the fun. Her birthday wish impressed me.
It was a story about the difference we can all make, often with just the smallest of actions, and never know we’ve made it. Rachel died in a car accident, not far from my home, the month after her birthday. Her simple wish, though, lived on beyond her wildest dreams. Rachel had been disappointed to raise only $220. Imagine her surprise if she knew friends and family, and folks from across the entire world, turned her wish into $1.2 million, enough to deliver clean water to 37,700 people.
It was a story about loss and love, and hope. Rachel may never know the impact she made, but those her love her know, and those who didn’t know her, but love her story, we know, too. It has changed the way we think of simple kindnesses. And of those whose lives she directly changed? They certainly know, they live out her wish each and every day as they pump fresh water to drink and cook and bathe in.
There is a well, and a commemorative plaque, on the other side of the world, in Tigray, Ethiopia, honoring the significant contribution Rachel made in her much-too-short life. Her mom traveled there a year after Rachel’s death to visit the community and meet the people whose lives her daughter changed.
Last month marked the five-year anniversary of Rachel’s death. Her mother is launching a new campaign in her daughter’s memory.
Rachel’s spirit lives on.
Read my Seattle’s Child story: Local Girl’s 9th Birthday Wish Delivers Clean Water to 37,700 People
Or, skip the reading and make a donation to the new water campaign: 5 Years Later
Local Girl’s 9th Birthday Wish Delivers Clean Water to 37,700 People