For all intents and purposes, the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament offers us a practical guide on charitable giving.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven,” reads Matthew 6:1.
In other words, when you give to others, it’s best to give anonymously.
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George H.W. Bush, our 41st president, it appears, was well versed in these lines of Scripture.
For 10 years, “41” sponsored a boy in the Philippines — in secret — using a pseudonym, according to Compassion International, a nonprofit organization that coordinates with local churches to help children in poor communities around the world.
President H.W. Bush, who passed away late last month at the age of 94, began sponsoring the Filipino boy — named Timothy — in 2002, when the child was seven years old. He did so for the next 10 years.
The former president sent money that went toward the child’s education, extracurricular activities, and some of his meals, according to reporting from CNN.
Recently, Compassion International shared some of Bush’s letters with CNN.
His first letter to Timothy is dated Jan. 24, 2002.
And it’s as heartwarming as it is human.
I want to be your new pen pal.
I am an old man, 77 years old, but I love kids; and though we have not met I love you already.
I live in Texas — I will write you from time to time — Good Luck. G. Walker”
While the Bush family was not available to comment on the letters, Jim McGrath, a spokesperson for the Office of George H. W. Bush, confirmed the authenticity of the letters, according to Fox8.com.
Apparently H.W. Bush was inspired to sponsor a child abroad during a concert in Washington, D.C.
— New York Post (@nypost) December 19, 2018
— Sara Sbean (@SaraSbean) December 19, 2018
“Because the musicians were mostly Christian, they believed in our mission,” Wess Stafford, the former president of Compassion International, told CNN recently.
During intermission, “they would tell the audience about us, and ask them if they would like to sponsor a child,” he said.
“All of the sudden, Mr. Bush, who was sitting only a few rows back and surrounded by security, raised his hand and asked for a pamphlet,” added Stafford.
That was the easy part.
The president’s security team was alarmed because they had no idea what exactly was included in the pamphlet, or if the information on it had been screened for authenticity, according to Stafford.
That didn’t stop Bush.
Still, the child’s security was a central concern — which is why Stafford took charge of screening every letter.
Bush didn’t make his job easy either, as he began revealing more information than he was supposed to, he said.
“His letters were the most sweet, spirited letters I have read from any sponsor, but he kept giving hints as to who he could be,” Stafford said.
“He was really pushing the envelope.”
The former president’s first security breach was sharing a picture of his dog.
“Here is a picture of our dog,” wrote the president, again using a pen name. “Her name is Sadie. She has met a lot of famous people. She is a very good dog. She was born in England. She catches mice and chipmunks, and she runs like wind. G. Walker.”
The child — fortunately — did not catch on to the hints in Bush’s letters.
He did not learn who his sponsor was until he graduated from the program at age 17.
“After a while, my executive assistant, Angie Lathrop, took over the sponsorship, and after Timothy graduated at 17, she flew to the Philippines to meet him,” Stafford told CNN. “That’s when she told him who his sponsor really was.”
Though, “G. Walker” served only one term, he’s been praised across the aisle for his lifelong commitment to public service and leadership, for his devotion as a father, a grandfather, a friend — and now, for being a giving spirit to someone he never even met.
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Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor.