Time and time again I see people look at street children and mendicants with cold detachment.
One afternoon I was in a jeepney waiting for other passengers to fill in the remaining seats when a seven year old boy climbed up and went around asking for money. He wore a white shirt that looked bluish brown from dirt, his feet have dried mud, and his slippers looked like an unrecognizable piece of worn out rubber. His appearance was noticeably from years of malnutrition and neglect. He was generally a picture of poverty.
As soon as I saw the boy, I immediately looked at the people around and watched their expressions. Though I knew what will happen, as I have seen this many times, I still observed them. Most were quiet and didn’t make a move, maybe wanting the boy to turn around and leave right away.
The passengers cringed in their seat, to give way to the boy, obviously from discomfort.
In front of me were two adults, two little girls and two teenagers, who were daintily dressed and looked well-fed. They looked like they have a comfortable life. They had tall glasses of fruit shakes they bought from the mall, and an aunt had a J.CO box on her lap.
The boy pauses a little longer in front of the girls and looked at their drinks. The girls hold tightly to their companion when he made that sad face and opened his palm. The adult’s formal expression made the street kid leave the jeep right away.
Most of the people there were also well dressed with grocery bags and foodies on their laps.
After the boy left, I heard the adults speak to each other with smirks on their faces, about the boy being there all the time and always asking for money. They say it in a way to draw out approval from other passengers.
Can’t they see their child in that boy? What if for one moment, it is their child?
Life in this world is not easy for millions of poor children, and that boy is a manifestation of every poor children around the world. When parents are poor it is the children who suffer the most. They suffer from the inability of the parents to provide a decent life, from the incompetency of the government and the inhumanity of the people around them.
I can’t imagine the boy being there every day, and watched the kids in their nice clothes with their parents, and eating food that the boy can only dream of.
Can we fathom the sadness in his young heart? Maybe asking God why he is in that situation, while the other children are in a better position than him. I wonder if he even goes to school.
I wonder if he has been inside the mall. I have never seen a boy like him at the mall. I am sure the guards would always drive him away because the mall customers will not be comfortable if they see dirty street kids roam the mall without an adult companion.
How much does a donut cost, a small glass of shake, and a cheeseburger meal? Does he know how this food tastes?
I flinched when I saw someone gave away his half glass of shake to a kid on the street.
Sometimes street kids insist on asking for the food of people when they see them eating. A better thing do is maybe giving the boy some coins so he could buy his own drink.
For other people who have jobs, whose life is in perfect order, have we for a moment looked at other human beings’ suffering in the same world we are living?
We go home and sleep in our comfortable bed, and are assured of the next meal. And so we cannot connect to others, whose life is different from ours.
We just see them us poor people, and so they can’t afford to buy food and things that we can easily and regularly buy.
People always have this to say about children beggars: they are in the street because their parents are irresponsible, lazy and some are even druggies, which is often true, but is it the children’s fault?
Are we here to punish them even more?
That is why we do not feel a sense of accountability for another human being who has nothing, while sometimes we have more than what we need. Because we think it is not our fault, and not our duty.
Maybe that kid was still collecting coins for his lunch, while we are already eating our fancy desserts.
Another time, around 6:00 pm, two boys ages eight to nine sat next to me in a jeepney, the younger one was whispering to me – “Ate, pambili lang ng pagkain”. (Older sister, just some money for food) I asked them where they are going – they said: “we are going home now.” They looked so dirty and sounded tired.
I took out a P 20 bill and handed it to the kid; I heard a sigh of relief from him. He said thank you and sat quietly. After a while, I asked him to give me back the P 20 and I gave him P 100 instead. He held the P 100 bill so tightly, and looked out the window the whole ride.
As soon as I told the driver to stop the jeep, he turned towards me, and said “thank you Ate” many times, until I got off the jeep. The jeep moved slowly – the two boys now are smiling and waving to me and saying in a much louder voice… “Ate thank you! Ate thank you!” I waved back at them. I could not forget the smile on their faces and their hands waving at me. They looked so happy. Maybe they were my angels.
I am sure they have already heard all kinds of words of ridicule and scoldings from people who will only give a peso, and yet felt like they had already given the kid half the money in their wallet.
It was not my purpose to give them money for food; I want to give them more.
I want to give them hope. Hope is important for children whose life is full of challenges. Children most of all are vulnerable to hard life.
I want them to know that life may be difficult for them right now, but there are people who care for them – that alone will make them feel that they are a part of the society they can only look from outside, and for them to always remember that they also have a place in this world, where opportunities will open for them, because they are not ignored.
I know I will always be a story in their young life. A positive and happy story.
Those of us, who have more, let us share what we have with the street children we encounter – we have no monopoly of God’s blessings.
Let us not make life more painful for them, by letting them stare at the food we eat and not share.
It will not hurt us to make sure, that if an angel stare us in the face, we do not leave him hungry.
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