30 January 2o21
He introduced himself, stating his age…12. Impossible, I thought. My friend echoed my thoughts…12? Surely, he is closer to 8? Eight…that would make him my son’s age but he looked younger still. No, he wasn’t lying, he was 12. His stick-like arms and legs told the truth. The barely-there clothes, he wore, one too many holes and far too small. He lived 25 minutes drive from me. From where my children looked their age. Had a closet full of clothes. Just 25 minutes. How could there be such disparity?
He was one of forty children we were hanging out with that day. It was supposed to be only thirty but word travels fast! We were there to teach them about sex trafficking awareness (something prevalent in areas with underprivileged children), some self-defense moves, and a few fun exercises to keep them active and off the “streets”. We had also been blessed with an amazing array of stationery supplies, toiletries, and clothes donations for each of the children.
There was nowhere safe nor big enough inside their “informal settlement” to host all of them so we drove them back and forth in the pelting rain to a nearby center, water coming up to the top of my little car’s tires due to many flooded roads, squishing in more little bodies than the car had ever experienced before, yet, they fit, they were so thin.
But, oh the joy! The pure joy, they expressed! Glee. Glee in hearing that they were to receive toiletries that day. Toothbrushes and toothpaste. Glee over the news of stationary coming their way. My heart filled with joy too and broke a little at the same time. My ears rung with their little voices…all chatting away at the same time. The excitement was tangible.
I had come to teach them, to give them advice, to give them gifts. But they gave me so much more. We talked about their hopes for the future…their dreams? To be doctors, lawyers, soldiers, firemen…oh God, let it be so, I prayed. Let their strong spirits, fortitude, and pure joy over simple things not be destroyed. Protect them and help them see their desires come to fruition. I learned a lot that day. Lessons I hope I don’t forget soon. Gratitude. Hope. The blessing of living in the moment. That great joy can come even in the days filled with the most rain.
A huge thank you to all of our friends and family who made this day possible…who generously donated their time, clothes, stationery supplies, and money for stationery supplies, toiletries, and baking skills! We cannot help these precious children without you! Thank you!