On my way home while riding a jeepney, two young boys about 10 years old, boarded the jeep to beg for money at separate times. The first one had no expression on his face, said nothing and just dropped liitle envelopes where you can place coins or bills. After a few minutes, he collected them again and got off the next stop.The other boy had a tired and sad look on his face, dropped envelopes as well, then sang a song that goes something like –
“I remember you, Father.
Mother and I remember you everyday.
I dreamt that we would meet again someday.
But will that remain only a dream?
I love you and you will always remain with me.
And I hope someday that my dream will come true.”
He had a clear voice but it was not a beautiful melody. It was almost like a monologue with a song being made along the way. I don’t know if I was imagining it, but I think I saw him teary-eyed. I wanted to say, “Where do you live?” I wanted to get off the jeep when he got off to offer to buy him food. But I did not. I just looked at him. All the other passengers did the same. I had placed two coins in his small envelope but did nothing more. With the woman beside him making sure that their bodies did not touch, so many thoughts crossed my mind in that brief moment that we sat across each other: “Does he have a mother and a home to go home to? Or is he being forced to beg by a criminal group preying on young children? Could his mother be looking for him? If I go down the jeep to feed him, will I be safe? Would he ask me more than I can give him?” When he got off the jeepney, I saw him cross the street and ride the next jeepney going the opposite way. He will probably do the same thing. He will beg from people like me, again and again.
Why did I not do more? Why did I not care enough to say a word and make sure he is fed, at least just for tonight? How can a mother like me, let a child, so like my young son, walk away with so much hunger? And then I realized that he is not one but many. So many. We are creating beggars by our apathy. They are children and adults. Male and female. They are not just in Tacloban and nearby cities. The same hunger and begging, survival and desperation has surrounded us for a long time. Too long. I am sad about what we have become.
We must remember that we are the same. The two boys and I are the same. No one is ever unworthy of a kind word or a good meal. We must teach ourselves again to reach out and to care. We must seek to create a better world with every child in need we come face to face everyday.