BTR, children, hope, theology

On my way home

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.

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3 thoughts on “On my way home”

  1. Children shrouded in misery and suffering in pain are a tragic fact of our time, and perhaps, since human beings began to inundate planet earth. There may be many causes of this tragedy, but I think the reality of power in the hands of greedy and selfish humans is the primary reason for it. Children who suffer are a most heart rending force that compel us to accept that we belong to same basic stuff—the fact of our humanity. You have been assailed by the better angels of your nature which is the essence of our being human that made you feel solidarity with the child beggars you encountered. And your little reflection makes people who are sensitive to their humanity to think, and perchance to act to alleviate such misery.

    Yet helping the helpless throws us into a very deep quandary. The poor, the oppressed and the powerless are also a slice of fallen humanity. I have been involved in helping the poor, they can exploit you and make their poverty a means of making an easy kind of survival. Perhaps a person to person relationship that transcends the act of mere giving and penetrates the tender elements of the poor and powerless is a better way than creating structures that keep the poor from being denied the essential requirements of being human; but the problem is how can we develop human beings who would have the ethos of a Mother Teresa. Lord Chesterton said that “it is not so much that Christianity has failed as it is that it has never been tried.”

    This debate is at the very heart of the conflict between ‘evangelizers’ and the ‘revolutionaries.’ Those who plead for evangelism can use it as a cloak to cover their greed for money and power, those who plead for radical change may and do use the poor as a tool to grab power and install themselves as the rulers of society.

    Can there be a democracy with genuine socialism at its heart, or the other way around, a socialism that is truly democratic. I think we should move in that direction. In the meantime, I do appreciate your genuine sympathy for the two beggar boys, and I hope something concrete can come out of it to alleviate their suffering and hunger.

    1. Thank you for your response. I have done it before. We opened our home to an 11 year old boy who called himself Ericson. I wish I could say that I changed his life but I think he changed mine. Giving him shelter, food and love, was not enough. He, and countless children need more. I was compelled to seek to transform the world through evangelizations and, yes, revolutions. I think they go together.

  2. My wife and I did it too, when we were younger and had some expendable resources. It was not easy to say the least, but it did give us a feeling of participating in God’s grace and goodness. I think we were able to extricate one family out of poverty; they had a little girl who I think is in college now. We were part of the ministry of IRC—Institute of Religion and Culture, In some cities in the Visayas, particularly Cebu and Dumaguete, it was able to turn pedicabs drivers from renters of pedicabs to owners; it also broke the power of “five-six” operators by offering vendors a very easy way of borrowing small capital for their businesses. But IRC, in spite of many years of its operation, has made just a very slight dent in getting people out of poverty.

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