06 September 2007
feed the children
I think we’ve mentioned before how we get to feed the kids of the local squatter camp a couple of times a week.
For such a mundane thing – simply handing out food to children – it has yet to lose its attraction. I don’t know that it ever will.
The children never get tired of it either. Throngs of dirty, little, half-clothed munchkins line up faithfully. They take their bowls of food and scurry off to start the glorious act of filling their empty bellies.
As they squat on the ground or sit on the curb, they scoop up the rice or the pap or the chicken or the porridge with their little hands and manage to get most of it into their mouths. After only a few minutes, the bowl has been cleaned out and the now satisfied, energized child brings it back to us. Usually, he runs off to chase a soccer ball strewn together with garbage. Usually, she skips away giggling with her friends.
Then, the whole thing sort of ends. We look at each other as the children wander off, as the empty bowls pile up, and as the children disappear. We don’t really smile. We just sort of make this deep eye contact. We remember that, amongst all of the things we are here to do, this simple thing can never be fully appreciated. It can’t even really be communicated, although I try.
The future for most of these children is bleak. They grow up in conditions that promote violence and selfishness, in a place that is crawling with alcoholism, drug-abuse, sexual-abuse, and disease. We have seen a few of these children go from childhood to adolescence and we have watched their innocence disappear. They quickly go from sweet, loving babies to bullying, stealing, lying teens. And one can’t blame them, the tougher you are the more you eat. If you can lie or cheat or steal your way into more food or someone else’s sweater, then you’re ahead.
Despite that, we love them for who they are and who they will inevitably become.