I think we are all some what familiar with the emotions that come with feeling left out.
Feeling like you don’t fit in.
But I can’t even begin to fathom what it feels like for my own parents not to want me or be able care for me. To roam the streets looking for food and shelter. Constantly looking over my shoulder wondering who is safe and not safe.
I have no idea what it feels like to have hunger pains serving as constant reminders that I don’t have parents to protect me and feed me. That I don’t have a mom who’s going to make me eat my broccoli or to drink my milk.
Todays experience will forever be etched in my mind.
Two precious little ones walked up to me selling lollipops, while we were enjoying a lunch out as a family at a local restaurant. I looked at them in the eye and smiling at them I responded with, “No, thank you.” If you ever have a homeless or street person approach you, always look them in the eye and smile. I once had a homeless teen share how it makes them feel like a person when someone does that. So I feel very strongly about looking them in the eye, and smiling as I respond with, “No, thank you.”
I watched these little kids walk away and I felt my heart tugging at me whispering–buy them something to eat.
They were around my own kids ages, so I usually struggle with my emotions as I watch them walk away. I imagine my little ones having to live that life and my heart breaks.
So on this day, I gave into my emotions. I gave into the heart tug.
My children were watching this unfold before them, wondering what I was going to do. I asked the little kids, “Have you eaten? The little three year old immediately said with a smile, “Yes, I ate rice.” His older sister who was around 7 years old, has probably learned that you always respond with an emphatic “no” when asked this question. So she said, “No, we haven’t.” I offered to get them lunch even though I had a strong suspicion they had already eaten. I walked down the stairs with them and on our way down, one of the employees, “shooed” them out of the restaurant. I was a few steps ahead of them so I didn’t realize that the guard cornered them. I turned around and said sternly, “They are with me.”
I had to say this at least another 10 times while waiting in line to order our food. At one point the restaurant guard grabs them and tells them to leave. I was caught off guard at how aggressive he was and I immediately said or maybe yelled, “No! They are with me.”
He proceeds to tell me that I can’t’ buy theses precious children food. Oh, little did he know he was messing with the wrong person. He had no idea who he was about to argue with. I gave him my meanest momma bear look and said, “Yes. I. Am.” He repeats himself, as if I didn’t hear him the first time. So I made it clear to him and firmly said,
“This is my money.
I AM buying them food.
They are with me.”
Thankfully, I was able to muster up enough courage to continue this debate with him because everything inside me wanted to breakdown and cry, while screaming, “You big bully, leave them alone. Let them have 10 minutes of feeling like they belong. Give them 10 minutes to feel they are wanted that some one cares for them.”
He finally backed off.
I ordered. We sat at the table and they happily ate and quickly stuffed their face. They had 10 minutes of peacefully eating their food without worrying about being yanked out of this establishment. Then they happily enjoyed their ice cream with a huge smile on their face. Just like little kids are supposed to, not on the streets battling with men twice as tall as them.
They happily walked out through the glass door, skipping away (yes, they skipped out the door) and yelled back at me, “Gracias!”. I was able to keep the tears in and I smiled at them. Then I walked back to my family and over to my husband and broke down and cried. My kids watched me cry. My kids heard me recount the details of the aggressive guard. May my boys forever remember this incident. May they always know how important it is to reach out and stand up for those who have no voice.
This was probably the only 10 minutes when this little 7 year old girl didn’t have to wear boxing gloves as she protected and defended her little brother and herself.
Ten minutes of feeling wanted. Hearing someone repeat over and over again, “They are with me.”I can’t imagine the lives these sweet precious children have to go through on a daily basis.
Ten minutes of smiling and enjoying being kids.
Ten minutes of not wondering who was going to sneak up on them and throw them out.
Ten minutes of interacting with an adult who didn’t want something from them.
I can’t imagine waking up everyday and being reminded that you’re not wanted around. To go throughout the day, constantly hearing, “Leave. Get out of here. Vayase….” because who wants to experience the uncomfortable feelings of eating a meal, while street kids linger around. But maybe, just maybe, we need to be uncomfortable every now and then so we can open our eyes to the atrocities these little ones have to bear at such a young age.
Note: We are constantly around street children, so we’ve learned to listen to our instincts. Some children have approached us and aggressively have asked for money and we quickly walk away. For the most part, we don’t give money to street kids. Unfortunately, many kids are forced to go out and beg and then they have to give their money to a “pimp” of some sort. So, they never see any of that money. In all of it, I always try to remember to smile but firmly let them know where I stand. Also, I do understand restaurant establishments not wanting street kids around because some of them do steal or persistently stand beside you and beg, but I do NOT understand treating them harshly.
image via Wikimedia Commons