This short story is based on a real occurrence while I was in Haiti post earthquake.
Seeing the young boy walking alongside his mother on the way down the broken down road I glanced at him as she approached me. The brown of the iris surrounded by the clean white of the sclera made his eyes seem to light up as he came closer. He smiled and my heartstrings yearned to talk to him. He was so young yet had already gone through so much in his short life.
“Miss, you are from America?” Her English was to the point.
“Yes, I am from America. Your boy has beautiful eyes.” I retorted.
“He is good boy. His father die in earthquake.” Her sad eyes looked into mine and I realized that I had just met yet another person who had lost a loved one, her soul mate, the provider for she and her son.
” I am so sorry.”
At that moment the boy began to make a gesture with his hands. He held them to form a circular shape and then looked up at me. I did not understand what it was that he wanted. I reached down to touch his hands as he withdrew a bit. His mother came to his aid.
“He want ball.”
“I’m so sorry, I’m here to help prepare a college and only brought things for that age group. I wish I had one to give you.”
As I spoke I shook my head no and watched his face sadden. He seemed to understand that. I thought of how I had seen no toys since having come to Haiti and only one ball that lay at the bottom of the hill near the contorted basketball hoop. The communal ball seemed to be the only one for the neighborhood. It was always near the dilapidated building on the corner of the road. The one that used to be the local hangout.
“I understand. You here for long time?” The mother looked into my eyes now as tears began to well up in hers.
“Only a short time this time. I hope to come back again and stay longer. Do you live in this area?”
“We do, but not much more time.” Her voice was sad as she glanced at the changes from the earthquake all around us. The small block houses had never had electricity nor running water but at least they had provided shelter from the elements.
“I will pray for you. God bless you all.” I had nothing else I could say. Here in this country so filled with need. I had only such much time and money to help. I turned to go on to the site where we would have lunch. I needed to cook for the rest of the missions team. They would be coming to eat soon.
“Miss, miss! I need ask you something. Do you like my son?” Her voice was desperate now. I stopped walking and looked at her again. She continued, “You like him, he is good boy. He has pretty eyes. Yes?”
“He is a beautiful child. I do love him.” I hoped my answer was what she needed to bring some joy into her life. What came next I had not expected.
“You love him like son, you take him to America.” Her voice had shifted to one of a concerned mother. I listened and knew that such a thing was not possible even if I wanted to. I could not take the child with me without the proper paperwork.
“I cannot take him. He is your son.” I voiced the truth watching as her face fell. Here in Haiti where human waste ran down the roads and clean water was hard to find she was trying to save her son from a possible death. If not death then a life filled with hardships as not many have known.
“You take him. You feed him. Take him America.” Her eyes were pools of tears now. She was willing to give up her son to save him. Their future was not promising in that moment.
“I am sorry. I cannot.” I turned again and began to climb the hill watching each footstep as not to twist my ankle on the debris and loose rocks worn over time. I turned to see the pair as they began to descend the road. Then, in that moment she too turned to look at me. The woman who she had just offered her child to. She turned and smiled in my direction as once again my heartstrings began to be yanked to and fro. Looking into her face I saw a mother with such love for her son. She was willing to give him up to give him a better life. I turned and ran up the hill into the house and wept from my very soul. Lunch today would be late.
Here in the US as in many places that are blessed to have food on the table each day we doubt that we can help others in need. That lady, that day, taught me that we have so many things that we do not need and yet do not offer them up to those who are starving. Since then I have begun to realize that many things we think we need to have are in fact things we want. She will never have that liberty. Doubting that you can help is a cultural thing. Just food for thought.