Yesterday I was crouched in front of 8 litres of piping hot dal, spooning it on to the plate of a child whom I didn't recognize but I feel like I should have known for years. It is easy to look down the tracks and think every house is the same, every section of the slum is just as hard off as the next, every family that fills it is the same. The children could be almost faceless, nameless, just another child wandering seemingly lost. I think, to some degree, it is a self protecting mechanism when you are face to face with a harsh reality. We glaze it over. We keep it on the surface so that we do not become weighed down with feeling helpless, guilty, angry. I looked at this child and asked him his name, asked him if he was hungry and if he wanted vegetables and an egg. He shyly answered, the faintest smile on his face. I told him he was a good boy and to go and eat his food... off he went and I don't know if ever we will meet again. I looked at him walk away and I ached to know him. To make his face familiar to us. I refuse to let him be nameless.
As this was happening two little hands covered my eyes from behind and I heard a familiar giggle. "Who is it?" I asked. No response, just a giggle and those two little hands pressing tightly, covering my eyes. I turned around and found Khusitan smiling brightly cuddling herself into my back. I immediately welled over with tears, she has been gone for weeks. She missed the start of school after the August break and the other girls just weren't as interested in going without her. I hugged her close, breathed in deep the familiar smell of the oil she puts in her hair and thanked God for her return. Almost every morning, I have been going to her home looking for her only to find no one home. Every day I grew more and more unsure that she would ever come back. Yet here she was, standing next to me again. A young girl I never thought I would know so well, I never thought I would worry about, be proud of, or see grow. She once was once nameless to me, once faceless, but now she fills my dreams. It is amazing, the relationships that we can grow on such seemingly unstable foundations. Every day I try to remember to be thankful for the small things I know about each of these children. Their giggles, pieces of their personalities, their hugs, their names, who they are friends with. Their struggles, their weakness and vulnerabilities. I am thankful to know which area of the slum they live in and what that means. I am thankful to know them and for them to know us.
I still recognize that even I glaze parts of life here over, I still try to protect myself. I don't want to do that anymore, I want to keep opening myself up in whatever quiet ways I can to serve these children more. Every now and again, I see a child struggling so hard with addiction, or disease or extreme poverty and I succumb to feeling helpless. I want to keep opening myself more, especially on the hard days when I wonder how we will make a long-lasting effect. Even more so on the days when it is difficult to serve food through the chaos, making it hard to show our love. But mostly, I want to open myself the most when faced with a child who we will have to fight hard to know because they need the fight the most.
These two steal my heart every single week