I am not about to post this story to boost my self-esteem, nor am I sharing this to make me feel better about myself. I am only desiring to spread awareness of the needs of the poor, orphans, and widows. We too often live in our own warm, safe, bubble-like lives free of worry (and even our problems are trivial compared to what the majority of the poverty stricken world encounters). I am, by no means, attempting to down-play your problems or hardships. I am merely sharing a story that I feel none of us have ever, nor will ever experience. Ever.
I woke up one morning feeling chipper and bubbly. I had been paid oh-so-generously by a client for whose family I photographed, and I was going to spend some of it on something I wanted! If you know me and money, you know that I mostly save it, or spend it only on something super important, or on someone else. But I felt this time I could buy something for myself guilt free. After all, I had earned it, didn't I?
I arranged for SuperDan to watch Sitora, and headed off to my destination: Accessorize! (AKA: Baku's version of Claire's). I had eyeballed an adorable owl necklace a few weeks before and desperately wanted it hanging around my neck. I am picky with jewelry, so if I see something I like, I am mesmerized and sucked in. I had waited all these weeks to make sure that I really wanted it. (A good friend of mine once gave me this advice: "If you think you want a tattoo, wait a year to think about it. If you are certain you still want it, then proceed. If not, don't get it!") Of course I've never gotten a tattoo, but I took this advice and used it towards accessories :)
I had my ipod turned up loud while I bounced down the streets wistfully dreaming of my precious owl necklace-to-be. (My sister-in-law Olivia may or may not have something to do with this infatuation...) I saw my store and was about to bolt inside, when all of a sudden I spotted two beggar children wandering in circles aimlessly, around, and around, and around.
My heart stopped. Then started. Then pounded.
They were being shooed away by security guards, and one passerby kicked them away.
My eyes filled with tears.
My righteous anger tank filled to the brim.
Here I was, about to walk inside a store to buy a frivolous piece of jewelry, that I really really wanted. Was I just about to pass these children by and let them be tormented and hated?
I stopped in my tracks and turned around towards them, only to find them chased off by a security guard. This time he meant business. They bolted down the street and turned the corner. What was I to do? I turned my walk into a light jog and started my manhunt.
I finally reached the corner where they turned. I looked down the alley. No sight of them. "Father, please lead me to them. I need to find them." I prayed.
I walked and walked and walked. I turned one last corner and squinted my eyes to see as far down the road as possible. And there they were. I found them. This time the girl was rolling her eyes and wobbling around from side to side, and the boy was crying out like an injured animal. Whether or not they were faking, NO CHILD should have to live this kind of life. Period. Can you picture your child doing this?
I walked, then jogged to reach them. They were walking away as fast as I could catch up. So finally, in one last attempt I shouted in Azeri, "Girl, come here!" She turned around in fear and curiosity. I beckoned her to come near. Her brother (I'm guessing he was anyway) came with her. They sheepishly looked up at my face. I asked them, "Don't you have parents? Don't you go to school? Are you hungry?"
Yes they had parents. No they didn't go to school. Yes they were hungry.
"I am going to go to McDonalds and will bring you cheeseburgers, fries, cola, and ice cream. Would you like that?"
They nodded yes.
"Wait here and I'll come back."
My heart was pounding with compassion and helplessness. I was doing so much and yet so little. There are beggar children and adults everywhere in this city. It's impossible to meet all their needs, or change their situation unless you work for a humanitarian organization or have some serious power. All I could offer was this meal. My language is meager, at best. There's not much counseling or support I can give besides money or food at this point.
When I came back with Happy Meals and ice cream cones in hand, they children came running at me with gigantic smiles. They ran from all the way across the street with their arms open wide. As they took the bag from me they delicately wiped the ice cream off my hands that had accidentally smudged. I looked them both tenderly in the eyes, put my hands on their shoulders, and smiled down at them... I'm pretty sure it was the only smile they'd seen all day. They thanked me, then ran off together and found a secluded concrete slab on which to dine on.
I will never forget this moment.
I then proceeded to go back into the store to by my owl necklace. Somehow it didn't seem to matter all that much anymore. Now every time I wear that necklace, I think of them and ask Father to protect and provide for his two darling, precious children.
Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for my Father in heaven.