Thursday, February 10, 2011

Community. Togetherness.

My heart hurts.

As in a real ache in my chest.

Today I visited a "community center," of sorts, for streets kids in one of the provinces.

It's run by an elderly Filipino woman, who takes no crap from nobody. (I, of course, immediately fell in love with her.)

She speaks and those kids listen. She speaks to them in Tagalog, so I don't know what she says, but I saw the way the kids reacted to her, and now I aspire to be just like her.

There were about 45 kids this particular day, and we had them make fruit salad. Which at first, seemed a little strange. But then I saw their reaction to the fruit...

For many of these kids fruit is a luxury they don't have. And if they do get fruit, it's only on very special occasions, like Christmas.

Each child had their own bowl, plastic knife, and banana. In the middle of the table were bowls, of mangos, papayas, strawberries, cantaloupes, melons, and grapes.

Once their hands were washed, and they had said their prayer they were given the green light to dig in... and boy, did they ever.

There were kids who stuffed fruit in their mouths like they hadn't eaten in days... and maybe they hadn't. Then there were kids who very carefully cut up the fruit in small pieces, taking care to cut each piece just right to make a perfect fruit salad.

Some of the children had never seen grapes before. And tried to peel them before eating them. It took a bit before we could convince them to just put the whole thing in their mouths.

I don't know what it was about watching that scene, but it took all I had not to get emotional.

We've lived here for almost 2 years, and I have witnessed many sad situations.

I have seen the children who dig through the trash looking for recyclable goods in hopes of getting money for their families, I have seen mother's bathing their naked toddlers in the streets with only the rain water from the gutters, I have sat at a red light, while a woman with a breast-feeding infant pressed herself against the window and begged for spare change.

I have seen a level of poverty that many don't even know exists.

For half an hour I watched these kids shovel fruit in their mouths.

I heard the silence, because there were no words more important than putting food in their bellies.

And after some of the smallest children had finished their share, I watched the older ones feed them from their own bowls.

There was a sense of community. Togetherness.

A sense of helping others in-spite of having little yourself.

If there are 50+ children who go hungry in just this one small community, how many children are starving across the country, or across the world?

It makes a fruit salad feel small and me insignificant.

I held back tears the whole way home.