Two beautiful little children, sitting on a shopping cart along side a blanket, a small bag and a neatly folded blue tarpaulin. A young woman stands next to them, fearful and apologetic, begging to feed the little bodies beside her. The woman holds a cardboard with a sign – “Please help. Hungry Children.” Most eyes that meet her’s are sympathetic but not generous.
They are near a grocery store. I walked past them and I don’t know why but I return to the woman to talk to her, only to realize her response is in a language I do not comprehend. It is likely the words on the cardboard are not her’s. This land and the language are both foreign to her.
I start walking back to the store. But it is a sight hard to ignore.
She smiles and bows down slightly when an offering comes her way. Her children do not make noise or ask for the loaf of bread she has just been offered. They are patient and know that this may be the only thing they get to share and eat for days. They do not go to a school. They do not need to shop for back to school. They wear hand me downs that are a size bit too small. Survival is their classroom and life is their only teacher. They have learnt to live, a day at a time, savor one meal at a time and rest on tarpaulin when too tired.
Why are they on the streets ? There are tons of organizations that help people who seek refuge from another country or need help and shelter. But they are there and there must be a reason. I am beginning to leave things at that.
I have more questions than answers but on my way back from the store, I offer the children something’s out of my grocery bag. I can go back home and donate online and find a shelter or talk to an NGO and do all the right things. But I cannot walk past what is in front of me and instead wait to offer something that may not ever reach these kids. I make peace with the smile on the face of the little boy as he bites into the peach. I had offered him an apple but his eyes had remain fixated to the sight of the peaches popping out of my shopping bag.
What must be life like after losing home, loved ones, traveling thousands of miles and then not knowing where the next meal comes from or where you would spend the night safely ? What must the children make of this sort of life ? There is after all nothing child like left in it.
It is a sight that follows me most everywhere I go these days. That family of four sitting on the lawns outside of Walmart, their girls as old as mine. The mother with her infant on the bench of the park or the elderly couple with the little boy outside the library . And many more. The same uncertain looks on their faces, their tired bodies, their sense of not belonging to where they presently are and still a glint of hope in their eyes.
They have escaped bloodshed or poverty at home, sailed through darkness or flown across the seas, in hope of refuge and a desire to belong. They have defied death and misery but lost a home in the process. Every other loss is trivial in comparison to that. A tiny blue tent gives shelter at nights. By the day light, they stand uncertain and sad, begging to survive in a land foreign to them and a language they can hardly comprehend.
As I begin to leave the parking lot, it begins to drizzle amidst strong sunshine. I notice the blue tarpaulin is now drawn over the cart and two tiny heads are peeping from underneath it.
They may never belong, they may never find a home. They will survive with what is left – the warmth of the sun, the sight of a beautiful rainbow,the blue tarpaulin and a tiny tent of hope.
Picture Credit : Chatoveracuppa photo respository , Story Credit : Piya Mukherjee Kalra