Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's okay to treat these boys like human beings

Today was an awesome adventure.  I made my way into town around 9:30 this morning. I found  couple of decks of cards and headed to Khetia's, which is a grocery store here in town.  It's also where a number of street boys hang out.  I walked up and there was what appeared to be a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk playing the guitar.  He had a small bowl out for people to put money in - no different than we ften see back in the States.  I walked just past him, set my bag down and pulled out a deck of cards.  A street boy sat down a few yards away and watched.  As I shuffled the cards I invited him over and asked if he wanted to play a game.  He was very eager.  In fact, 2 more of his friends came with him then.  We were all sitting next to the building, not in the way of foot traffic at all.  There was me, Alex-Juma, Bryan and I honestly cannot remember the other boy's name.  I started by showing them one of the 2 magic tricks that I know; they thought it was col, but most people do :).  I give credit to Jim Vomero for showing me the trick.

I showed the 3 boys how to play the game War.  They picked it up pretty quickly and were smiling and having a good time.  We were probably sitting there for about 10 minutes playing the game.  A few people stopped and starred - it's not every day a white guy is here playing cards on the street like this.  Then a security guard came over and told me that I had to leave.  I told him no.  I said that I am playing a game of cards with my new friends and if the other guy can play his guitar here, then I can play cards.  He wasn't going for it.  he insisted that I am not allowed on the property or on the sidewalk.  After about a minute of debate I looked at the boys and told them, "we have to go play over there in the dirt because this guy's a jerk".  They laughed a bit and followed me across the street.  I must have dropped my sunglasses in that short time because as one of them followed me, he handed them back to me.  First, that's crazy!  I wouldn't have been at all surprised if one of them had kept my glasses without me knowing it.  I felt truly honored by this child's honesty; it really is a rare occurrence here.

We finished our game of war a few minutes later.  The boys taught me a card game next.  I think that this is huge.  Sure, I could have sat there and taught them another game, maybe Go-Fish or something.  But I wanted to learn from them.  Yes, that's right!  It's not just about what I can teach, but what I can learn too.  Personally, I think that far too many of our Christian Ministries focus solely on the church being the hero and teaching everything.  But very rarely are those ministries able to learn from those that they are helping. Sure, this was just a card game.  I get that.  But it's also a focus for me to learn from these boys.  Not just cards.  I want to learn whatever I can from them; it just started with cards today.

During this whole time, many others stopped and starred.  These boys never once asked me for a single thing.  I loved that!  The one boy was sniffing some glue.  I pointed at the bottle and told him that it was bad for him.  That was it.  I wasn't going to make a big deal out of it.  Yes, it's wrong and they shouldn't do it.  But I wanted to meet these kids right where they were.  I wanted to show them and the others around that I care about and love these kids regardless of what they are doing.

Eventually, it was time for me to leave.  The boys handed me the cards back and we said goodbye.  I told them that I'd be back tomorrow and we can play more cards.  I walked back over to the security guard.  I had planned on just asking him some questions.  But then he glared at me, and with an attitude in his voice said, "are you finally done now?".  There went my nice, calm questions...I walked closer to him and told him, "you know, you sit on your butt all day in that chair and don't pay attention to these kids at all.  i had to come all the way here from another country to pay attention to them while you just sit there.  You let this man play guitar on the sidewalk, but won't allow me to play a game of cards.  No body was being disturbed at all.  You should be ashamed of yourself!".  After that, I turned and walked away.  Feeling a bit more like a man for standing up for these boys.

By no means am I saying that this guard should be taking care of the street boys, or feeding them or anything.  But, seriously, he sits on a chair outside of a back entrance.  There are street kids all around him.  The least he could do is say some kind words to them.  It's such an injustice to see so many kids - young kids! - ignored and rejected every day.  Yes, there is a lifestyle that plays into why some of them are on the streets.  I get that.  I really do.  But, these are kids!  They need to be shown that people care about them.  They need to be loved by someone, not rejected by everyone.  So, I'm going back to the same place tomorrow.  I'm taking my deck of cards and a checkers board.  I'm sitting down with these kids again.  And we're going to play some games.  People need to see that it's okay to talk with these boys.  It's okay to shake their hand.

It's okay to treat these boys like human beings.  

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