(This post was originally written on January 24, 2010.)
As we were walking down the red dirt road home from church, I noticed something I hadn’t seen on the way there as I had been too intent on making sure we were going the right way and taking all the turns we needed to take.
There was a “village” of sorts just down the street from where we went for church. The whole place was literally made of rusted metal pieces and cardboard. The “houses” (which weren’t even big enough to stand up in) looked like they were mostly falling over, and people had attempted to prop them up with sticks. There were clotheslines throughout the place with ragged clothes and blankets strung across them. Women hunched over small fires. Dogs wandered slowly around, scrounging for scraps.
It was one of those sights that you don’t think you’ll ever see other than in a National Geographic magazine…you assume subconsciously that there isn’t actually anyone still out there that lives like that in the 21st century.
I got a little choked up as I dealt with the emotions of actually seeing such poverty first-hand for the first time, but we continued walking down the path. It was only a few seconds until I heard the happy laughter of children. I looked behind me and there were about 2 dozen kids running towards us. One little girl came up and grabbed my hand and laughed merrily up at me–she appeared to be about six or seven years old. I clung tightly to her hand and tried not to cry as I asked her her name.
“Lydia.” She laughed again.
As I was watching Lydia’s beaming face, a hand clutched at my other arm. I looked over and there was a beautiful girl who looked to be 10 years old. She was holding a baby. I smiled and asked her her name.
“I am Brenda!” She held tighter to my arm. I drew my arm in so her hand was against me.
I told both the girls my name. Brenda’s face lit up and she motioned to the baby in her arms. “This is Grace, too! You both are Grace.” I found out that the baby was her sister and they all lived back in the village. By this time there were about three little kids holding onto my left hand, Lydia was clutching my wrist, a little boy was holding my right hand, and Brenda still had my arm…the rest were all trailing behind, pushing and laughing to have a turn to hold my hand. As soon as she had a chance, Brenda took my hand and interlaced her fingers through mine. She squeezed tightly and said “I want you to be my friend.”
I choked back more tears and told her I would love to be her friend. She sighed happily and started swinging our hands back and forth as she skipped along next to me, still holding her baby sister. Little Lydia put herself in charge of making sure that all the littlest kids who were running along to keep up had a chance to hold my hand. She never let go herself, but clung to my wrist, and would call the other children and let them hold my hand–about three of them at a time. It was absolutely precious. I wanted to stay with those kids all day long!
We eventually got back home and had to tell them goodbye. They waved and ran off to head back to their homes in the village. I wanted to run with them and play with them. I wanted to love on them and be their friend. I want to go back to that village and see them.
As I sit here typing this, I’m looking at my hand. I still have dirt all the way up my arm from their sweaty grimy hands. I don’t want to wash it off.
The thing that struck me was how happy and joyful these children were. It was an absolutely beautiful thing to see!