DISSONANCE AND JASMINE
Dissonant pitches cry out from the darkness like a modern day Pied Piper to the child of the street. In large part, these wild, grease covered, hungry, and half-stoned children answer the call of the wild.
Andy is a child of the street. Mere skin and bones, his smile stretches from ear to ear and he is covered with pimply bumps. His hunger is insatiable. He is cocky, confident and without a care in the world or so it seems.
I sit with a few of the young ladies from the church as Andy proudly counts, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 35, 51, 52, 53. Unknown to him he has miscounted.
“Try the alphabets, Andy, one of the girls suggest.”
“a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, u, r, s, t, v….”
We all laugh, including Andy. Twelve years of age; his ears are one-third the size of his head and he is missing one of his front teeth.
“Again, again. Start over and try again,” the girls plead.
But each time he miscounts and recites the alphabet out of order unashamed and without frustration. Such was the case when we took him swimming. Time after time he dropped his shorts and dove into the water stark naked. Clothing was a laborious and unnecessary duty. Modesty? Non-existent. Such behaviors are the result of living on the street. There is no privacy. One lives in a bubble. It is a survival tactic I hardly understand.
Eight deep, the crowd presses around street families and vendors. For them, privacy is an intangible idea, a commodity afforded the rich. Yet this breed of survivors live within the comfort of their anonymity, unashamed and unmoved by the world around them. I liken it to a game of peek and boo. If the child can’t see you, he believes he is unseen. This ever growing people group, in large part, live their lives unaffected by their surroundings. Rugby, the drug of the day, makes it that much more feasible to live out this disconnect. It is said to be comparable to “ecstasy” but apparently, its damaging effects are much more destructive to the mind than any of its victims could anticipate.
Joseph, everyone says, was a very good salesman. He is a hard worker and has raised the most money in recent fund raisers. His boss claimed to have lost a prized salesman when he left his job selling newspapers to return to school last year. But the mind of this ex-rugby user is yet deteriorating from the effects of Rugby use in times past. 17 years of age and he tests at pre-kinder level. Until recently corrected, he claimed he was 14 years of age. Emotionally, he is closer to 9. Today he cannot complete first grade math without assistance. He speaks one word sentences and lacks the ability to enunciate his words. Recently, he waited an hour for water at a store that had already closed for the day and would probably still be there if we had not gone after him. Now our greatest hope for him is that of a domestic servant.
12 year old Renal desperately wants to go to school. One second he is smiling and chimes, “Good morning.” The next, he is crying for no valid reason. For Renal, the call of the street is so over powering that he answers its every whim though his entire future may hang in the balance. Three times in two days he has disappeared without notice. He vanished during worship service on Sunday in answer to a sudden urge for candy. He showed up at the church office looking for us on Monday. He cannot understand why we left without him and explains his friends had called him away.
But now, I divert my attention heavenward as an eight year old drops his shorts in the middle of the street in broad daylight. I marvel at his consideration for others for he has chosen to relieve himself over a drainage grate to no avail. Recognizing he is a child of the street I reconcile the experience and convince myself he has little other alternatives. Still I am embarrassed. I remind him his pants are still at his knees only to watch him take a piece of cardboard from the garbage, wipe himself and discard the implement. Now I find myself developing a most needed street sign: “Parents kindly curb your children.”
At home, Anthony is 11 years of age and was taken into the orphanage approximately six months ago. He lived on the street with his sister Christine. He currently is rebuilding a relationship with his Mom and two younger siblings. He speaks English fairly well for his age, especially in light of his lack of education and, he can read and write in Cebuano. And though he is intelligent and possesses a keen observation to detail and physics, emotionally he is equivalent to a seven year old.
We received five new girls last week. Four of them are sisters between the ages of 8 and 12. Jasmine is both the youngest and sweetest. Wiry and small boned, their hair lay close on each of the girl’s necks. We have de-bugged and de-wormed them. In addition, we spent $134.00 dollars on a few sets of clothing and bedding because, like every other child we receive, they have nothing but the clothes they arrive in and all lack under garments. The girls went through four sets of clothing on their first day because of an almost uncontrollable urge to wash everything. By 10:30 in the morning I had threatened spankings should they wet their clothes once more.
When one contrasts the unpleasant experiences of reaching out to such a complicated and precarious people group, love trumps everything.
Our house if filled with music, singing, dancing and laughter. This morning the children sing video Karaoke with Don Moen and dance to songs of praise by “Trading Places.” Our children never go hungry. We currently care for 15 children between the ages of 7 and 16. And though the challenges we face are many and often, we are not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair.
Love and discipline are coupled with grace and the message of the gospel. Our house is a constant reminder that God is the Emmanuel, God with us and of his great compassion for His people.