Day 12. Blowin’ In The Wind
The stench of the streets cover their clothes and bodies. They live on the streets, most nights they sleep in the Hindu temples for shelter, and they are smiling.
There are about 11 of them altogether crowded into the little restaurant. Tonight is New Years Eve and we are all here. The children all sit and talk excitedly in Nepalese, and wait.
Kushal begins to take orders for Momo and Chow-mien; the kids are grateful and surprisingly quiet as they get their food and drinks. We get 2 liters of Coke and I can hardly keep up with their demands for more. They are the forgotten children, but tonight they have names. They eat quickly, but they serve each other. A few of the kids are brothers, all are boys. I am overwhelmed by the scene only when I step back from it. They cannot go to school, they have no protection or shelter. They tell us of sniffing glue to kill the emptiness that is their enemy. They sometimes drink. The youngest is probably only 2 years old. When Kushal asks him how he came to live on the streets he replies: “I came!”
The restaurant is a small place on “freak street”, and it is smaller than my bedroom back home, and with lower ceilings. The owner is kept busy making all the food for the hungry children and his young son works hard to serve the honored guests for tonight.
I order Chow-mien. It is served in a bowl made entirely of dried leaves, and it is delicious. For a time I forget who I am back “home”. Here I am a friend to these precious kids, and I am here to tell their story.
The owner seems bewildered by the scene when we first arrive, but after he observes his customers for a while, he just smiles. A light has come to this place on this night.
As Kushal translates the stories of each of the children we are saddened. They seem to be happy, but their circumstances are some of the bleakest I have encountered, and they are just children.
The boy in the picture told his story for us. He is 13. His eye is swollen because of asthema made worse by the dust of the streets and constant fighting with the other kids. He lived at an orphanage for a while, but they got new children and kicked him and the older children out. He doesn’t have a mother or father to take care of him, and he cannot go to school. He wants to study but now he is too old and cannot pay for it.
I want to take care of him, to give him a chance again, but for now this is all we can do.
As I write this I sit in a much nicer restaurant in Pokhara, far from the children we spent that New Years Eve with. Bob Dylan’s voice is coming through the speakers telling me that the answer to these questions I have is blowin’ in the wind… and I wonder if that is so, or if I am not looking hard enough.
Jesus said that we are the salt and the light of the world, and I find myself praying that I will not forget why I am doing the good I have set out to do. It is because He said if we did not take care of the orphans and the widows we were far from his heart. “Let the little children come to me, the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”
If this is true than we were serving the princes of that very kingdom, children who need hope. They take refuge now in the houses of idols, gods that never existed, nor care for them. Where is the body of the living God who loves them and made them? Christ called us to be that very body, and be that light that dispels the darkness. I don’t think this is easy, or reason for boasting. In fact I find it at times I sense a dichotomy exposed between that which I believe, and that which I live.
As we say goodbye to the children and head back to our hotel we are quiet. The beauty in the children is contrasted sharply by the ugliness of their situation. Can we make a difference? Is our story and theirs intersecting for a reason bigger than we can see right now?
We watch a movie on our laptop and fall asleep wishing there was an easier way to bridge the sharp divide between our life and theirs. Outside our hotel the New Years celebrations are loud and last late into the night. The thoughts of the children rest uneasy on our minds.
This is true religion. To take care of the orphan and the widows in their distress.
I can still hear their chorus of “Namaste!” as I met them.
Shepherd/ a white stranger