I’ve made a conscious decision to stop ignoring my inner voice, now I’m paying attention. This has sometimes taken me into unfamiliar territory and often out of my comfort zone.
I recently signed up to a memoir writing course in London, following my inner voice. It’s been challenging, pushing myself to open up and to share my story a bit more than I am used to.
This short story is my latest piece. Time to let go of any fear of being judged and just get it out. Hope you enjoy.
The boy in the photo
I don’t know his name; these visits to children’s homes are impersonal. I guess it’s a way of staying on track with the work that has to be done.
I look at this photograph from time to time and remember the day I met this little boy. We were told not to get too close to the children at the home, they were likely to be carrying lice, flees and whatever else is out there when you live in these conditions. We were warned that the conditions here were worse than the other homes we had visited.
It was my intention to just go with the group; stay focused on the plan and then move onto the next visit. I’m in Nepal dealing with the turmoil in my life and none of what is happening now was in the plan. One thing I have learnt recently is that not much in life goes according to plan and sometimes this is a gift in disguise. So here I am thousands of miles away from home, with a group of people I’ve just met going to another children’s home.
Today we are there to check the quality of the water and to check the overall health of the children. We are also here to teach the children about personal hygiene and to give them each a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap.
As we get closer to the home, I notice it has no windows, no doors, no lights and nothing but concrete floors and walls. The most memorable moment was the smell, it hit me as I walked in and then I realised that this time the home maybe just a little more shocking.
We walk up the stairs to be greeted by the “staff”. Same story, they are really happy to see us and willing to impress. But it’s important to not be distracted by the story they present and stay focused on the children because their eyes tell the real story.
The children are even more excited to see us. They spend their lives going unnoticed, who are they anyway? Most don’t even know their own name, let alone their date of birth. They have been prepped that’s for sure, I instantly noticed their uneasiness.
Then I see this beautiful little boy his hair shining from the dirt and grease. His clothes stained and in need of a wash. I can but see how perfect he is, those big dark eyes and smile showing his innocence. Although I don’t speak his language I approach him to give him his toothbrush, toothpaste and soap. I demonstrate how he should use them to wash, hoping he won’t try to eat the soap and toothpaste. We spend a few minutes in some kind of communication, I think he is happy that someone has given him some attention and probably even more excited about the free gifts he has been given.
I’m almost certain that this little boy has not been cuddled for a long time, if ever. The only thing I can give him is my attention to make him feel he is worthy of human affection. So I ignore the warnings and I cuddle him, hold him close like a mother should and give him just a little of what our children take for granted. He doesn’t pull back, he just accepts the cuddle as any child would and his eyes light up.
Right there and then I thought, “if I could take him home, give him a bath, some good food, clean clothes and a warm, safe bed to sleep in, that would change his life” and for a while I contemplated doing just that. But it’s never so straightforward.
As our day comes to an end I feel sad at leaving him behind, no idea what his life will turn out like, no idea if he will end up back on the streets.
What this little boy doesn’t know is that he gave me far more than I could have given him. My own problems seemed so insignificant. My struggles are so much easier to overcome now I see real suffering.
Yet when I look into his eyes all I see is the joy he got from the simple things he experienced on that day, in that moment. In the context of his life that’s the only way he can live, moment to moment. Perhaps that the lesson we should all learn.
Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory