Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Angels with Dirty Faces

Someone has just commented on my note on Facebook. It reminded me that back in December I wrote this...

Innocent Eyes by Nazzareno Masiero | Children Photography
www.fotoblur.com - Collected in Aforasri Pictures

I believe, innocence, kindness, good times, and good people are the best healing ingredients. However, I never knew that "angels with dirty face" really do exist until I met them.

Last night I was in Pante Pirak, the biggest department store in Banda Aceh. Two street children of maybe 5 and 3 year-old hung around, chasing the passer bys, asking for charity. They were brother and sister. I don't like giving money to beggars, especially when they are little children. I'm afraid that it would make them think that begging is the best way to make a living. I don't want that to happen.

However, their bright eyes caught me. I am weak when it comes to those round, innocent children eyes. I talked to them, asking where their mom and dad were.
"Our mom is there." The older replied. Her little fingers pointed to the block down across the store.
"Our mom is also a beggar. Like us."
So, she registered that occupation in her mind. She knew all too well what her mom was doing, and what she was doing herself. I was choked. Indeed, within their innocence, children know no shame, nor hesitance.

I looked closer, and I realized that she was wearing a yellow dress that was stained and soiled with dirts. I don't mind seeing kids wearing soiled dresses when the soils come from playing. But I knew that she spent all day working around the store. It made me feel uneasy. Moreover, yellow was my favorite color when I was her age. I remember that my favorite dress was a yellow tiered tutu. Whenever I wore that, I felt like a princess. I even called it "my Cinderella dress". Remembering that made me sense too much contrasts between us.

I asked them if they went to school. The little girl said, "I wanted to but mom said that it's more important to help her making money".
I was speechless. Her answer was too blunt. Too frank. Rough and raw.
I asked another basic question – how old she was.
Guess what her answer was?
“I don’t know.”

I told myself, "Sure Asri, who would care about age if they have more important thing to think of?"
Somehow, even a basic question could turn out like a stupid one.

She is not me, my sisters, nor my nephews and my niece: the lucky people who have our mommies greet a happy birthday at a certain day of a year since we were little, to mark the numbers. That ritual made us think that those numbers are the important, integral part of human’s life.

What is important for us is not important to them. The differences of importance shows that there are really, different kinds of life we are living.

Those siblings I met were too innocent that their smiles didn’t fade even after I refused to fill their little plastic box. They didn't care even if they didn't earn from me. Instead, a minute later they played hide and seek around my legs. I was standing tall like a giraffe between two rabbits. I looked like a giant. They were just as tall as my hip when I was 5 inches taller - thanks to my high heels. They looked so tiny.

They were giggling. You know those innocent giggles of little child? There’s something about it that I can’t ever get enough of. They were barefeet, their faces and clothes were dirty. They were poor, their future might not be so bright but they didn't know it. It reminded me of A.G.'s 'classic' expression when we spent long nights working hard on our academic papers: "childhood was the moments when you were happy but you didn’t know it."

I watched them playing and I couldn’t help but thinking how being a grown-up gives us realization about the inner pain, wound, hurt, disappointment, anger, jealousy, envy - all those painful stuff. I saw the contrasts between myself and those kids. Sometimes I asked myself, should we regret growing up for losing the joy of innocence?

In my thought I see life betrays them, also their mom - who denied their 'rights' to be the the 'normal' children. But what is THE 'rights' anyway? What is being 'normal'? When you are innocent you don't know. It is when you develop your knowledge, when you've grown up - you've learned about a set of ideas, making you believe that you 'should be' entitled to some privileges for the way you are.


The point is, to cherish the innocent joy of my life as it is today, sometimes I shall learn to set aside my set of rights, that “I thought” or "I feel" were betrayed by life - and the ones in it.

I know I can’t ever be innocent again, but I can try to burn down the feeling of being entitled to a person along with the whole obligations attached to it. And let go, just let go. Let those people live the life that they chose to encounter.

I have to step out of my sets of expectations when I know I can’t expect someone to fulfil them. I just need go on with some fun stuff in life. Drop it, like the kids who light-heartedly dropped their plastic box after I refused to fill it – then just played hide and seek around my legs. Then maybe I will laugh again like them really soon.

They were still playing when I stepped in then out of the ATM booth. I remembered that I had 2 boxes of apple juice in my shopping bag (that day missed New York and good apples that flood the aisles of Price Chopper at the end of autumn). I handed all my apple juice out to those children.

You couldn’t imagine how beautiful their eyes were when they received those juice.
“Terimakasih kakak...” (“thank you big sister...”)
I smiled, caressed the sister's head a bit, then I said goodbye to them.
Holding the apple juice like holding a precious box close to her chest, the little girl looked at me, stepped closer, smiling, and said,
“Kakak, hati-hati ya...” (“big sister, take care...”).

I 'm not sure if she really knew the meaning of it, but I know she knows that there is a sense of tenderness there. Sure baby, I will take care of myself.


It was maybe, my most beautiful moment of a day. How beautiful innocence is. How tender it feels when kindness meets kindness. Compassion meets compassion. It was heart-warming. Then I know that I would be okay really soon, because along the streets of Banda Aceh, there are many hearts to reach. Much kindness to share. And those will help me a lot to feel better. God is good, and each day is a gift. I need not to worry.

Thanks to two barefeet angels with dirty faces, who came down to earth to help healing my wounded heart... May God look after you always.

Love and peace,
Banda Aceh, 01 December 2010, 8 a.m.

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