Helping Thieves (A short story)
I looked at the mirror one more time and tried to make my weird curly hair fall into place. It was a daily struggle before classes. Still unsatisfied with my look, I decided to move on and accept the fact that it would never stay the way I wanted it. "Don't forget to pray before leaving.", my mom called out as I finished preparing for class. The time was 8:07 am and I was already late.
"Bye mom, dad!", I called out as I left after a short prayer.
The sun was already out and burning my skin. I am a guy who sweats a lot and I hated the heat. The school was around a kilometer away and I had to make my way through nature's natural road. Yes, the college was around 25 kilometers from the urban areas with no cemented road, or at least the shortcut I was taking wasn't. The trees offered some shade and I followed the shadows as best as I could.
Along the way, I met a young boy. He was about 5 years old, with dirty clothes and walking barefooted on the rocky road. As I drew closer, he suddenly shifted to my direction and called out loud and angry, "Hey you! Give me money or I'll punch you hard!" I was stunned by his brash behavior. This was no way a child should speak to an older person! Then heat rushed to my head. I was insulted by a child! Should I reprimand him? Or maybe just ignore him? I resisted the urge to kick him hard.
I decided to walk to the other side of the road to avoid a direct collision. "I'll be watching you!", he called out. How dare he threaten me! I turned around and saw him look me straight in the eye. Face clearly determined to rob me, or maybe just intimidate me, I wasn't sure.
I went on to school and immersed myself in class. The sun was nearly set when I decided to go home. The activities of the day left me exhausted and forgot about the earlier incident. Along the way home, about a few meters passed a small bridge, I saw the boy again. He had friends to help out this time. There were 5 of them, 3 young boys and 2 girls.
How desperate! I tried to think of a way to imprison these potential child criminals but according to law, they can't be tried in court if they were below the age of 15. I kept steady on my course and decided to deal with them according to the situation. Surprisingly, the boy did not threaten me but instead asked for food. I was stunned, for the second time. The soft heart that I had ached to help them but I had no money or food to give so I decided to talk to them for some time.
"When was the last time you ate?", I asked.
"This morning sir.", they replied
"What did you eat for breakfast?"
"Rice and frog sir."
"Yes sir, we caught them early in the morning and grandma prepared it for us. If we don't have frogs, we just eat rice with salt or soy sauce."
"Where do you live? Where are your parents? Who do you live with?", I fired my questions in rapid succession.
"We live in the next village. Our father has left us for another family, he doesn't send us support. Our mother is in a different island working but she hasn't sent us money for a long time now."
I realized that my hair problem was insignificant compared to theirs. I was ashamed with what I felt that morning. These children struggled daily to support not only themselves but the entire family. Stealing sellable goods just to earn a few cents to buy food. I asked them to follow me home, there I gave them bread and water.
Soon, they became regular visitors and my parents started reserving food for them. Every time one of them comes around, dad would quiz them with math.
"One plus one equals?" Most of the time they remained silent. Whenever one of them ventured a guess it was most of the time wrong. We later found out that they had to walk around 5 kilometers daily to get school and if they don't have breakfast, they would skip school. If they did have breakfast, they would come home during lunch time and skip the afternoon since they would not be eating anything for lunch.
To this day, they still visit our home. One day, it is my dream to afford these young children a proper education and help them overcome the bad habits they formed just to survive life.
Note: All of these events happened in real life personally and to my family but not necessarily in order and by the same group of people so it is still, technically, fiction.
Thank you for reading the short story. Since this happened some time ago, the children are now grown up and in their early teenage years. They still continue the lifestyle they formed as a child. Other people in the community has offered to sponsor a few of them but are having difficulties with the stealing habit that they continue to practice.
I intended to write a sci-fi short story for the day but ended up with this fiction-ish story. As I write this, I am burdened with a heavy heart. When I finish school and start earning, I will never forget these children. I hope to be of help to humanity someday.
Photo credits to http://knk-int.org, this group focuses on outreach as children without borders. Check out their website and donate if you would like to. DISCLAIMER: I am not connected to this organization in any way.