"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these...
... you did for me." -jesus
These are the kidlets that make their home on our doorstep awaiting my arrival most days. It has been hard to feel lonely with them around. A few months ago, their family moved into a home just kiddy-corner to our little orange house, and Eliza, Felix, Jhonny and Eddison's second home became ours. :) They moved from la Sierra (the Ecuadorian Andes) to make ends meet more successfully here in the big city, we assume.
After the first day Nikki and I invited them in to play, I don't think there has been a day they haven't asked "vash a abrir la puershta?" (translation: are you going to open your door?) with their sweet mountain accents. They were hard to ignore from the very beginning... filthy dirty, stinky little things, with the cutest accents and brightest smiles around.
These days I see them in the morning, I see them around noon when I get home from school, I seem them EVERY time I come and go from the house, and without fail, I see them at night playing outside when I get home, usually between 9:30-11pm. The kids don't go to school.
Eliza can read a little bit (she's 10), and Felix knows his colours and numbers (he's 7), but Jhonny is only 5 and is desperately ready to go to school. (Edy, 4 learns everything BUT his colours from the rest!) We work on numbers and letters sometimes when they come over, our white board becomes quite entertaining. They love to draw pictures.
As for mom and dad...well, their father works at the local produce market and is only home occasionally. The boys have made numerous comments about how they like to "get drunk" and I can only assume where they have seen and heard that reality. Their mother, Rosa works at the same market in the wee hours of every morning and spends the rest of the day asleep and indifferent as the kids roam the neighborhood. From conversations with her, we have learned that she spends most of her time chatting (via cellphone) with her "lover". Most days, the boys tell me that Eliza is cooking supper. Somedays they tell me that they haven't eaten because they ran out of gas (propane) or because their parents haven't come home and they don't have money to buy plantain or rice. Eliza spends most mornings washing the families clothing by hand... herself.
How I wish for a better life for them.
I confess, it has been fun teaching them a few lessons these last number of months, lessons like
1) friends DO NOT take friends things without asking, (that's called stealing)
2) that one should not ALWAYS ask for things (begging :),
3) and that words like "PLEASE" and "THANK YOU" work magic.
...all of which have appeared to be very new concepts for them, and they have caught on remarkably quickly. We have had lots of good times together. Once we had chocolate chip cookies and milk on the front step, and sometimes we eat left-over soup and rice, late at night. On more than one occasion I've taken the shampoo and the hose to little Eddison (who for some reason hates to bathe even though his siblings beg him) and doctored cuts and scrapes with peroxide and band-aids. And every saturday morning we even trapess across the highway to kids club.
But the truth is, that the more time I spend with these children the more I am convinced that their greatest need is simply... love and attention; that somebody would notice, acknowledge, talk to, touch, and love on them. Jhonny, the most energetic, is often content to sit on my lap and just simply be held.
So, as cute and needy as they are, I assure you, I do not mean to paint a romantic picture of us as the heros of this tale. There are many days when theirs are the last little faces I want to see as I come up the walkway wanting to crash in a heap in my hammock. And there are many days when I have to close the door and tell them "tomorrow", or "later I'll invite you in to play". And sometimes love is tough, and not so much fun.
But, all that said, I do thank God for the opportunity once again, to see Him...and this time, in the dirty little faces of Eliza, Felix, Jhonny and Eddison.