I see your torn t-shirt, two sizes too small.
I see your ribs poking through the tear on the left seam.
There are tracks in the dust on your face where a tear fell today.
I see you.
Carrying an empty plastic bottle of pebbles, shaking out a tune as you go. I see you watch the children as they leave the gate at the school. I see you follow their smiles with your eyes. I see you watching them line up at the sari sari store to buy a snack for the walk home. I can tell you would love to be in line, in that red and white uniform, choosing from the bags hanging above their heads.
I see you.
I see you.
Twelve year old boy in a temporary shelter for street children. I see you sitting against the wall in the room while the twenty-something other children play. I can tell you are unhappy. Your shorts are too small and they were intended for a girl. You don't chase after me like the other children, trying to thumb wrestle or hold my hand. You keep to yourself. And never smile. So I come to you and ask your name in my pitiful Tagalog. But you understand and even spell it for me. I tell you I will look for you when I come back. And I see a hint of a smile.
I notice you.
You are worth more than all of the gold in all of the mountains in this whole, wide world.
Do you know that? I think you don't. Yet.
Children are everywhere here. They are free to roam in ways that make my mother- heart skip a beat. . . . down busy roads, on precarious piles of rubble, on trash heaps. They are the most abundant resource in this beautiful and terrible place. They are the future, but they are often disregarded.
I see them barefoot, sometimes naked, occasionally crying, often begging. They spot my white face from afar. They notice me.
But not the way I notice them.
Little boy with the dusty face, you interrupt my peaceful sleep.
Sweet preschooler who watches the "lucky" children, I brought you home in my heart.
Precious girl in your mother role, far too soon, I thought of you fourteen times today, or more.
Twelve year old boy, in your misery, I know your name. It's Jhon Matthew. I won't forget it.
I notice that you are precious and worthwhile and deserving.
I notice that giving you those few pesos might make you smile today but may reinforce your low self worth, verifying that you are "just a beggar child", choosing your white-faced target wisely.
You are infinitely more . . .
And THAT is why our path here has taken a hard left turn.
YOU are why I can not be satisfied just to do good things for a few.
I must do more than notice. I must act. And that action must be immediate and intentional.
I am praying for you. I am changing my life's path for you. I am taking a leap of faith that has me shaking in my shoes.
I am making a place for you.
Because I noticed . . .