July 6th, 2015
This week, after a zone meeting, while doing some shopping at the local "La Sirena" , I was standing outside, waiting as my companion took out money from his card, when a young boy comes up and asks me for ten pesos. He had dirty clothes filled with holes, and a lightning bolt shaved in his hair on the side of his head. ( a popular thing for the barber shops to do here) He looked just like one of the hundreds that come to public places begging for something, or wanting to shine your shoes, but this one I'll never forget.
I told him I didn't have any change on me. I asked him his name, "Carlito". I told him to ask my friend dressed like me if he had any change. As he waited patiently behind him in the ATM line, I made funny faces at him across the way. I like making friends with the kids even though they just want my money. My companion didn't have any change on him either, so I promised him that when we left, I'd catch him on the way out. We shook hands and went in to shop. While shopping for cereal, we see a familar face. Little Carlito found us in the store. In an instant we had a quick friend, helping us chose which cereal to buy, pushing our cart, giving us high fives, and laughing at my dumb jokes.
At this time it was around 1 o'clock, we asked him if he was hungry, and he said he hadn't eaten since 6, when his father and mother left for work and dropped he and his brother off at the super market. The money he gets from begging he takes back to his parents. We asked him how old he was, and he said he was 10. Then we asked him when his birthday was, and he didn't know. He couldn't remember when he was born, and had never had a birthday party. At this moment I was struck with emotion. I had to keep myself from tearing up right then and there, because for some reason in such an instant, I reflected upon my own fortunate life, and was filled with guilt for it. Carlito spends the entire day begging for money away from home while his parents work to put bread on the table. He's never celebrated a birthday, nor does he know when his is. I spent my childhood watching cartoons. I spent my days in school, obtaining an education. I've been blessed with 19 memorable birthdays, without having to beg daily. I've been more than blessed in my life circumstances, and to see my new ten year old friend hungry, and completely unaware of his misfortune, due to the normality of his situation rocked me to my core.
We asked him where his parents lived, and he couldn't gives us directions to his house. We bought he and his brother lunch at the cafeteria, and he went on his way with a smile. I don't know if he'll ever remember the two guys in white shirts. I don't know if his parents will ever come in contact with the missionaries. I don't know if it will have an effect on his life, but it did on mine. There are millions of children and families in the world in the same or worse situation. One lunch for a day is nothing compared to the gift that family could receive from the eternal well of the Gospel of Christ. After that day I feel as though it is our solemn duty to lift where we stand and raise those around us. They are our brothers, and I'm grateful for the opportunity I have to serve a small portion of them here in the Dominican Republic.
Thanks for everything,