Outside the University where I am studying, there are dozens of kids wearing tattered clothes with dirty faces, running and playing with their bare feet. Giving a weathered smile and blank stares to passersby while asking for some alms; some huddling in the street corners on cartons that they use as their mats. Hollow eyes, bereft of hope and love, that somehow, due to their constant fixture in our lives, we hardly give a care anymore. Passing them by each day, seldom giving them a glance, and afraid, even angry that they would come near us with their extended hands and strained mumblings for some charity.
This scene is not unique; there are hundreds and thousands of them populating the streets and alleyways in every city and municipality in our country. And I guess, them being a common sight made us unaffected by their misery and loneliness. Maybe because most of us that thronged the streets have our own problems to bear that we seldom give notice to the misery that others are bearing.
I must admit, I am one of the many that seldom give them notice. I have my fair share of giving angry words to these dirty children when they pull my sleeves with their soiled hands when trying to get my attention, in the vain hope of me giving alms. Each encounter with them is a nonevent in my comfortable life. So what if I don’t give them notice? It is their parents’ job to take care of them. A menace to society, that is what they are. These were my constant refrain.
Then a couple of months ago, I was eating some burger in a small snack joint near our school when this dirty kid, with his matted hair and shoeless feet, approached me. At that time, there were some beautiful girls standing close by. A part of me wanted to impress those beauties with a show of generosity and friendliness to this street urchin. Being fat and well fed also made me feel somewhat ashamed that I was eating that burger while this dirty kid was obviously hungry. Probably haven’t had a good meal for that day, by the looks of him.
I assure you; no feelings of real charity invaded my thoughts at that time. I am no Saint, nor am I trying to be one, I just want to impress those girls. So I thought, why not go the extra mile and try to act friendly to the kid, worth a shot getting more pogi points out of it.
I proceeded with some light banter, which I guess he did not get nor find amusing, judging by his response to my inane chatter. Finding nothing else to talk about, I asked the kid where his parents were, and how come he’s not in school. I thought he did not hear me at first because he did not answer me for awhile and just went on eating his burger. When I was about to ask him again, I heard him answere in a parched whisper: “Wala na si mama, ni layas. Si papa permi ug inum, dili ko gusto mag tambay dadto kai kulatahon napud ko.” (Mama is gone, she left us. My papa is always drinking; I don’t want to stay there because he always hit me.)
I just stood there while he continued to munch on with his burger. I did not even notice that the girls that I was angling for already left. I just stood there and watch him eat.
Beggars? Who cares? Most of us just go on with our lives and wallow in our own problems, in our own misery. We seldom give them any notice, not even a single thought of kidness. There is little room for sympathy when we are already full of our own self pity. There is seldom room for caring when all we want is for others to care for us.
I guess it is human nature to be selfish, how else can we explain the apathy of the multitude? I guess it is human nature to be a slave to the multitude, how else can I explain my failings, my failure to care?
And here I was, fearing that the end of the world will come this 2012. But for that small kid, his world ended the day that no one cared for him.