Saturday, March 13, 2010

Offer from a Street Woman

In Nairobi, there are street people – I imagine it’s similar to any world class city; sometimes they are thought of as beggars. Unlike Minneapolis though, the people you see on the streets of Nairobi are mostly women and children. I must say, there are far fewer street people now than there were 12 years ago. (That probably means there are many more kids in children’s home than before, whether orphaned, or having a parent that simply can’t take care of them.)

Nonetheless, there are still women who beg. I have made it a personal policy not to hand out money. It’s a bit easier to have that decided before being asked for something. In the 90’s it was common for kids to be hooked on sniffing glue. A few coins could keep them high and their hunger at bay. Or their collected money might go to a bigger street boy who does more serious drugs. Back then I would hand out some bread to a child asking for something.

Today I passed a lady I think I have passed before. She was sitting on the side of the path along a busy street getting coated with dust and exhaust fumes. Across the sidewalk from her was a person sleeping in the dirt, perhaps an older child of this woman. She had a baby sitting beside her on the walkway.

As I passed the woman said something to me. I was two steps beyond her when I turned and asked what she said because I thought it an unusual request. I wasn’t sure if I heard her right. She repeated in English, “Take my baby. Can you take my baby?” I looked down at the baby. She looked too small for being able to sit on her own; then I realized she is probably much smaller than she should be for her age.

I told the mother that I would pray for the baby and her. We talked a bit more and I repeated my promise. I wish now that I had turned back and gone to the grocery store for some milk. Praying is good, but I did nothing for the immediate need of this woman.

After walking about another block, I swallowed hard as her offer dawned on me. The mother had only one eye. I don’t know if her other one worked well. I don’t know how she came to have a small child and no husband. But she seemed earnestly willing to give up her child. This gives me one little taste of the kind of desperation some folks live in.

I know I won’t forget to pray for her, because I can’t stop thinking about her. What would you do?

(In the comments, please identify yourself if it won't be clear who you are.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Knowing me, I'd probably bring them both to live with me. I'd probably also get taken for all I was worth and beaten to a pulp by the guy who's probably hiding around the corner, the same one who probably did that to her eye and takes everything she earns by begging.

Sorry if that's bleak. I'm just waking up to my own naivete and it's not a pleasant experience.