A few weeks ago I saw a picture of a little Syrian boy. He was sitting on a grungy hospital bed. Blood around his neck. He was crying. The story that held the little hand of this picture… was titled, “I’m going to tell God everything.” These were also the 4year-olds last words. He died shortly after the photo was taken. With no one holding his little hand.
His disappointed baby soul broke my older but also disappointed heart.
I have a wonderful life. Beyond wonderful. My bubble is glittered with love and magic, the ocean and fun, good food, creative work, great people and bright futures. But despite all these blessings… I still can’t shake my disappointment in the world sometimes. Which at the core I suppose … is disappointment in myself. For that is all I have the ability to change.
On this evening, looking at the little Syrian boy, I was sitting on the floor of my beach-side home and a conversation began on Skype between me and my pal in South Africa. I told her I was crying in Fiji because I didn’t know how to make all the children less lonely. From the other side of the world, she said she understood. But that we had to learn we simply could not. It is too big and too hard. I knew she was right. I was just being emotional.
So there we were. Two tall white-girls with our super speed wifi, in two third-world countries on opposite ends of the globe, examining and justifying our individual sets of blinkers that we have tightly fastened to our faces. Each a little different. Mine are specifically designed to let all the light in. The people of my country emit bucket loads of light everyday. What they may lack in economy… Fijians make up for in community and laughter. So I’ve stupidly never worried about loneliness here. I figured everyone has a village. The country is made up of cousin brothers. This is because… it’s the picture I designed my blinkers to show me.
Light in. Sadness out.
What I conveniently leave in my peripheral… is the struggle. The simple math. I know how much people here get paid. I know the cost of cheese. I know it does not add up. My born-under-a-lucky-star blinkers keep these figures safely at bay. The struggle for health.The blinkers catch that too. The kids with disease. Blinkers. The Indian families with no home or native land to return to. Blinkers. The orphanages. Blinkers. Except when I’m feeling clucky or that I want to honour my grandfather, then I go to Dikusha with toys and biscuits. But that is really for me. To fill in the empty day and once again … to take a little bit of what is on offer here. All the fabulous light from the big smiles and big stories.
That night, looking at the Syrian boy, with my blinkers caught off guard, my friend and I made a promise. We may not be able to show love to all the children needing it everywhere everyday. But any chance we could.. we would. We promised to bring peace in as many ways as possible. If the opportunity arose… then we make a child’s life better. We pinkie promised. And encouraged others to do the same.
Then I met Krish.
My boyfriend (I haven’t told you about him, but he’s everything) and I were eating ice creams on a rock outside a service station in Suva City. It was a Monday night and there was nothing to do. We had already been down to the Yacht Club to look at the boats, my brother was asleep and everything on Foxtel was boring World News. Krish came up to us to sell us some home-made flowers made out of duster feathers. We started talking. His parents left him and his sisters when they were young. He lived with his Grandma and supported her. She wasn’t able to walk anymore. He cooked during the day and ‘made business’ at night. He said he made sure his sisters had food to take to school everyday. Because once… when he forgot… his 12 year old sister was not allowed to sit with her friends in recess. Because she hadn’t brought any food she had nothing to offer. He said this made him very angry. Krish is 15.
I knew some of this story came out of his mouth a little too smoothly. He is smart, Krish. He is not educated but he is smart. He is a businessman. He is a salesman. We ended up dropping Krish home. He was very happy being up high in 4 wheel drive and listening to music. On the drive home I asked him a million questions and we spoke about his parents. Then the unpracticed soul of it all slowly came out. His fury at his dad. His confusion about being a Christian. His desire to go to school. I told him I would be in contact and I would try and think of a way I could help him. I told him I wouldn’t be able to just give him money… because I didn’t have enough to make it last for his family… so instead we would come up with a better plan.
I contacted some girls I know and invited them over the following week for a crafts day. We would try to make some things for Krish to sell. We would work for him. I had been much like Krish when I was little. In the way that I sold bracelets and anklets to make money. However when I did it… I was raising money for new computers at my community school. And had mum and dad, their friends and our resort guests to buy them all. Not quite exactly the same… but nevertheless as fate would have it… I can whip up a friendship bracelet quick as lightening.
All the girls came around last Sunday and we picked up Krish from his crumbling home. At first he was quiet and a bit embarrassed after we went to his home and met his drunk uncle. He ate the snacks and drank the tea in silence while we all made our rainbow ropes and chit-chatted about babies and surfing and the local Japanese restaurant. He made a few dream-catchers with the string and then up lined all the bracelets up on the arm of the couch pointing to his favourites.
As the evening went on and all the string had been woven into $3 dollar masterpieces,we went outside to take photos and use the power of social media (another white-girl special) to tell Suva Krish would soon be selling our many colours. So dig deep. A wonderful woman I knew back in Australia had sent 100 Fijian dollars within hours of my first Facebook post about Krish. I pulled out the money and showed him how sometimes communication is as good as a miracle. That was the moment, surrounded by all his bohemian new stock, holding a fresh yellow note and getting hugs from all of us, that I knew we had done something good. You could see it in his face. That famous Fiji light.
Soon he was joking with my brother about what a bad driver I was and eating a slab of steak with his hands. Just as he was leaving I asked “will you sell all the bracelets you think?” He said. “I will sell of these in a day. Then. We will make more.”
And he did.
And we are.
It may not be the answer to all his problems. A few bracelets every week to try and tip the outgoings vs profit scale a little more in Krish’s favour. But it’s something. It definitely isn’t going to keep all the children less lonely. But it’s something. A little tiny piece of peace. Like we promised.
I still can’t take my blinkers off for good. I don’t think anyone truly can. If we took them off, threw them away and let all the misery in… it would be like living in the ocean. We would run out of energy to keep afloat and eventually drown. But sometimes, when something catches you off guard… when something breaks its way through the walls of your handmade shield… and it stands in front of you … demanding to see your humanity. Let it. And don’t forget it. Then promise that little fighter that you will do your best from then on. For that is all we have the ability to do.
Think of it like taking a swim.
If that picture of the little Syrian boy hadn’t crash-tackled its way through my skin… I wouldn’t have noticed Krish. To be honest.
But just because we let one down… doesn’t mean we can’t pick the next one up.
Please make the promise with us.
And a big thank-you to all the little bracelet making warriors! Hosanna, Savannah, Little Adi, Margot and Cayla. 🙂 Not forgetting little Miss Frankie Rose, Bruce Almighty and Mr Cormac. ❤