For Boom Boom.
Today Boom Boom's mother was sitting on the side of the street crying. It is rare to see a Vincentian cry, so I sat next to her and asked her what was wrong. Her breath was laced with the local rum, her hair was filled with lint. She was bra-less and shoe-less. Her eyes exemplified the only thing I could really relate to: tears.
She told me she was sorry. Sorry for how she had raised Boom Boom, her eight-year-old child that frequently eats dinner with me. She told me she was sorry for her appearance, for her lack of money. But what shocked me was she said she was sorry for her 15-year-old son, Shamal.
I had heard rumors of Shamal throughout the village. They had typically centered around his mother's alcoholism and his inability to walk, speak or comprehend.
She asked me if I wanted to meet Shamal. Of course I said yes.
Nothing in my year here could have prepared me for what I was about to walk in on. As I stepped into their one bedroom house, I immediately smelled the strong scent of stale urine. There was feces lining the walls and cockroaches covering the floors. Boom Boom's recognizable clothes were scattered throughout the tiny house. I just kept staring at his precious little shoes. Imagining him waking up every morning in this house, smelling identical to it, dressing for school that morning, putting on those shoes. I could just imagine him fearful of what the children would say about him today. About how he smelled, about how parts of the mattress always stuck to his hair. I wanted to take the shoes and run.
But the worst part about it was what was lying in the corner of the room. He looked like spider, all curled up after you stepped on them. His bony black legs intertwined while drool lingered on his chin. He was smiling, but not intentionally. Shamal, the 15 year old myth, was was lying naked on the hard wooden floor. He looked up at me with disturbing contentment oozing out his eyes.
In the background, I could hear his mother complaining about government assistance and lack of care for her boys. She had started crying again.
I wanted to hit her and hug her all at the same time. I wanted to scream at her for how bad she had let things get, but I also felt like crying with her.
I had never seen or felt anything like that in my life.
Several times I have gotten into altercations with community members over Boom Boom. They have long given up on him and wonder why I haven't done the same. And sometimes I feel that way myself. Until now.
After seeing what Boom Boom goes home to every night, yet he still wakes up and puts on clothes in the morning. After seeing the intense abuse and neglect that he has to endure every single day, yet he still approaches the outside world with a smile. After seeing what the community believes he is destined to become, I refuse to give up on him. And I am making it my goal to let him know that every single day.
Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.--Howard Thurman