I briefly left my apartment yesterday for the first time in…well, much too long. When I opened the front door of my building, I immediately saw two things.
I’m going to call him Pierre. He’s a “talibe boy” which means that a couple of years ago, lured by the false promise that their son would be fed and educated, Pierre’s parents sold him to a local cult leader called a “marabout”. They are almost certainly from poverty-stricken village, and were probably promised that if they sold Pierre, they would be guarenteed a spot in Paradise after they died. [A Muslim’s dream.] And so as a two year old toddler, Pierre became one of the thousands of barefoot “Lost Boys” that aimlessly wander the filthy streets of Dakar. He spends his days pleading for spare change with a rusty, dented tomato paste can-desperately trying to meet his daily quota. If he fails, he’ll be beaten. Pierre will grow up illiterate-unable to so much as color inside the lines, much less write his own name.
And honestly, nobody really cares about his name. The marabout owns him-that is his identity.
I really want to adopt Pierre. He belongs in a cheerfully colored preschool with a bright blue Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox tucked away safely in his cubby. He ought to come home to someone that would scoop him up in a bear hug and let him eat too many chocolate chip cookies for snack. Someone that would proudly hang every single one of his finger paintings on the fridge, and read him “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” as many times as he wanted before gently tucking him into bed at night. Someone that could teach him that he is valuable.
That four year old little boy doesn’t belong sitting hopelessly on the side of the road like this. No child does. But that’s Pierre’s reality. He and some other talibe boys were playing with firecrackers right outside my door yesterday.
They saw my camera, and ran to ask me to take their pictures. I love Pierre’s toothy little grin.
One of them had a scratched up, bleeding face-which is what happens when you let little boys play with firecrackers. I’ll bet each one of them would love a Mom and Dad to tell him “no”.
Pierre was covered in scabies-all the boys were. Beside him is the old tomato paste can he uses to beg. It’s full of sugar cubes because in Senegal, it’s considered good luck to give a talibe sugar. Thus, in addition to being incredibly malnourished, Pierre’s teeth are beginning to rot.
Senegal is a hub for human trafficking-mostly women and children. The women are sold into the sex trade, and…well, you see what happens to the children. Many of them are prostituted as well. Statistically, there is at least a 4/5 chance that Pierre is sexually abused.
At four years old, his greatest concern should be where on earth he left his green crayon-not where on earth he’s going to find his next meal. I don’t have an answer, here. I just know that Pierre is not a nameless, faceless statistic to Jesus. He is of infinite value and worth to God-and thus, should be of infinite value and worth to me. Each of these boys have names and stories-names and stories that God knows as well as yours and mine.
I think somehow, their stories ought to change ours.