Now, it wasn’t rocket science figuring that a kid might be sad when half his village was about to float away; call me discerning. It’s just that all the other kids seemed to be managing, as if flooding were a part of their everyday lives, like skinned knees or homework. I had to assume there was a parallel plot to his story.
‘I’m very sad,’ he said with eyes averted. I looked at Gloria. Gloria looked back at me and then at the boy, like It’s still your turn, sweetheart.
‘The water’s about to come into our house,’ he said. ‘Every day it gets closer. His responses were staccato, punctuated by excruciating pauses. His gaze was mostly tethered to the ground; only occasionally did he raise his head up just long enough to catch a quick glimpse of me before once again escaping eye contact. Thankfully, Gloria’s seasoned experience kept her from filling the silence, trusting that his words would come in due time. ‘I’m the second of ten, my father left, and my oldest brother doesn’t live with us anymore,’ he explained.
Suddenly it became clear. While the other children in the classroom were plodding through the storm under the grand umbrella of parental covering, Aleixo was taking the hit helmet-free. He didn’t have the lightness of the other children because he had no margin to be a child. The role of caretaker to his mother and eight siblings had fallen on his shoulders at the age of thirteen. While the other kids craned their heads back and tried to slip under the limbo rope on the other side of the wall – to the Jackson 5, no less – Aleixo worried about how many inches would be left between his home and the river by the time he got back that afternoon.
I went into fix-it mode because we Americans are so skilled at this. ‘What do you need? I asked. ‘Clothes? Food? We could send some construction guys to bolster up your house. We can give you some money to tide you over.’ He nodded ever so slightly, still mostly observing the ground. He wasn’t turning down the help, but he wasn’t jumping up and down about it either…
…I wasn’t sure whether to share the bit about God pointing him out to me during our time of worship…when it got down to it, I really did sense the Holy Spirit had shone a light on him.
‘Aleixo, I felt like God pointed you out to me when we were singing. You have the potential to be a strong leader in your village. There’s something special over your life.’
Aleixo smiled, though you had to know what you were looking for. He waited a few seconds and then looked up at me. ‘No one has ever seen me before. God sent you to see me.’
© 2014 Kelly Minter. Wherever the River Runs is published by David C Cook. All rights reserved.
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