“Need help to carry your things?” This is a common refrain from the street-children, mainly of Filipino descent, offering services in exchange for some loose-change. They are often gathered at the fish section of the wet market in Kota Kinabalu. During my many trips to purchase groceries for the various ministries, I had been approached countless times by these enthusiastic and raggedly dressed kids. I would either side-step, or bursh them off with a polite smile. While I do feel for their deprivation, at times, I cannot help but see them as a menace of nuisance because there is a sizable number of them loitering at the market.
One Friday morning in late March 2009, as I was on my way to the Good Shepherd Rural Training Centre, I had to swing by the market to buy groceries for a group of youths participating in our YouthPREPLINK program and also for the children staying in our hostel in Pukak.
I made a beeline for the fish section, located at the extreme end of the car park, to purchase 10kilos of fish. The shopping load was more than usual due to the large number of participants attending the youth program. As the food load began to pile up, I was approached by a skinny child, no more than 10 years old. “I can help”, he offered. On this occasion, I was actually thankful for the service and readily handed him two plastic bags of fresh fish. He walked alongside me as I continued with the purchases, waiting patiently at each stop, and offering to carry more groceries.
It was a scorching hot day. I was perspiring profusely as I made my way through the market. Somehow, my little helper seemed unperturbed by the heat. I didn’t see a single drop of perspiration on him. When the weight of the purchases appeared overwhelming, I decided it was time to load the groceries in the vehicle. As I headed towards the car park, I took out RM2 from my wallet. I gave it to my helper with a signal that his services were no longer needed. After locking up the car, I made another trip to the market for a final purchase. As I was returning to my vehicle, I saw my little helper standing beside it. I smiled at him. Before I could open the car door, he held out two sticks of ice cream to me. He gestured to me to pick one, either a durian flavoured ice-cream or a red bean ice cream. At that moment, I was totally dumbfounded!. Then tears began to well up in my eyes. The kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness of this little street boy touched me very deeply. Here is a poor child, so thoughtful and so willing to share the little that he had just earned!
God has blessed me with this encounter that will forever be etched in my mind and heart. My little helper is an inspiration as I continue to serve in the Good Shepherd ministries in Sabah. He is a reminder that every child belongs to God, including the street children who are no lesser than you and me.
What St Mary Euphrasia said a long time ago still holds true today, “As long as we have ten cents, we will share it.” My little helper taught me how to live it!
Chin Poh Choo