Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Bit of Cloth

On a walk through one of the encampments, I noticed a little boy … maybe four or five years old … huddled back behind a pile of clothes, blankets and miscellaneous jumbled pieces of lives. He was crying … not the noisy sobs usually emanating from a child of that age … but silent tears pouring from big, lost eyes. From the evidence on his cheeks, tears had evidently been a part of his day for a good while. I reached out to touch one of the people in my group and quietly pointed to the little one and promised to catch up with them later.

In that place, there is no way to know what a child has been through … there seem to be no limits to the atrocities even the youngest have survived. So I simply went and tentatively sat next to him … saying nothing. I quickly did a cursory visual check … no evident injuries aside from a few scratches … much too thin … alert, but not overly skittish, all things considered. After a few minutes, his curiosity about this strange woman sitting in the dirt by him began to win out over the tears … and I scooted closer and held out my arms. In a blink, he was on my lap … those beautiful eyes looking straight into mine … looking farther still, into my heart. He didn’t seem to notice … or care … that my knowledge of his language was greatly lacking … we managed to share our names … he told me he didn’t know how old he was … and that he didn’t know his mama or his papa … or when he had last eaten. And somewhere in that exchange, his tears came to a halt and mine began. At first, he touched my cheek and tried to wipe them away … and then … when he realized the job was too big for his tiny hand … he began to twist the tattered cloth he held in his hand. I suppose that, at one time, it was a blanket ... although no one would have recognized it as anything more than a scrap at this point. I was angry with myself for burdening this child with my tears … frustrated that he was being met with my weakness instead of my strength. And then he stopped the turning of the cloth and began to purposefully work at pulling away one of the straggling pieces … using his child’s strength to tear away the worn cloth. With concern and gentleness, he took my hand in his … pulled open my fingers and slipped the small bit of cloth into my palm. Solemnly he told me it would “fè li pi bon” … “make it better”. Then, with each of us holding a bit of his blanket … he snuggled into my arms and fell asleep. And there we sat until he woke and we went in search of a healthy meal for him.

Leaving that little boy behind to return to life here has left my heart in pieces … and that stained, tattered bit of fabric has become one of my dearest possessions.

6 comments:

Absolutely*Kate said...

You make it better Tess'ness ~ For writing such depth of pain understood for me to come across in this moment of time. It has helped me understand one of the multi-prismatic facets of a friend I knew who went off to find more pieces of herself. It led me to the lovely phrase ~ "huddled back behind a pile of clothes, blankets and miscellaneous jumbled pieces of lives" . . . and it gave me opportunity to leave a scrap of cloth behind ~ to share what my mother would always say her father would say, "Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone who is hurting is to allow them to do something for you."

Take comfort in how much comfort you do give, dear lady.

~ Absolutely*Kate

Crybbe666 said...

What Kate said (but just not as eloquently or elegantly!) You bring warmth, love and support out in your writing and that makes you a special person. What you are doing in real life makes you even more special.
My hat is off to you, dear lady (stole that from Kate!!)and I thank you for sharing with us not just your happiness but also your pain and sorrow as well. We are all much better people for it.

Loree said...

That is so moving it had me in tears. There is so much grief and misery in the world but there are also people like you who stop and care for those in pain.

Tess said...

Kate ... I will always be looking for pieces of myself ... they seem to be scattered all over the place :)

Paul ... it's hard to see either the good or the bad without the contrast ...

Loree ... sometimes it's about doing what we need to do in order to be able to live with ourselves, pure and simple.

Absolutely*Kate said...

Hey ~ Paulie can always steal from me when it's good stuff complimenting strength of character ... that's just affirmation stuff.

Tess ... all the pieces bring the peaces. I feel your *growin* all over the place lately. Sorry I've been out of touch. May you wellspring, always. ~ Absolutely*Kate

Melanie Sherman said...

Tess, that was such a sad story, but so beautifully written. I cannot give you a scrap of cloth, only my sincerest compliment for both you and your writing.