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A barefoot 12 year old rushed up to a tourist couple disembarking from a ferry that had just arrived at his African island. Bogged down by their wheelie suitcases that wouldn’t roll on the dirt road, they looked around for their hotel – disoriented, and slightly pathetic. They’d read all the guidebooks that warned about thieves and pickpockets in this impoverished country where the average person earns less than a dollar a day. The boy beamed broadly at them, and said, in his approximate English, “Hello, my friends.” He pointed to his chest,” I am Armando, your brother,” and extended his hand. His clothes were tattered and unwashed.
“You stay at Gallery Hotel? I get taxi for you?”
The couple waved him away. “It’s okay – we’ll walk.”
Armando looked disappointed and concerned. “Too far to walk. I get taxi. You have hotel number? I call for you.”
Not sure that they could trust this energetic and earnest young man, the couple trudged on, anxiously attempting to ignore him. But he would not give up, and came up with one solution after another. “I carry your bags for you. I show you the way. I bring you to bus stop. I call hotel to come get you.” He was determined to make himself useful to them. The sun was beginning to go down, and he hadn’t yet had anything to eat that day.
Suddenly he sprinted off shouting and waving his hands. “There’s the hotel bus! I stop them for you.” Vaguely afraid that their suitcases and perhaps they themselves were about to disappear forever, they squinted in his direction and saw a well-worn van lurching over the deep potholes of the unpaved thoroughfare. “The Gallery Hotel” was emblazoned on the front door, and it heeded Armando’s hailing. He ran back triumphantly, pointing to the van, explaining excitedly that it would bring them to the hotel.
The tourists felt a wave of relief roll in. His slight frame straining, Armando hoisted the travelers’ heavy bags onto the van, all the while explaining that the hotel was really too far to walk to, and that the road was bad. He seemed genuinely concerned, and pleased with his success. By this point, husband and wife were both reaching into their wallets, eager to repay him for his invaluable services. Armando looked deep into their eyes, in that disarming way that so many children in this country do. Then he danced away, while facing them to shout his profuse thanks.
The coupled climbed into the van and settled into the badly scuffed seats.
“That kid was sharp.”
“His English was pretty good. I bet he speaks Portuguese and a couple of tribal languages too.”
“It wouldn’t take much for this kid to succeed with all that resourcefulness and determination.”
“What problem-solving skills!”
“What an entrepreneur!”
“What will happen to him?”
Nothing justifies the material deprivation that hundreds of millions of African children experience everyday. Many of them are just like Armando, and they have much to teach us – about how they face their futures, and how we can help our children face theirs. How will our children learn perseverance, resourcefulness, and problem-solving?
While waiting for their ferry to bring them back to their world a few days later, the couple crossed Armando’s path again. They were relieved to see him. Dusk had descended. They knew they stood out like a lighthouse amidst the throng of passengers waiting in the dusty port. They were aware now that their bags contained more material goods than anyone in these crowds would possess in their life times. Why wouldn’t someone try to take them?
Armando trotted over to them and smiled in that winning way of his. “Hello, my friends. It’s your brother, Armando.” He offered to help them again. “I carry your bags. You need ferry ticket – I show you where you buy it. You have money? I buy it for you. I help you.”
But by now they had found their way around. “Thanks. We’re all set.”
He rubbed his belly and said he was hungry. They offered him an orange. He smiled quietly. With one hand he drew the orange close to his chest. With the other, he shook theirs to thank them, and then disappeared into the night.
The content of these blogs are not intended to constitute or to take the place of medical or psychiatric evaluation, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a question about your child’s health or well-being, consult your child’s health-care provider. Before starting any treatment or new program, consult your pediatrician about your own child’s health, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. These blogs are not substitutes for the advice give by your child’s pediatrician. They should not be used as an alternative to appropriate medical care. The author has strived to ensure that the information presented is accurate up to the time of posting. However, in light of ongoing research and the constant flow of information it is possible that new findings may invalidate information presented here.