Sandals at New Year's Eve
--by MS, posted Oct 4, 2006
Many people spend their New Year’s Eve, getting dressed up and dancing their way to midnight. We decided to do things a bit differently.
We filled a backpack with clothes, shoes and other goodies and headed out to the railway station. The first person we spotted was a 15-16 year old boy picking up discarded plastic bottles on the platform. We called him over and started up a conversation. We had a discrete look at his hands and noticed he had long fingernail. We explained that it was important to keep short nails (studies have shown that disease occurrence in the poor can be reduced by 30% by keeping short fingernails) and then the two of us began cutting them for him. When we were done, we offered him a chocolate bar, which made him look at us suspiciously. (In India, there is a fear that people cast spells on food and then lure children away). We talked to him some more and began eating some of the chocolate ourselves. Finally, he slowly took the bar himslef and then began telling us his story.
His name was Raju. After his mother had passed away, his father remarried. His stepmother did not treat Raju well. Among other things, as punishment, she would tie up Raju’s arms and legs, pour melted jaggery on him and put him outside in the sand, where red ants would feast on the jaggery and subsequently bite Raju, covering his body with red marks. Unable to deal with the maltreatment, Raju ran away from home and has been living on the streets for 3 years, collecting and selling discarded plastic bottles.
When we met Raju, his clothes were torn and he wasn’t wearing any shoes. One quick look into our backpacks and we found what we were looking for - a pair of Nike sandals. When we dressed him in them - Raju’s eyes and face completely lit up and his happiness knew no words. Touched by our actions, he too wanted to do some service work so he joined us as we walked around and identified those who were truly in need in and around the station.
While doing service with us, a train came into the station. Promising to be back in a few minutes, he ran towards the train to collect plastic bottles from the compartments. When he came back to join us, somehow his smile was even bigger than before. “These sandals are so awesome. When I run, nothing hurts my feet. I can run so fast, that I’m the first one in the compartments and I can quickly pick up all the bottles. Thank you so much!”