Momma, give me money
by Linda Manhardt –
When I served as a reinforcement officer in Kenya, I often went to THQ to conduct business. While walking the streets of Nairobi, I would constantly be bombarded by those in need. Pictures flash in my mind today of a leper who could read, sitting on a sidewalk and reading the newspaper to a small crowd of men who could not. At street corners, were women with babies, outstretched hands and pleading eyes—“Mzungu (Westerner), help me!”
As I continued to make my way through the streets, I could not help but be affected by the suffering around me. I tried to walk quickly, look purposeful and not make eye contact with the hurting. To pass an old woman with a paper cup and a vacant look of despair is a painful thing; yet, I could not help them all. The need that surrounded seemed to be a black hole that I could not fill.
And the children! Dozens and dozens of children begging! They are called “parking boys”—street children who earn coins by “helping” people find parking spaces. Their self appointed duty is to hold up traffic so you can get into a parking space, help guide the car in, and “guard” it from harm (basically from other parking boys…).
I was on my way to the train station, and had no choice. I had to walk through the center of Nairobi. I was carrying my backpack and several other things, and I tried to ignore the pleas for help along the way. As I was nearing the station, yet another parking boy stood in my path and said, “Mamma, give me money!” This was the last straw—I was tired, hot and broke, and I had had enough! I replied, “Hapanna! Wewe nipe MIMI shilingi!” (“No! You give ME money!”)
That’s when everything changed.
This little boy, dressed in tattered clothing, stopped in his tracks. His eyes widened as he reached in his pocket and pulled out the few coins he had and handed them to me. I was mortified! I was humbled, and I was deeply ashamed—of my self-centered impatience, of my abundance, and of my attitude.
I learned many things that day.
That’s the beauty of God’s working out his plan in each of us through our contact with others. Through this little beggar boy, I learned obedience. (Children in African culture are taught to respect and obey adults.) I learned trust. (This little boy did not question why I asked him for money; he just gave it to me.) And I learned that Christ would have us do what we can, when we can.
No, we cannot fill the black hole of suffering in Africa. But we can make a difference—in one little life at a time.