Last Saturday, we took bus 25 to the center of town. We first saw her when we got off the bus and made our way through the press of people that seemed to fill every conceivable space on the sidewalk and the nearby road. There is always such confusion there: buses honking their horns, passengers both alighting and running to board the buses, taxis trying to make their way past everyone, and the intrepid bicyclists valiantly pedaling through the mayhem. On Saturday, though, we all saw her before we saw anything else.
She was perhaps four years old, small, with a somber face and damp hair. In her hand, she held the end of a thin string. The weather was forty degrees and raining, and it felt bone-chillingly cold to us. She was dressed only in a thin cotton dress with a ragged sweater over it. The string, we quickly realized, was attached to a wooden pallet with small casters. On the pallet, face down, lay a man. He was motionless, thin and silent. She carefully pulled on the string and moved the man along the uneven sidewalk, a few painful inches at a time. She was so tiny! Quietly she watched the people go by. We also went by, while our hearts screamed at us to “do” something. What could be done?
We went on with our shopping and walking, but our hearts were still back at the corner with that child. We passed the same spot again about an hour later and there she still stood, staring blankly at the crowds that passed her by. I watched the other people, and it was as though she was invisible to them. My two children went to her and handed her a couple of bags of fried sweets which they had bought from a vendor, and she looked at them in mild surprise.
It seemed that the void of her existence had momentarily been penetrated. As we walked away, I thought my heart would break. I went back to her, knelt down, and looked closely into her face. It seemed that she did not even see me. I spoke quietly, limited by my poor language skills: “God loves you, little one. Do you know that?” Her eyes finally really met mine. “Do you know that, little one? God really loves you very, very much.” She then said something in a dialect I did not understand and I turned away, sad that I could not say or do more.
I crossed the street and reached my family. My husband, who had watched as I went back to the child, said that she turned and talked to the man on the pallet after I left. All I can do is pray for her. I know that it is the greatest thing, and yet sometimes it feels like so little. She is only one—there are so many who need You, Lord! What I can do is so little… I am reminded of a question asked long ago which is still relevant: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). The answer echoes in my heart and will never let me go.