One late afternoon, on Bombay’s street
I walked alone to meet a friend
There was a street I had to cross
I waited for the light, with many like me.
Children crowded all around me
Stretched out their arms begging for help
I have known this scene a million times
I told myself to look angry and mean.
Pathetic cries came from everywhere
I said to myself, “It is all a fake.
Don’t give a penny; they are only cheats.
Keep your eyes fixed on your light.”
Dozens of mothers carrying children
Skinny and naked with bloated stomachs
Only one look would break any heart
And I didn’t want to face that reality.
Suddenly I heard a sad, gentle voice
From behind me—it pierced through my being,
“Sir, my father died from TB
My mother cannot beg, she is very ill.
“I have three young children who are crying
Please give me a few pennies to buy some food.”
The light turned green and then red again
But I could not move, for I was in shock.
I turned around to see her face
I was stunned by the sheer beauty I saw
Barely nine, with big brown eyes
Long black hair fell below her knees.
Uncared for, unwashed, unkempt for months
Dirt mingled with sweat ran down her face.
Her skin was fair, one could see,
But the rag she wore was dirty and black.
There she stood with hands stretched out
I could not take my eyes from her face
Gave her money, more than she hoped
I walked away, but not quite alone.
All of a sudden, a stranger appeared
And began to walk and talk with me.
“What do you think of that beggar girl?” he asked.
I thought about all I had just experienced.
In my mind’s eye I saw the girl again
And standing with her, another girl, just about nine
The beggar girl’s name I did not know
The other little one—I knew her well.
That little girl is my daughter Sarah
Happy and beautiful and liked by all
Has her own room with nice little things,
Parents to love her and Jesus she loves.
“What is the worth of this street girl, my friend?”
Asked the stranger gently again.
“Her life is, of course, worth as much as mine.”
“What is that to you?” the stranger asked.
I walked alone again, pondering it all
My heart was heavy and my eyes were wet.
Once again I vowed to myself
To reach out and touch others in need.
KP Yohannan. “Beggar Girl.” Dance Not for Time. GFA Books, 2013, p. 96.
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