This morning, I sms'd my friend Jenny, who works with the homeless, to let her know that the little Indian boy that I'd noticed sleeping rough near my office was back again.
He's under-sized and scrawny and every time I see him he'll be asleep, even if it's the middle of the day, with his eyes half-open. We both suspect he's on glue.
Jenny came over herself this time. She tapped him and spoke to him.
"Where's your father?" she asked.
"He's dead." he mumbled in reply.
"Where's your mother?"
"Taking care of my younger siblings."
"In Kuantan." (a city in a neighbouring state).
"Where do you live?"
It turns out he has been put in different Homes/ Shelters, but he has been running away.
Jenny tried again, "Do you want to stay in a Home?"
He shook his head 'no'. He has had enough of them.
"Do you want to eat something?"
A weary sigh and a shake of his head, pulling his long skinny arm over his eyes.
"Do you want a drink?"
Another shake of the head, with his eyes still shaded.
We walked away and talked. At the end of the day, she said, there was nothing we could do for now. GOSM, the organization that Jenny works for, is building a shelter for street children and youths, and soon, they would be able to take in this boy.
"Don't worry." she said. "He will still be here. He has nowhere to go."
"Will he be caught by predators?" I asked point-blank.
She answered thoughtfully, "I don't think so."
And we left.
It had to be his decision, his choice, to go to a place of safety and accept the rules and behavior needed to stay there. There was nothing we could do.
You know, the choices in my life have always appeared to me to be so easy. What is it like for kids like this who have hard, adult decisions to make that will determine their life course when they're so small and scrawny and half-starved?