This Valentine’s Day, we bring you a love story of a different sort. Meet the boy that broke my heart!
And no, I’m not speaking out about some idiot high school boyfriend. And I’m not referring to a hopeless college romance. I’m talking about a boy named Silmatra. This is not a heartwarming tale; it’s a true story about the different sides of life.
I BREATHE IN MY COURAGE, AND EXHALE MY FEAR. – UNKNOWN
Incense. He was trying to sell incense. As he pulled it out of his torn plastic bag and asked me to buy some, I couldn’t help but notice his big, bright eyes. I politely declined. Then he said, “Please, madam,” as he motioned to his mouth for food.
This scene had become all too familiar. From tales of women using their babies as bait for tourists, to falling victim to buying overpriced items at the market. It seemed like everyone was down on their luck and everybody wanted something. Not knowing who was legit and who was just a professional scammer, unfortunately, my heart had began to grow cold towards it.
But for whatever reason, this little boy in particular pulled at my heart strings more than most. I thought about it and told the boy that I still wasn’t interested in what he was selling but if he was hungry, I’d be happy to buy him a meal.
Before this chance encounter, we were on our way to eat at our favourite lunch buffet in town.
He agreed and began to walk along side us; me asking questions, him responding with basic answers. I asked him where his mother was. He put his hand to his leg and depicted a cutting motion. From walking the streets of Sri Lanka for nearly two-weeks by this point, I knew what this meant. This boy’s mother was an amputee. “And your father?” I asked. As he shrugged his shoulders, my heart broke.
It was Friday. He wasn’t in school. He was 8 years old. And it was evident he was the main wage earner of his family. He was on the streets working hard to try and earn a few rupees to provide for him and his mother. He wasn’t wearing any shoes. He had an innocence about him. An innocence that had seen so little, but had experienced so much.
As we approached the restaurant, recognising us from days before, the staff welcomed us with open arms . But, they almost shunned the boy.
I advised the manager he was our guest and asked them to prepare our friend a meal. As they went to prepare it in the kitchen, Silmatra sat and patiently waited for his food to arrive. When it finally did, I swear, he looked like a little boy that had just seen Santa Claus!
Though I doubt Silmatra actually knows who Santa is, he was no doubt extremely appreciative. As he smiled and gave us a wave “bye,” I sat there thinking about just how incredibly lucky we are. Tears filled my eyes before streaming down my face, as I thought about the ugly sides of life. Even though I didn’t give him much, I was glad I could at least give Silmatra something. Because in the short time I knew him, he gave me way more than I could have ever asked for.
I can’t bring myself to think about what the boys’ life will look like. While I tell myself he’s likely to grow up and be the next Sri Lankan Prime Minister, my heart sinks as I think about the harsh, more probable realities available to people with limited education and opportunities…
An important reminder to us all to live every moment!