May I have your attention please; I need to share a story…a true story out of beautiful Jam Rock of; The Boy Beggar.
As I strolled down the street hoping not to get bothered by the everlasting and persistent higlers…I heard a whisper. Unsure of what was said and because it was merely a boy, I turned around to ask “what did you say?” Of course I was annoyed…annoyed that he was on the street begging when he should be home reading and playing. However he answered “beg yu fifty dolla”, with his hand out stretched. Now this was where time stopped for us and Jeff and I stood there for what seem like awhile and stared at each other. Finally I broke the silence.Me: Why are you on the street begging? Boy: Because mi hungry Me: Where is your Mom? Boy: She is dead Me: I cringe…Where is your Dad? Boy: Spanish Town, working Me: Follow me We took him to get something to eat.
His name is Odell Lawrence, he is sixteen years old and he does attend school three days a week. He begs money to put himself through school because he wants to keep his scores up so he will be able to get a job when he graduates. Odell lost his mother when he was just 6 years old and to some extent, has lived with his dad since then. Well, he lives by himself, because his dad works out of the area and only comes home a few days out of the week. Therefore, this sixteen year old boy looks after himself with no parental guidance, no love and no brothers and sisters. Odell is lonely. He does not do drugs nor steal; he said he’d rather ask for it. He maintains a high score of eighty percent and his favorite subject is mathematics. Unfortunately for Odell and others like him, school fees must be paid in order to attend classes in Jamaica.
While we were talking and he was eating, Odell seemed to drift or zone out. I wanted to know what was going on; he answered all my questions and was eating something so what was the problem. I wanted to know his soul…his sorrows.Me: Are you alright? Odell: Yes Me: The food taste nice? Odell: Yes Me: What’s going on Odell, you seem like you are hurting, are you having pain? Now there was a break through Odell: Mi unhappy Me: What makes you unhappy? Odell: Mi nuh have no money to attend school Me: I shook my head…That is something a child shouldn’t have to worry about, so you beg. How do you feel when you beg money?
At this point he looked directly into my eyes and answered…Odell: Bad, and when mi beg and the people walk away and give mi nothing mi shame (embarrassed).
His eyes carried pain, hunger, and deep sadness. A sadness a plate of food cannot take away because there will be later, tomorrow, next day, next week, and next month when he will need to eat again. He was unable to enjoy this meal because he was worried about his next. Odell is just a child, a child with too much to worry about. I kept the eye contact for a second to let him know I cared.Me: You know you will be a man soon, what is your plan? Odell: Mi a learn mason, my Dad is teaching me
Later on we gave him a pair of shoes, for school, out of the donations we received from the project, Donate Old Kids’ Books and Clothes, but then we had to let him go. I spoke to him about begging and ways to stop. He was very happy about his shoes, but man he had some stinky feet…pee-yew.
The next day I ran into Odell and I am happy to say he was selling bag juice instead of begging. He also looked different, he was smiling. I sensed a change…..
We finally got him to smile.