I sat and watched mesmerizied. I was amazed at what this child was accomplishing. He had been handed very worn out tennis shoes. They were held together sole and mesh at the toe only. The rest of the shoe was left to just flap in the wind. He pulled out his shoe shine kit, a virtual pandora’s box. The hemp string looked strong enough. He threaded the sting through the large stout needle and began to work his magic on the shoe. He sewed and stitched, working deligently and effortlessly for 30 minutes. The end result: what was once a useless threadbare tennis shoe was now a functioning walking shoe. The boy was not even a teenager. He couldn’t have been older than 10. He was industrious to say the least. To be honest, I would have thrown the shoe out long before it got seperated from the sole. These people are resourceful. They have to be. It is how they survive.
They are known as shoeshine boys throughout the city. I ask, ”
Simeh man naw? ” What is your name? They have names such as Malachi, Zachariah, Marcos – Mark, and Yonas – John. We practically have the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament disciples. Most come from villages to the south of Addis Ababa, Wolaita, Shasamene, just to name a few. They come 6, 7, 8 years of age, Their parents send tham to the busy city of Addis expecting them to become great entreprenuers. The boys come with dreams of earning money. Some even want to open shoe factories. Their names intrigue me. Their stories fascinate me. Their dreams and work ethic inspire me. Their hard life and deploraable living conditions causes the compassion of Christ to well up in me. At the seat of my emotions, my gut, my heart, my tears, I hear the words over and over again, “Jesus had compassion on them.” I am at a quandry. I want to help, but at a loss how to help. I offer compassion in the only way I know how. Jesus said, “You feed them.” So we do. We feed them a hot meal six days a week, and for an hour out of their strenueous work day striving to earn at least a dollar a day, they come in and rest for awhile. They walk through those green gates and they are served. Our cooks have worked hard all morning to give them a nutricious hot meal. They also care about these boys. I see compassion in each of them as they heap mounds of rice on their plates. I stop at one spoonful. They laugh at my meager helping. “No, No, Kellye more,” as they pantamime more spoonfuls. Moms come in with lunch buckets. The cooks explain to me their children are at school and if we didn’t provide this meal for them the children wouldn’t eat at all that day at school. Compassion. Compassion flows from these cooks. The sight of starving children has a tendency to stir up something in your gut that rises to your heart and flows out into your feelings and causes you to act. It begins and ends with Jesus. “Let the llittle children come to me,” He once said.