‘The Little Ones’

Brazilian street children are a simple lot. Barbie accessories and computerized, trilingual gadgets are as foreign as a lunar colony; instead, construction-paper kites and empty pop bottles entertain like a Furby. Imagine their excitement upon seeing two tall, blue-eyed missionaries in dark pants and zipper ties! Pop bottles drop every time we pass.

“Tu! Fala inglês!” they yell, headlight eyes full of expectation. “You! Say English!” How exciting to hear another language!

Or there’s the plea of the economically minded children.

“Me dê dez!” they say, tiny hands extended as if to catch snowflakes. “Give me ten centavos!” Tasty hard candies and coconut sweet rolls dance seductively in their heads.

I’ll never forget one street child I met in the rain, a darling little girl with a tattered gray dress and a thousand-dollar smile. I watched at a distance as she tried to rip up a cardboard box with tiny, little-girl arms; soaked, she desperately needed a makeshift umbrella. The tiny creature ran as I approached, not out of fear so much as uncertainty. I tore the box open and demanded she sit with me under the bus stop’s protective concrete canopy. As we sat captive on that dry, deserted-island bus stop, surrounded by an ocean of rain, the little one’s golden soul–a soul that had withstood poverty’s corrosion–enchanted me. She called me “senhor”–“mister”–in her sing-song, northeast-Brazilian accent as if I were a king or a senator.

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