This morning, I woke up with the bright and lucid laughter from children outside my window.
Tonight as I was walking home, I comforted a little boy from my street crying his heart out as he got locked out of the gate and everyone forgot about him.
Happiness. Sadness. Laughter. Tears. They're all part of the simple innocent world of children. They remind us of the most basic feelings and the wisdom behind growth and evolution.
It's tough to see a lot of them on the streets. Generation after generation, the cycle continues. I have been working with streetchildren since I was 18 as a volunteer storyteller and art teacher and always always when I interact with them, I feel there's something lacking in what I'm doing. My 8 years of development advocacy work began with streetchildren. So I believe I owe a lot of my life-work experience from them. Despite what little I have done and the work of all social workers and children's welfare supporters I know, a lot of them are still in the streets. It has never been a simple problem. So many factors are behind its continued existence.
Slowly as I deepen in my spiritual path, my life work with advocacy and art, I am always reminded that all change starts from within and in interaction with other beings, the best gift is the gift of presence.
"Speak a blessing to each child," as the arts relief workers from a transformative arts training I undertook would say. Spiritual teachers remind, "Change yourself and you will change others and the world."
So these have inspired my life-work philosophy for a long time now. The important act of self transformation and the power of intention and presence can be more nourishing than food and shelter. Of course this could be debatable by old school social workers and those who do not see value in the invisible affective power of art and spiritual "interaction" in the life of a child. While I choose to support causes that help them in a holistic way, I can also look into their eyes and smile with them even if I have no food to give.
There are so many ways people have been doing to bring children back to their homes or to shelters and off the streets. Some require working closely with parents and helping them find livelihood since this is one of the main roots of the problem; others work in shelters where they are given their basic rights to food, shelter and literacy; some do soup kitchens in public; and some give them whatever food they have in their bags instead of money. There are really simple acts we can all do with our simple ways of being. We will never know how far our actions reach and how it will help shape the life of each child. But know this, every presence that touches a life is a gift for both the giver and receiver.
Back in university, I arranged to bring some streetkids to watch a meteor shower at the UP Observatory. It was the look in their eyes and the awe in their voices as they saw meteors rain from the sky that was priceless. They don't usually see these things in the city as they walk in between the bright headlights of SUVs and bumper to bumper cars of Manila.
Last Christmas, my friends and I made parol mandalas with 100 of them who are already based in shelters. Again, that nagging feeling of I wish I can do more arose from time to time. Eventually I affirmed to myself that it was the simple act of helping them believe in the power of their dream through visioning and half-manifesting it through drawing and art could even be more powerful - for thought and images help shift a person's destiny. It was our collective energies of intending and believing their dreams for them that made the art activity very special. It was a beautiful complimenting action to what the shelters are already providing for them.
I was inspired to write this blog because just tonight, I was in a jeepney with 6 streetkids who hitchhiked on their way to the wet market (perhaps where they will be sleeping next). I gave each one a dalandan (local orange) and told them to compost the peelings on soil and plant every seed they collect from the fruit. Jericho, the curious one asked: "what is lupa (soil)"? It was so heartbreaking to hear that they don't even know what soil is.So I took time to point out trees out on the road and the soil beneath them. If I had more time and if this was during the day, we would be getting off the jeepney, playing barefoot on the soil, and planting the seeds with our hands!
Walking home, I thought of sharing this beautiful video Russell made out of our Christmas art action when we made healthy whole wheat banana pancakes for streetchildren we meet on the streets. Lots of charities were giving out styrofoam packaged junk that we felt it would be nice to share something that would nourish them and the earth. We used banana leaves to wrap the pancakes and asked the kids from my street to design the shape of the pancake on the front of the banana leaf packaging (I forgot to push for them to make mandalas instead for we have made mandalas before! But I was also too excited to care too much.)
Even if I moved on from working with children to other fields of development (art education, environmental management and peace work), children are still stakeholders I want to work with. I am happy to share this beautiful experience of sharing and giving through the power of presence with every child we meet whether through art, smiles, nutritious food or the love between co-creators that can share so much blessing from level of the heart and spirit.