Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.-Mark 9:37
It is not easy to keep a schedule when you are living in the streets. Igor has never had a reason to wake up at a certain time and keep appointments. He has never lived with anyone who has had a steady daily schedule. Nothing is fixed or constant in his life. He has slept in the streets most of his life but never in the same place. This is quite typical of the homeless children. They make their bed wherever it is possible. One day, it might be under a highway bridge and then the police come and scatter them away from this place. Then they migrate to another abandoned or hidden location until the police find them. This cycle goes on for years. This constant movement and change make it difficult to cultivate any long-lasting relationship. Life in the street is unstable and chaotic. Keeping a schedule does not make sense. It only makes sense for those who have grown up in the stable environment. Igor never could afford such a luxury.
As you can see, it was not an easy task to have regular English lessons with Igor. He could not keep track of the time or days. Despite this, we still managed to squeeze in at least two English lessons before Igor completely disappeared from the streets. At first we thought that he had forgotten our lesson time. Days turned into weeks and there was still no sign of Igor. We started to get worried. We thought that maybe he was arrested but Igor seemed to have given up his criminal activities. Therefore an arrest would be unlikely. No one could give us a coherent answer. Then, by chance, we ran into him one evening. He looked very healthy and happy. He told us that he had left the streets. In reality, he was squatting with a group of people in an abandoned square. He had built a tiny shack of scrap wood. For him, this was the first step towards a better life. He invited us to visit him there and we did.
We had heard of this place before. It was a fenced up public square that the local government had turned into a drop-in center where the homeless could take a shower and wash their clothes. The project did not last long and was shut down due to lack of manpower. The square was abandoned with all its facilities and the homeless population eventually invaded this space. It was now home for several hundred people including families with children. Igor’s shack was the size of a small bathroom. There was just enough space to have a bed and perhaps a small suitcase to keep their clothes. For us it wasn’t much, but for Igor, it was the first time he had a place to call his own.
We knew that the government was going to restart the program and consequently they were going to repossess the square. Igor was aware of this as well but he wasn’t discouraged. He told us that the government was going to provide temporary housing for him and Ana Paula for six months and then they have to find a way to rent a place. Igor needed a series of personal documents in order to apply for jobs and he did not know where to start. Brazilian bureaucracy is not easy to navigate and especially for someone like Igor, it is very intimidating. Frankly speaking, we are intimidated by it as well but we decided to offer our help nevertheless. Igor accepted our offer.
The first step was to get Igor the Brazilian equivalent of a social security number. In order to this, we needed to go to the local post office to register Igor’s name and address. His name was not a problem but Igor did not have a permanent address. Usually he used the address of his aunt but he could not remember the postal code. They could not find the name of the street and we came to an impasse. I could see that Igor was getting a little discouraged. I asked the clerk if they could use any address and she said that it was not a problem as long as he had an address to receive correspondence. I stood there for a moment thinking whether I should risk giving my address. I knew that Igor has been involved in criminal activities. I also know that he wants to have a better life now. He needed a chance. I asked the clerk if I could give my address and she nodded a “Yes” and Igor looked surprised but he tried to hide it. I gave my address and we got Igor’s social security card. Igor was silent as we left the place. However before we said goodbye, he said that he will never forget what I did there. He said that it took courage and risk for me to trust him and then he gave a big hug and held on for a few seconds longer than usual. He said once again that he will never forget what I just did. Something good had happened and I was relieved that I took the risk.