Sometimes certain images haunt my mind throughout the week. They make demands for a reflection. One of these was of a mother walking away from us. All I saw was her back as she walked away. We wouldn’t have noticed her if one of the boys hadn’t told us that it was Dreyson’s mother. She came to convince her son to return home. She wasn’t successful. Dreyson was sitting in front of us. He did not look upset. He was just adamant. He wasn’t going to go home. She gave up and walked away without looking back at her son. We stood there in the middle between the mother and the son. Perhaps some would wonder if we could have done something to meliorate the relationship between the child and parent. If we go after the mother, we would be entering a complex maze of problems and situations. It is a world that is too big for us. We might become lost in it and in the process we might even lose focus on Dreyson. We are just finite beings in a world of infinite problems. We need to recognize our limitations. Dreyson was sitting in front of us. He is staying here. It only makes sense that we stay with him.
His parents named all the children with the letter “y” in their names. Besides Dreyson, there is another young son in the streets. His name is Danyel (pronounced as Daniel). The “y” is purposefully inserted to make their names stand out. These parents wanted something special for their children. They had good intentions. We don’t know what unfolded that resulted in their two sons being in the streets. We met the boys when they first came to the center about three years ago. Danyel was 12 and Dreyson was 13 then. The streets haven’t been sympathetic to them. I have seen Dreyson in tears many times. He suffered but has survived the street life. When his mother came for him, he was emaciated and wearing filthy clothes. She wore clean clothes and looked healthy from the back at least. Yet, he wasn’t convinced that his home was better than the streets.
The other children chided him for not going home. It was their chance to be self-righteous, even though they would do exactly the same thing in his position. Only Ruan was honest. In fact, he is one of the most honest teens in the group. He said that it would take more than words to bring him back home. He said it quietly but loud enough for me to hear it. I have been to his house. His mother has a big screen TV and a small dining table. Ruan would rather have a big table and a smaller TV.
I think this is what the children and teens want now. They mostly come from extremely poor families. Thanks to the availability of credit cards, some of their families are able to acquire amenities that they cannot afford. They have entrusted the care of their children to these things. This is another devastating effect of poverty that is hardly addressed. It gives people the false notion of material things. They put all their eggs in the material acquisition basket. The children, on the other hand, want a home where people sit at the table and talk and listen to each other. They want there to be an empty seat with their names permanently written on it. In Ruan’s house, there are hardly any chairs but there is a worn out couch placed in front of the TV. Conversations are non-existent. Ruan and the other children and teens love to talk.
It took a few years for Dreyson to open up to us. It happened a few weeks ago. We were waiting at the square for the children and teens. Only Dreyson showed up. He sat down next to us and did not say anything for a while. I asked him if he wanted to play a game or do something. He wasn’t interested in doing anything. He just wanted to sit with us. Then he said that he missed traveling. His father used to take him and his younger brother to different states in Brazil when he was young. He remembers almost every detail of these trips including the color of the buses and scenery. He said that his father did odd jobs to earn money for the family. Suddenly our usually gloomy young friend became alive. The conversation flowed in different directions. He started talking about school and how much he enjoyed learning new stuff. He asked questions about ourselves and asked what we liked to do. We had a lively conversation for more than an hour. Unfortunately, it was abruptly interrupted. Nothing drastic happened. It just the reality of the streets. Interruptions are part and parcel of it. However, they did not steal or destroy the time we spent with him. We asked Dreyson if he wanted to go a science museum the next day. He nodded his head enthusiastically. We planned the time and left. He did not have a clean shirt for the excursion and I said that I would give him one of mine.
The next day I had a nice t-shirt for Dreyson but he did not show up. We went to the museum with another boy. We were going to take them both together. When we returned, Dreyson was waiting for us. He ran up to us and apologized profusely. He said that he overslept and felt extremely bad. We assured him that we will plan another trip to the museum together. It took a while to convince him that we were not upset at all. Then he calmed down. He was assured that there is still a chair with his name on it in our lives.
This is the Dreyson that was sitting there quietly as his mother walked away from him. He was terrified that he had disappointed us but he did not budge when his mother asked him to return home. Something happened for a child like Dreyson to prefer the streets. It is not normal for a young boy to reject the embrace of his mother. Perhaps, we will never know why he refuses to go home. Perhaps it is not important. It is essential that he never forgets that he has a place where he can talk and be heard. Maybe one day he might have the strength to go home and face his reality there. Until then, we will stay with Dreyson in the streets.