It was a dirty kind of heat, one mixed with dust and debris that smothered you like a blanket; we braved it as we stepped out of a taxi and trekked up to the train station. I had never been so far away from home, nor so near to my calling in my entire life; I was only thirteen at the time. Journeying to a different country for mission work had always been a dream of mine.
The station held an open platform that stretched for what seemed the entirety of Vishakhapatnam. We were tussled in a river of brown skin and dark features which made a show of our own light hair and complexion. Beggars crawled out of their heated shadows. I turned my head and studied our luggage, afraid and unsure of how to react to their ragged clothes and open hands. The majority of them were slaves, with all their earnings going to the pockets of their masters. I was terrified of confrontation; of being so close yet not being able to help them.
Something soft hit my lower back. I turned and saw her: the little girl who changed my life forever.
Her hand, now cupped in a begging motion, tapped me.
Her eyes were crossed, but the pleading look on her face was still undeniable. My body felt like ice. I tried a sympathetic smile, a slight nod of the head. Anything to explain to her I’m sorry, that I wanted to help, but couldn’t give her what she asked. I looked her over from her dirty orange shirt to her pink plastic watch. From her lopsided pigtails to those tragic, glistening eyes. In her arms lay a dying puppy, as dusty and sick as she was. Stray dogs are not uncommon in India. But seeing a dog that belonged to a beggar was. The little girl took obvious ownership of the puppy, stroking it whenever her hand wasn’t busy asking for spare change. A lady from our group came to my rescue. She produced a package of cheese crackers, which the little girl sheepishly accepted. With shame and triumph, she walked some distance from our group and began to consume her prize.
Isabella Stines, was the 1st place winner of our “Star Search Writing Contest.”
Please stay tuned for the 2nd part of Isabella’s story on Thursday.