Penny and I stopped and retraced our steps back to the bridge. I walked around the barrier and down into the dark space underneath it, feeling a tiny bit afraid of what I might find. I moved forward gradually as my eyes adjusted to the darkness and, as I called out, two figures slowly and hesitantly moved towards me. The two boys were really filthy dirty and very thin, aged about 15 or 16. I engaged them in basic conversation, establishing names and that they were living under the bridge.
I could see Penny watching from the bridge. She suggested we get some food, so we took them to a fast food restaurant nearby called “Jollibee” (the Filipino equivalent of McDonald’s.) Many local people watched with astonishment as we walked along the street with the boys. They smelt strongly of solvents and seemed a bit dazed and confused. One of the boys had visible traces of glue on his face and in his hair. He was so dirty and dishevelled that he looked almost animal-like, having lost the ability and motivation to care for himself or his appearance. I hadn’t seen boys in this state before as my “bridge boys” were relatively clean and lucid in comparison.
We chatted with the boys whilst they ate, which they did slowly. A side effect of the drugs is that they make the children feel full so that when they eat proper food they sometimes feel ill or can’t eat much until their bodies re-adjust. It’s similar to the effect of not eating at all for a few days. Your stomach shuts down and it’s hard to start eating again. I spoke to the boys about the dangers of the solvents and discovered that they knew some of my other boys from the bridge area. We shared the Gospel with them and invited them to attend a local church before leaving.
Although I looked for them, I didn’t see these boys again, but I thought about them a lot and kept replaying what had happened in my mind. My only mental comparison was to some kind of animal scurrying around and routing through rubbish. My mind hadn’t even registered that they were humans. I could see how easy it was for these boys to become invisible to locals, especially when the sight of them high on drugs and searching through rubbish bins became normal, and blended in with everything else that was happening. I realised with shock that I hadn’t really seen these boys. They had become invisible to me, as well as the many other people milling around. I determined and hoped that I would keep my eyes open in the future and not allow this to happen again.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish