To the little boy named Miguel…

On Friday afternoon, after being given the freedom to roam around the city, Emily and I took a stroll near the heart of Leon. While in need of some cool air, we sat in a café, unaware of who was about to take a stroll through the depths of our souls.

A little boy named Miguel walked through the doors, and directly towards our table, wearing a disheveled white t-shirt, and blue pants, with grime on his face, hands and arms. He asked if we wanted to buy his square shaped candy, and took a seat right beside me. After asking some intrusive questions that caused me to distrust his intentions, his big brown eyes frowned, as he observed the glass window of the pastry counter. I told Emily, “I think he’s hungry.” She took the initiative to buy him a snack of his choice after confirming that hunger was truly lingering in his stomach. As he sat down to eat his strawberry cheesecake, I started thinking about his future. It was a great deed to give the hungry little boy named Miguel something to munch on, but I still felt unsettled, questioning this action as permissible or problematic. I thought to myself, “Today he can look into the eyes of a stranger and get what he wants because he is a child. But tomorrow and his later days, will he have that same option? If not, how will he get by in this world?” So to the little boy named Miguel, who stole my heart, this is for you…

Dear Miguel,

I beg you to not think that I did not see your small frame enter through the doors of the café. I saw you, I really did and I am truly apologetic if the energy that you felt from me seemed to be confusing. You see, I have been taught to look beyond you and not recognize who you are. I have been taught that when a stranger is on the street asking for money, I should not condone these actions. But my reality is, you are not a stranger. Yes, it is true that I do not know you and your story, but in this world, whom do we really know? Countless times, I have sat next to classmates in seemingly your same position. A position that forces you to leave from school and go to the street desiring to seek out attention from anyone willing to give it. I looked at you, but never into your eyes, selfishly afraid of the life that I may give you from this connection, and selfishly afraid that you will see our contact as permission to enter my life forever.
When you sat beside me, and slowly ate your cheesecake, I questioned what life has in store for you. I know that you told me that you attend school every day and I was pleased to receive this information. I know that you demonstrated your intelligence by recounting all that which you have learned that day. But I wondered, “Is that enough?” By you attending school, will that ever change your standard of living? Will you ever not have to work through the wild geography of the streets begging for a one-sided connection? I wanted to feed you too. I really did. But, I would never know for sure, if by my feeding you, I’d be creating a system of dependency that would further entrap you in a cycle of poverty.
Even though, I encourage all children to go and stay in school, I know that school is not beneficial to everyone. I know that every person’s life may take a different path. I pray that you find the words “knowledge is power” to be true because as you grow older, and learn more about yourself and your surrounding environment, the knowledge that you obtain will give you the strength to change your situation (if it is your desire to do so). You looked into our eyes and asked for support, which is one of the most courageous things a person could do. But please, now I am begging you, do not let your current situation hinder the light of your future. Please break the chains that keep dragging you back to the same five-block radius contained with tourists from around the world. I know that it is most definitely “easier said than done,” but you are only eight years old and though it may not feel this way now, the world is still yours.
Tiarra Riggins ’17