A story by C.R. Roberts.
It’s late afternoon in the village of Plopenii Mici 20 kilometers outside the city of Botosani in Northeast Romania.
I have seen the look on the face of this man many times in other places, downcast in a combination of gratitude and shame. These are quiet eyes, incurious, injured and the same eyes that cry from the face of a child caught by whatever cosmic lottery it was that reserved a table in this troubled place
Solutions are ghosts, pebbles in the sea, but tonight we tried, God knows, when Cristi, the home leader here, and three of his young charges drove to the village and we stood beside a wide green field beside a quiet stream and the people came walking and running down a dirt road one lane wide and nameless on any map. They kept coming, kept running. They’d heard the man with the van had come once again with his random gifts. It’s like this every time. The people keep coming down the road and through the field, and there’s never enough to give them.
Cristi is something of a Christian entrepreneur. He receives donations of food, blankets, clothing and various corporate and personal castoffs particularly from a community in Holland and he distributes these things to people in need in villages that surround Botosani. He directs a home for orphans and abandoned children that is supported by donations and sponsorships from Kidstown International.
The first time I met him I was a little suspicious, this being the former reporter in me, but I’ve been here before and I’ve now been here a few days and we’ve talked, and I’ve talked to the people who work here and to the children who live here and I’m not suspicious anymore.
I do believe he has a calling.
This afternoon it was lentils, 30 cases of 12 cans each and the same of a Nutella knockoff, 30 times 12. The kids loaded the van. Cristi picked the village.
The people held out their arms, took their food and not all said thanks. Next time maybe it’s green beans and blankets, or a pallet of Clif bars, jelly, biscuits, bottled tea. Cristi knows the villages, the old men and the old women living hungry and alone, the families living in one room, sleeping in one bed.
A few years ago one Sunday in Farinabad, India, I had the privilege along with others representing Kidstown to help feed a few hundred street kids. We joined volunteers and 30-some kids who live in the church orphanage and I was struck by the irony — kids abandoned then rescued who were serving kids living lives that might have been theirs.
It was similar today, three kids who live here at the home and they’re distributing food to men, women and children who have much less, and who will likely not find more.
After wondering whether the question was appropriate, I asked Claudio, one of the boys, how he felt handing out food to people who needed it, when there but for grace he might find himself. I let Cristi translate. Claudio’s answer came quickly and put me in my place: “No comment.”
C.R. Roberts is a retired journalist from Tacoma, Washington. After studying at the University of Washington he moved to England, and upon his return owned a small business dealing in rare coins and stamps. Later, following a 30-year career as a columnist and business writer at the Tacoma News Tribune, he retired to a life of volunteerism and has made several trips with Kidstown to Romania, India and Nepal. He personally sponsors two young men in Romania.
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