Today I went to buy chocolate, a regular occurrence in my life. While waiting to pay, a young boy of about 7 years joined the line. I smiled and motioned he stand in front of me; all he had was a small packet of juice mix. He glanced at me and took his place. He was filthy. His feet were covered in the grime of what could only be his home, or the street he lived on. His yellow shirt so dirty it was brown. His shorts ripped, his hair dusty and matted. But what struck me were his eyes, these wide eyes that held in them a certain knowing, an expression of having seen and been through too much. He looked at me with trepidation and suspicion, and a small bit of wonderment. I was overcome with guilt when he saw the two chocolate bars in my hands.
He looked me up and down several times, turned his back to me, only to turn and look again. I smiled each time. What did he think of me, this boy who knew more hardship than I would ever know, who lived the darkness of my dreams as his every day life? He paid for his packet of juice mix, K0.95. The coins had been clutched in his hand and he counted them out carefully. Where did they come from? Were they collected after meticulous searching on the ground, for coins so insignificant to others they could easily be discarded? He collected his receipt and change before giving me one final look and heading out the door. His walk was slow and cautious, those wide eyes calculating the people around him, his small hand clutching his packet of juice mix.
This hardship is a reality for most people in PNG, and it is a brutal, cold truth. These are the forgotten people, the people who pass too quickly by the windows of moving cars, overlooked in our haste and important rush. These are the people for whom we offer nothing and forget so easily. But I will remember you. I will meet you in my dreams, and feel you in my heart, and be reminded of you in my salty, humbled tears.