This story was not meant to be happy…
As I break from my busy day, I see through the eyes of my broken heart a young boy. He is a small child, but he is brave and strong.
He has seen what most could not imagine, but he lives calmly among common, everyday suburbanites. If you were a fellow 11 year old, you would never guess he’d been born into third world poverty. If you were his elementary teacher, you wouldn’t easily suppose he’d only lived in the U.S. for five years. If you called his name, you wouldn’t know by his response that it wasn’t the name his mother gave him. If you passed him on the street, walking beside his new mom, you’d be stunned to hear that he’d watched his childhood abductors drive a machete into his birth mother’s chest.
There were two who took him from his childhood home at the age of five, two sixteen-year-old boys. There were two, because evil desires companionship. There were two, because cowards don’t prefer to work alone. There were two, because one might have lost heart when he saw the depth of love that is shared between a mother and her son. One might have remembered his own mother who’d been snuffed out in a similar way only a decade before. Yes, two was safer. When boy soldiers were in high demand, there was no option for sentiment, no room for weakness. Two meant the job would get done.
I will call this child, Boyd, though his true name—his heart’s name—is Angelo. Boyd doesn’t mind being called by his new name, though. He likes it, in fact, because he is grateful for what it represents. It represents his freedom day.
When his abductors were caught and arrested only hours after they captured him, Boyd was placed in a children’s home. The small orphanage was filled with 147 other children, most of whom had similar stories to Boyd’s own tragedy. The long war had destroyed most of the families in his region. What few families the war had spared, disease and AIDS had quickly snatched.
Boyd was sharply aware, even at such a young age, that his hopes of escaping a life of hardship and pain were all but futile. Some older boys in the orphanage used to boast about who would sell the most drugs or sleep with the most hookers when they got turned out to the streets in a few years. These children had been orphans longer than Boyd, and they’d already forgotten much of what it was like to be safe and loved, to be held in the tender arms of a mother. Some didn’t remember their lives before at all. They’d been orphans since shortly after infancy.
Boyd was sickened by these sad ambitions. He wanted nothing to do with drugs or hookers. He wanted a mother, maybe even a father! What could drugs or prostitutes offer that a family could not ultimately surpass? Once, he had voiced these thoughts, and the other boys grew very quiet for a while. After a few uncertain moments, one of the older and more hardened boys had called him a little mommy’s boy who “had much to learn,” and the nonsense had quickly resumed. It was obvious that they had given up hope. Realizing this, a little more of Boyd’s own hope had died as well.
At night, Boyd would struggle for hours to overcome the terrors that made him tremble as he relived the memories of watching his mother’s death. He never let the other children know he was crying, but he couldn’t hold back the silent tears that shook his lonely little body. Each night his hope of rescue had grown fainter and weaker.
Boyd had never met his father. From a young age, he had dreamed that his father was alive and looking for him. He imagined a strong, handsome man who’d lost his way temporarily one day while hunting. He’d been convinced that his Papa had spent every waking moment since trying to find his family again. When he would speak of this to his mother, she would smile sadly and tell him to keep dreaming, that one day any dream might come true. She never told him to give up on the father who had abandoned them. In truth, she’d never given up on him herself.
Most of a year had passed since Boyd was placed in the orphanage, when two kind-eyed Americans came to visit. This was a day Boyd hoped never to forget for the rest of his life. This was the day of his freedom.
photo credit: http://www.fastfifty.net/Watoto-Boys