Last night was no different than others. The three of us hopped in a taxi-trufi and headed down to the bus terminal. The wall that fences in the terminal on Ayacucho near its south entrance is a hangout spot for a group of girls that call that streets or any number of cheap, shady rentals “home”. This is where they congregate, sniff their clefa and pains away and sell their bodies to ensure another days’ bread and glue.
We meet up with two of our friends, already quite high, and fall easily into conversation. Generally, people walk by these girls thinking along two lines. One, that they are dangerous and to be avoided, or two, that they are worthless and to be abused. The truth is, they are beautiful and to be loved. We talk about their children. One is 27 years old; she has a 3-year-old daughter living with the child’s Godparents and a 1-year-old son stay-ing at the cities largest baby home. The other is 15, and her 3-year-old son is at the same home as the other boy. We talk about trying to work out a visit. Neither of our friends has seen their children in a long time. We can understand both sides of the situation; most people only see the one. Of course these gals are not fit to care for their children, and of course their habits put their children at risk, but then they are the mothers and have feelings for their kids and long to see them and know that they are doing all right.
We also talk about less serious things. How skinny one of them is, about bust and butt implants, the festival of Urkupiña that is currently under-way, and why all men are bad (at this point I insist that some of us have merit and they in turn offer males a 20% approval rating – much better than their initial 0%!).
Nearby, sitting down about five feet from us, is a young girl. I would guess she is around 14, though it is very hard to tell. She is dressed in a pink tracksuit, hair falling just past her shoulder, pretty. I would guess from the look of her she has not been on the streets the years that those around her have, but that she is here, at the terminal, tells of exactly how much she has seen and how deep she really is in this life. We notice her, she seems to be listening to our talk with our friend, perhaps interested, per-haps wanting to talk; before we approach her, however, she moves to be with another group of girls and continues to inhale her escape from the night that will follow. A man nears this group. He is unkempt, dirty, his fly is unzipped and it is clear from his approach what it is he is looking for. There are several girls sitting there, maybe 5, and none are as young and innocent looking as the girl in pink. A transvestite approaches him to offer his services – ironically he looks with disgust as the young man in drag, as if what he is thinking is pure. He speaks to the girl, and for an offer of what is likely a very meager amount of money, perhaps the equivalent of $3, she is purchased for a spell, her dignity sold for a bit of bread and more of the glue that helps her escape the humiliation she is walking towards once again. I am full of emotion. Violence fills my heart and I wonder if I could catch up to her and offer her more money just to get her away from this pervert. I stay put – frozen in my impotence.
We leave shortly after to make the return trip home. One the way we walk past a family that is returning from a party of sorts. The mother and fa-ther are obviously very drunk, and as the mother, who is heavy set, wa-vers from side to side in her bright pink dance costume, we notice a little object dangling from her hand. Only it is not an object at all, it is a boy, somewhere between 1 and 2 years old, trying desperately on his newly functioning legs to keep up with this staggering woman who appears dan-gerously close to falling upon his little body. Again, impotent, we stare in anger.
These stories are too common here. The question that rings in our hearts again and again is the obvious one – what can we do? It is easiest to sug-gest that we can do nothing but pray, or hope the police of government do something. Of course, the police were when this 14 year old girl was rented for the night and were there when these parents stumbled drunk with their poor child in tow and they did nothing. The government, well, it has so many things facing it and so little money to deal with them that it is hard to imagine them doing much more.
The truth is, there are resources here, there are people here able to help. What we lack is funds, the compassion of people from places where money does seem to grow on trees. I confess, this is a rant, but it is a rant trig-gered by a broken heart. I have seen what a little bit of cash can do – it can provide what is needed to take a broken life and give it hope, an abused child and fill her with love. When will those of us who come from backgrounds overflowing with wealth stop thinking about ourselves? When will we stop giving the extra and start actually giving sacrificially? Charitable giving as it is presently shows exactly how shameful the human species truly is; love does not mean giving a little to ease the conscience, it means what Jesus told the rich young man to do – go, sell everything you have, and give it to the poor, then come and follow me. Salvation in present day churches has generally grown cheap. We re-write this story and have Jesus tell the young man to give up the riches “in his heart”. But that isn’t how it happened. Jesus did not ask the young man to say a prayer and that just with belief he would become his follower – he told him to do something, and when he didn’t, he had no choice but to walk away, head down.