Our two stops were far less chaotic than our first water truck day. There was less desperation, or so it appeared. I participated in the water line at our first stop. I started out holding the hose and enjoying the vantage point. I could see everything that was going on with all of our team members and I stopped to take a deep breath and really experience the exciting energy of the moment. I witnessed kids climbing on the backs of my team members as they were working so hard to fill water as efficiently as possible. One little boy really struck me. He was about 2 years old, no clothes, a big barrel chest and a survivor mentality. I was so amused by his antics to get water and his interactions with the other kids. His little white pitcher with pink flowers on the side was his and he wasn't going to let ANYONE take it. He also wasn't about to wait in line like everyone else. Michael and Tracy became his jungle gym and they had absolutely no idea because they were completely focused on the difficult task at hand. Michael likes to guide the hose into the buckets because he has a strong realization that the water in City Soleil is gold and doesn't want to waste one drop. City Soleil has a way of making you cherish every resource that helps to keep them alive and thriving. The boy climbed over their backs, between their legs, was pinched by the older kids, had his pitcher stolen several times, managed to take them down and get his pitcher back. After all that work, how could I not make sure his pitcher was filled? He earned that water with shear tenacity and perseverance! That kid will go somewhere! Not only do they have their own thirst to deal with but also the compassion to help us. A little girl saw that we were working hard on the water line and approached Tracy and Alicia. She made a cup with her hand and dipped it into the water to give them a refreshing splash on the face. She wiped away their sweat and gave them both a kiss on the cheek. It was priceless.
Before we left I had shifted locations and ended up putting many, many buckets on top of women and children's heads for them to carry. The kids were all so delighted to have our attention, and we are mutually delighted to have theirs. The mood changed abruptly when right in front of me a man started yelling and whipping a boy, about 8 years of age, with a bungee cord with a metal hook on the end. The boy was running and screaming, tears streaming down his face. The man whipped him from head to toe. The boy hid behind some shanties until he knew he was safe and then came out crying and rubbing his wounds. Rachel, Maddie and I ran to comfort him. My hurt still hurts deeply for him and I'll be praying for his safety and freedom.
When we stopped to fill the water trucks, some of us had to use the restroom. As we entered the gates I noticed two young women sitting on a ledge. They were interested in us, so they followed us to the restroom. Although we had a major language barrier, we managed to find out that her mother lives in Bagley Minnesota. My husband has family in Bagley, a very small town in Northern Minnesota. What a strange coincidence and a very small world!
Our last water truck stop was also full of life and action. The kids were hanging off us all. The team members filling the buckets continued to work like a family that we have definitely become. We carried buckets, played with children, sang songs and enjoyed the last moment we had to spend with these amazing and resilient people. They continue to amaze me and will forever have all of our hearts. As I sit here typing, I feel the muscles in every part of my body and I only lived a very brief moment of their daily lives. They are strong and have overcome and continue to overcome adversity yet genuinely smile along the way. I will take their smiles home with me and remember to appreciate things a lot more.