Wishing to Do More

Wishing to Do More

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Wishing to Do More

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.

Mother Teresa

It is said that helping one in need can bring the benefactor great fulfillment. Although I have often found this to be true, it was on a memorable day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, when I met a pair of young brothers whose life struggles left me wishing I could do more to help others.

It all began on what seemed like a normal Sunday afternoon. While we were waiting in the endlessly long grocery line, a young thin boy approached my husband, Joao. He stood with a package of ground beef in his hands as he asked Joao something and then walked away.

Curious, I inquired what the boy wanted. Joao regretfully relayed that the boy wanted him to buy the beef for his family. In Brazil it is not uncommon for a child to beg for money. The problem is that some kids have found this an easy way to get things they want and may not even need to beg. Therefore, people are selective about giving.

“I should have just accepted,” he said, shaking his head. “It was only five reais.” (About $2.00.)

I could see how sad turning the boy away had made him feel. Because he was asking for food, and not money, we decided to help out. So Joao brought the boy back to stand in line with us.

Seeing him up close, I noticed a large pink scar on his left cheek. Baggy white shorts and a white shirt hung from his tiny frame. Atop his head rested a white ball cap he had undoubtedly found in the trash.

To break the awkward silence, Joao brought up the ever-popular subject of futebol (soccer). We discovered that Bruno was a good player and had won a few trophies, which he had sold to buy the new tennis shoes that he modestly wore upon his feet.

Because the line was not shrinking quickly, we had an opportunity to learn a lot about this fourteen-year-old. He pointed out his shy younger brother who was waiting by the door with a bag of a few items some other people had graciously purchased for them.

Bruno was the oldest of six kids, all being raised by a single mother, who worked as a housekeeper. Bruno’s father had died a few years back while attempting to rob a truck containing food. Since he was the oldest, and his mom worked, Bruno rarely attended school. Instead he remained home to care for his younger siblings. Bruno spoke of these hardships in a nonchalant fashion, for it was all he knew of life.

However, a little smile crossed his face as he proudly announced that he had been on television before. Expecting it was due to soccer, we inquired about his fame. To our surprise it was for a much more heroic reason. His family lived in an area of very poor living conditions, which had caught on fire. Bruno had braved the flames of their home to rescue his baby sister. In the process, he had been burned on his face and chest.

Joao and I had compassionately listened and decided that we could do more than just pay for the beef. We asked Bruno to watch our cart and quickly excused ourselves. We gathered up a cesta de comida (a family food box of basic essentials like rice, beans, milk, etc.), sweets, and a drink for the two boys.

The boys graciously accepted the food. We gave them bus fare along with some words of advice from Joao, for he had grown up in humble beginnings in Brazil. Joao explained to them that he had never given up and found a way to attend a U.S. college. He wanted these boys to understand that if they stay out of trouble, they can make it.

The brothers happily rushed off to the bus stop. Joao and I, on the other hand, were left in tearful silence on the drive home. In some way we felt terrible . . . a box of food, how long would that last? It hardly seemed sufficient. We wished we could have done more, but what?

We resolved to return to the grocery store at the same time the following weeks to try to find the boys once more, but with no luck. We were not able to give a lot, but we did give with much love and hope for the brothers and their family. They will forever remain in our hearts and thoughts.

Heather Ekas

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