A child’s plight, a man’s charity [Archives:2007/1081/Last Page]

August 30 2007

By: Saddam Al-Ashmouri
For Yemen Times

While walking beside a local mosque, I saw many people gathered outside in the building's yard. Curiosity lured me to see what had grabbed so much attention, especially after hearing voices from the crowd say, “Let's send him to the police.” Others stated, “Let us know who is his father, where does he live and who is teaching him to steal?”

I reached the gathering and passed through the crowd, coming upon a 9-year-old child whose face indicated that he was from a good family and not a street child.

He was sitting among the crowd, shivering out of fright. I almost heard the sound of his teeth chattering from panic. His cheeks were red, not because of shyness but because he had been subjected to strong slaps across the face. Moreover, his nose was bleeding.

While he was sitting, obviously terrified, a man kicked him strongly. I did not see tears in his eyes but I heard him moan when the man's foot made contact with his tiny body.

I had approached the boy's side when a man was sitting with him. This man saw in the child's features that he was a good boy. “What's your name, son? Where is your father? Why do you steal? Do you not know that stealing is forbidden and this is a holy place?” he asked the boy.

The boy could not talk, and out of his fright and pain, a white foam formed in his mouth. The man laid him down and told me to give him some water.

“Let's take him to the police. They will look after him and give him water,” one of the people from the crowd shouted. “He stole my shoes and you will give him water! We are supposed to cut his hand,” another person added.

We tried to calm the boy down. The man let him drink and washed his face. Then he asked the boy what was wrong. After the boy felt relaxed, he started complaining, “They were beating me. I felt pain.” He talked and talked then burst into tears until all those surrounding him were convinced that he was crying from the depth of his heart, not crying to gain sympathy or mislead the crowd.

The atmosphere suddenly changed. The people offered to help the boy with anything. He ate and felt relief and the people went on their way. He once again cried with bitterness, grabbing the man who had been helping him strongly, and said, “Do not leave me, they will beat me.”

The man took him aside and began to question him more intensely. “What is your name, son?” the man asked. “Ali,” the boy answered. “Do you live in this quarter, near the mosque? What did you steal?” the man added. “I stole shoes,” the boy replied. “Why are you stealing?” the man questioned. “My mother told me that I have to come home with food because my brothers are crying out of hunger. I thought to go to the mosque and ask people for help but other individuals preceded me in asking for charity. I did not know what to do. Then I went out. During my exiting, I saw new shoes. I said to myself, 'these belong to a rich man. I will sell them to buy food and he will buy another pair,'” he explained.

“You tell lies,” the man accused. “I do not,” the boy pleaded. The spectators decided to collect an amount of money and accompany the boy to his home to see if he was being truthful. If he was, they would give him the money; if not, they would advise his family to reprimand him.

The Truth Always Prevails

We went to the boy's house. His mother opened the door and quickly went inside. We waited outside while the man and the boy entered. Ten minutes later, the man returned and explained the tragic situation of the family.

“This family consists of four girls, three boys and their mother. Their father died ten years ago leaving nothing for them; even the furniture they sold. For two days, they haven't eaten,” he explained. The man added that when he told the mother what happened, she wanted to beat her child but he prevented her.

Then she cried loudly, saying, “I swear, I did not tell him to steal; I told him to go to the mosque, wait until the end of the prayer, then ask people for help. What can I do? I have no work. Shall I let my daughters be prostitutes in the street to live? No! Death is better.”

The man added that the woman had not paid rent for one year and sometimes the house owner would threaten to throw them out on the street.

The man offered to let the family live in an additional apartment in his house. I took his number to check up on the family's needs and progress. When I contacted him, he thanked me for my concern and stated, “I moved them to my house after many troubles because of the house owner. But, the police along with the quarter's official and the neighbors convinced him [the house owner] that he cannot get any money because they are destitute.”

At the end of the call, he gave me their address and asked me to visit them. “I gave them the apartment and some furniture. I want you to be a witness that I did this for Allah's sake, until they drive away their troubles,” he added.

I did not divulge my identity to the man. I was so affected by his rare and wonderful attitude, and I pondered, “Just by chance, if we were faced with this tragic situation and were the ones in need, would we find someone to assist us as this man had assisted this family?”