We were loading up our kids to take them to the market to buy shoes. This was our second trip. We took a van full of boys first, then girls. In Guatemala there are no seat belt rules. The more people you can pack in to a van the better. As this is not a custom that we are in support of, or condone, they would have thought that we were crazy had we suggested anything else. The first load was approximately 14 boys along with a few parents, Linda, Jose and myself. The second load was mostly girls and some older boys who had just returned home from school, as well as some parents and us.
We had just loaded up the second group when a very beautiful Mayan woman approached us. She had a baby in a sling made up of an old scarf, an older daughter and a young girl, I call the “Waif”. The waif, I am guessing was about 5 – 6 years old. The mother asked us what we were doing. When she was told by one of the adults accompanying us, she asked us if she could send one of her children with us. Linda, Jose and myself looked at one another, shrugged our shoulder and said, “Sure, why not”. So, we loaded the young girl into the van with all the other kids. She was a grubby little thing, and by the look of her you could tell she was from a family that was the poorest of poor.
The little girl started at the back of the van which was loaded with a lot very vocal squealing girls. As we proceeded to the market, the little girl made her way up to the front of the van and was looking out the front window in amazement. It was very evident to us that she had never been in a vehicle before. If she had never been in a vehicle, then, she had never been in to town or the market.
She was such a beautiful child filled with such awe at a world she had never seen before. When we got to the market we had to make sure that someone was always hanging directly on to her hand to ensure that she did not get lost or wander off on her own. She was so taken by everything she saw, she would forget to pay attention to where we were going in the very crowded market.
This little “waif” of a girl had a ball that day. She saw a world she was unfamiliar with as well as being sent home with a brand new pair of leather shoes, something she probably would never have experienced in her entire life.
She was dropped back off to her mother with a smile that I will never forget.
The Waif’s mother and brother