He was just six years old and already in the streets playing with fire. His scrawny arms hurled the dangerous, ignited batons into the midnight sky with no sign of fear in his eyes. It was a dark night—hot and humid—and it seemed to have no end for the boy, just hours and hours of dancing into obscurity. The streets f Peru were bustling with cars, slightly illuminated by streetlights, and the sidewalks were old and cracked.
The street performer presented the deathly task in front of the numerous cars that were stopped at a red light. No one looked at the boy, and the ones who did showed no interest, pity, or any emotion whatsoever other than annoyance that the light would not turn green for another 55 seconds. How could anyone act so normal when there was a six-year old boy risking his life just for a few soles? His shoulders soon shrugged and all his face expressed was desperation, misery, and hunger.
I felt a thousand emotions flooding my heart at once, none of which were individually decipherable. I felt guilt, shame, and sadness forcefully rushing through my veins as I gazed into his eyes. Countless questions swam haphazardly through my mind. What was the difference between this boy and me? Why was I more privileged than him? Why did I receive an education and go to sleep with a full stomach every night, and he did not?
I felt my heart sink to my stomach, and tears fill my eyes. I continued staring out the window, watching as the small boy remained frantic to collect money from the uninterested people in their cars. Not one person. Not one person had the warmth in their heart to give the underweight boy a few soles for his food. Not even my own grandfather gave him money.
The boy made me realize the value of life. I am privileged enough to be able to do homework every night, eat a good meal, and be content with life. Life itself is a benediction, but the way one perceives it is up to the individual.
This moment remains in my memories after five years, even though it lasted no more than a minute. It changed me. Once in a while I will complain about the smallest things in my life– then I catch myself mid-thought. What is doing math homework really going to do to me in the long run? If I miss a few shots in a soccer game will it truly ruin the team’s chance at winning? It will do nothing. Every time I catch myself complaining, I think of the boy playing with fire, the fullness of the light in his eyes, and the emptiness in his stomach.