She sells candy on the streets to help the family survive. She was nine years old when I met her and now she is fourteen. She is not as little and cute as she once was. Charming a tourist isn't as easy as it used to be. You might say she is past her prime. Now she is just another dirty kid on the street. Fortunately, for the family her little brother is of begging age and is filling her position. Monica found me last night. She always does. I wondered what her family needed this year. I have to fight the impulse to see them as greedy, but they have never made a request of me that was more then simple survival. They know me, and do what anybody in need would do? They look for help where they can find it.
This time it was her father. He has a bad tooth that has infected his jaw. The infection has begun to spread causing severe headaches, blindness in one eye and tingling down one side of his body. A few years ago we treated another girl with this condition. The doctor said she would go blind then die without antibiotics and pulling the bad teeth. This we did, and today she is alive and well. For every one person that asks for help there are hundreds that suffer the natural consequences of these conditions.
A few nights later, I went to meet a friend in the plaza. While we sat on a park bench, Monica stood behind me leaning on my shoulders, listening to a conversation in English that she didn't understand. Without warning, the rain began and half a dozen street kids scattered to their various shelters. Monica was caught up in the middle of our group, as we headed to the restaurant across the street. Five adults went in and, as is her custom, she stopped at the doorway knowing that it takes an invitation for a street kid to come into a business. She was the only one that made it that far, so I asked her to join us at the table. As time passed, the rain slowed and children began to appear on the sidewalk. All of them were wondering why they weren't the one invited to eat a hot meal.
We talked, ate and laughed until the food was gone and the hour was late. The activities in the square had returned to normal. As we gathered our things to leave and waited for the bill, I watched Monica grow very serious. She took out a handful of small plastic bags from her back pack. They were filled with shelled, roasted, salted peanuts. These were the same peanuts her entire family was working on the day we took medicine to her father (who is much better I might add). They were all sitting in the front room of the house shelling and preparing these nuts for sale on the street.
Monica never looked up. She just kept rearranging and counting her little bags of peanuts and three boxes of chicklet gum. I asked her if she had sold anything today and she said she hadn't. She just couldn't ask me to buy some. After all, I had just provided her a meal. However, it is a problem if she returns home at night without money. Her parents might think that she played the night away instead of working to sell peanuts. The bags were about 15 cents a piece and the gum 30 cents.
As we stood to leave, I reached into her open backpack and took a handful of home packaged, roasted, salted peanuts. No, I cant eat them. I saw the condition of the hands that worked on them. However, I am taking orders. Since I already told you what I paid for them, I will ship them out with a picture and short biography of Monica, on a donation basis. I promise that all of the proceeds will go back into this project.
This is a small bag of peanuts that you will never eat, produced by a poor Peruvian child and her family. Might I suggest you set it in a conspicuous place in your home or office as a conversation starter about how blessed we are.