What can be done with a hungry child?
He can be fed.
What can be done with hundreds and thousands of hungry children?
Citizens of the world and national leaders shake their heads sadly. No one is even sure how to start looking for an answer. No government or organization has the finances, the manpower, or the food to feed all the hungry children of the world. But here is one person's answer, with heart.
Recently, in a small Caribbean country, I had the pleasure of meeting some young boys who were working around the hotel. They were everywhere: handing out towels and smiling around the swimming pool; acting as ballboys and smiling around the tennis courts; buying newspapers for guests and smiling around the lobby. It was fun to talk with them and join in their laughter.
One warm and lazy evening, as I was gathering up tennis balls with them, one of the boys anxiously asked what time it was. When I told him, he ran toward the shower room.
''Where are you going?'' I asked.
''I'm late for school,'' he yelled as he skidded around the corner and disappeared.
School? It was six o'clock in the evening. I knew he had been working all day.
I looked for him the next day. He and his friends talked a little more about their lives. Each of them arrived at the hotel about eight in the morning and stayed there all day. Each attended school at night, from six to eleven, or eight to midnight. I found the recreation manager and asked him about the boys. His story was simple:
''There are,'' he said, ''many children begging on the streets of our city. They do not get enough to eat. They do not go to school. They do not have shoes for their feet. The boys you see here used to be begging on the streets. I brought them here, with special permission from the operators of the hotel. They are allowed to do small jobs for hotel guests, like being ballboy. For this, they receive some tips. We cannot pay them - it is against the law to hire children under seventeen - but, I see to it that they get three meals a day and I give them a few dollars now and then from my pockets. They must attend school, though. If they do not keep up their classes, they must leave.''
Compared to attitudes in North America, this might appear to be a harsh life for children. Compared to the life of a street child, it's an impossible dream come true.
The hotel exposes the children to new ideas and life-styles that stimulate their ideas and give them hope. By quenching their physical hunger, this man has created in these children a hunger that can be quieted only by gaining knowledge and growing in accomplishments. Their ambitions have soared beyond limitations. They freely announce that they are going to be lawyers, teachers and doctors - goals that hold no reality or interest for a child who wishes only to lose the pain of hunger.
More important, they have learned that they are valuable human beings. Their country, and therefore the world, will reap the benefits that will surely come as these children develop with this knowledge.
One man has endeavored to fight poverty and illiteracy in his homeland. His dreams don't seem as overwhelming as the demand to immediately feed millions of hungry children.
''I would like to see,'' he says, ''a time when all companies and businesses would each help a few of the street children.'' He paused to look through the evening shadows at the boys who were laughing and wrestling on the grass while trying to gather up their schoolbooks. ''These children . . . each one has so much to offer.''