The morning of September 6th is clear and sunny with the fresh warmth of an ending summer. Gloria is excited and looking forward to teach her first class in one of the school. This year she has decided and planned to spend more quality time in volunteering in different organizations and the first one is the school.
The class starts at sharp 8 am. Gloria double checks her hand bag for the note pads and the few treats which she has picked up lovingly for the students; crayon packs and colorful stickers. The class starts on time and continues perfectly until Gloria notices the small boy with thick brown hair, a plain blue shirt who sits at the far right side of the room, close to the wall with a window. He has long hair which hides half of his right face, tries to look straight or tries his best to listen to Gloria’s teaching and sometimes looks down to the open pages of a book or around to other students, then turns his head and stares out through the glass window. Gloria tries to get his attention and focus by asking him one or two questions but he just sits there, stares with a vague and empty look on his eyes and nods his head but does not answer. It is a little strange to see a young boy in this state; so disinterest and inattentive in the class or it may be Gloria’s imagination. But she is determined, cold as a steel to find our the reason.
The class ends.Gloria walks closer to the desk of the young boy and asks him to follow her to the corridor, next to the office room. The young boy walks slowly and stands leaning against the wall. Gloria looks at him and asks,’What is your name?’
He swipes his stray long hairs from his right side of the face and looks towards Gloria and answers,’My name is Nicolas.‘
Gloria is surprised to see his sleepy eyes and asks,’ Did something bother you in the class or the topic that I was teaching? You were not paying any attention!’
Nicolas takes a deep breath, tilts his head slightly and answers nervously,’ I was trying my best. But some days it is very hard to concentrate in the class.’
Gloria relaxes a little as Nicolas opens up.But the answer does not satisfy her and she tries to know more about his disinterest in the class.She bends down a little and asks,’ You are like my son and I will try my best to help you so tell me the truth. What is bothering you?’
Nicolas stands quietly for a minute or two then leans towards Gloria and says,’ It is hard to sit still in the class because of my stomach, it aches from hunger. My last meal was the free lunch that I ate here in the school cafeteria. My mom tries her best but it is hard for her to take care of all of my other four siblings and they are younger than me. Some days we eat and some days we stay hungry.’ Sadness flickers across his face. He wipes his tears with the back up his small palm and looks the other way. He sighs. There is a long pause, a breathless pause and then Nicholas says,’Sorry. I will try my best to concentrate more in the class. My mom has faith on me that if I study hard and do good in the class then I will be able to help her in future.’
Gloria tries to stand straight. Her eyes are wide and lips are sealed in an expression of unspeakable sadness. Her face is washed with an expression that’s equal parts of shock and wonder. She is surprised that Hunger which is a very hard reality in some of the third world countries has started to emerge in some families in a rich country too.Gloria stands in silence, staring numbly towards Nicholas, letting the tears trickle down her face. She shakes her head, wipes her own tears with a handkerchief. Gloria gently holds the small fingers of Nicholas within her. Her eyes fix on Nicholas as she speaks, measuring his reaction. ‘ Thank you for opening your heart to me. Do not worry. Relax.Come with me. I will talk to the principal and we will figure out a way to help you. I will make sure that you will get free breakfast and lunch here in the school and a way to help your mom.’
Nicholas’s eyes sparkle joyfully and his face lit up by a wide smile.He springs forward and hugs Gloria.
“If we can conquer space, we can conquer childhood hunger.” Buzz Aldrin