She was not a student of any school when I first saw her. She was only a toddler sitting on the steps of the Corporation Bridge in Pune City. I changed buses at this bridge on the way home from Salisbury Park High School. Since the journey was usually made during the rush hour, I would hurry down the bridge through surging crowds, rushing for the second bus.
Fortunately, my long journey was shared with another teacher from the same school and we enjoyed "comparing notes" as we traveled together. Because she was short and slender, my own children called her "Baby Teacher" and I had gotten into the habit of using the same endearing name for her. Calling her Baby Teacher somehow made in feel close to Ellen Charles as we shared the journey five days each week.
One afternoon, as Baby Teacher and I dashed down the forty wide steps of the Corporation Bridge on the way to catch our bus, I stumbled over a tiny girl. She had been placed on one of the steps and was there to beg. I paused to take a closer look at her. She wore very few clothes and sat on a piece of newspaper, presumably to protect her from the heat of the stone steps. A swarm of flies buzzed around the broken biscuit that had been placed in front of her but which she ignored. A few coins lay scattered on the paper, thrown there by hurrying passers-by. The tiny, bony fingers of her right hand were balled into a tight fist. As I paused, she looked up into my curious face.I held my breath as pity filled my heart for this little mite. Where was her mother? I looked around but saw no one who was even slightly concerned for this littlemore-than-a-baby child.
Baby Teacher was clapping her hands vigorously to draw my attention to the waiting bus, so hurriedly adding a coin to the others, I dashed down the steps and into the bus. But the sight of that little girl would not leave me, Thereafter, I never failed to look for the little girl as I passed that way. Often I talked to her sparing a few seconds as the steps and bus claimed my attention.
One day, I noticed a woman standing close to "my little beggar girl" and guessed she must be the mother. She was young, poorly dressed and had a haunted, hollow look in her eyes. Going closer, I asked, "Is this your child? How can you let her sit on those hot steps every day?" At once, she flared at me, "If you feel that bad for her, then provide for our needs!"
In an attempt to help her understand my feelings, 1 said, "I also am a mother and work hard for my children. You need to find a job. I wouldn't waste my money smoking as you are doing. It is a bad habit, especially for a young person like you." Offended at my words, she turned her back to me and walked away muttering something I could not understand.
In time, I learned that the little one's name was Guddi (little doll) and she really wa (a pretty little raggedy doll, Each trip seemed to bring us closer together. I stopped dropping a coin and instead started bringing small food items which she enjoyed. As the days passed, Guddi became as anxious for my coming as my own little boy at home was. At the sight of me she would smile and hold up her little hand for the gift she knew I had. Sometimes I would tease her by hiding the gift behind my back and holding out an empty hand, She would then giggle for she knew I was only teasing. Then I'd exchange a few words, put the food items in her hand, pat her sunburned cheeks and rush away.
Occasionally, the delay caused me to miss the bus and Baby Teacher would be understandably upset. "Why do you worry about everyone when we are already Late," she would scold me.
Guddi's mother watched me with aloofness, but each time she saw my affection for her daughtct, she became less hostile. One day she waited for me at the foot of the bridge, but in my hurry I failed to see her. As I passed by, she pulled at my hand and our eyes met. In a stammering voice, she thanked me for being kind to her daughter. "Instead of calling me kind," I rebuked her, "you and your husband should work hard for Guddi." With tear-filled eyes, she pointed towards the beggars' shacks lined up against the wall of the bridge. "He is there. My husband is a drug addict. How can we do anything when he takes drugs and sleeps all the time? He doesn't care if we get the next meal, but jibe doesn't get his drugs, he gets wild and violent."
I felt compassion. I told her I had a few clothes of my son's that I would bring for Guddi. She smiled at me as I hurried to the bus stop.
The day after receiving the clothes, Guddi was wearing a white shirt and looked like a doll sitting on the black steps. I smiled as I leaned down to pat her check. "Now you are a clean, pretty girl, Guddi, and pretty soon you will be able to go to school." But what a shock awaited me the next day. There was Gudd i, seated as usual on the newspaper, dressed in her rags. He mother was sitting under the Neem tree, waiting for me as I asked for an explanation about Guddi's clothes. "Who will give money to a well-dressed child? Anyway, my husband sold the clothes immediately for his drugs."
"Can't you start looking for some work?" I asked her again. Putting her head down, she whispered, "Who will take me for work with a child in my arms and a drug addict for a husband at the door step where I might work?" I didn't know what to say.
Anxiety for Guddi continued to haunt me, but I could find no way to help her. Then came the winter day when 1 found Guddi on the steps surrounded by the loose motions she had passed. She was too ill to smile or hold up her little hand for my gift. I touched her forehead. "She is burning with fever," I told Baby Teacher. She touched Guddi's head and agreed. Seeing us near her child, the mother came running up. "She has been sick with loose motions and vomiting since last night," she explained. My friend and I searched our purses, found some money and pressed it into the mother's hands. "Please take her to the doctor right away. Don't leave her in the cold."
I worried about Guddi for the entire weekend. Her being ill nagged at my mind all through Sabbath and Sunday. On Monday, I anxiously watched for her on the steps, but she wasn't there. I looked around carefully, but could not see her anywhere. The mother, too, had disappeared from her cool spot under the Neem tree. Two weeks went by, then the mother came hurrying towards me, crying. She held my feet and told me that Guddi was very ill and had been admitted to the Government hospital. She showed me a prescription for medicines which the doctor had ordered. Forgetting about my bus, T went to a nearby shop for biscuits and fruit and put these, along with some money, into her hands, urging her to get the medicine immediately. Again, I felt most anxious for the child, since several days had passed during which the illness had not improved.
That was my last gift to Guddi. Months went by and I did not sec the mother. Then came the afternoon when, as Baby Teacher and I rushed down the steps, someone caught my hand. It was Guddi's mother and she was crying. In between uncontrollable sobs, she said,"You will never see my Guddi again. God has taken her from us." I was dumbstruck! Tears filled my eyes as I listened to the heartbroken mother. I heard Baby Teacher shout for me to hurry as the bus rolled to a screeching halt before her. I had forgotten all about the bus and it was all I could do to force my feel down the steps and walk towards the bus stop. But by the time I arrived, my sympathetic friend waited alone for me.
Guddi, the bread earner for her addict father, was no more alive. I missed her each time I passed that bridge and the question still troubles me today as to why she had to die so soon. The answer to that will have to wait until Jesus returns. There are hundreds of needy and helpless people around us; let us not pass them by like the Priest or Levite, but like the Good Samaritan, recognize their need.
You may not have money as did that good man to say to the innkeeper, "Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you, when I come again." Luke 10:35-37. But God surely opens ways when you desire to do good for others. Some are in need of encouragement and need not money, but a sharing of your faith in Christ. Helping others will give you great pleasure and inner satisfaction. Each time I remember Guddi, I think that I might have done more for her. This experience taught me that we must grab the opportunity to do good when it comes! There is a saying, "Opportunity is bald at the back." In other words, you may not be able to catch it and turn it around a second time. Do not let an opportunity get lost. Be a Good Samaritan today. This is what Jesus taught.