His frail fingers trembled as he took the nickel from the missionary’s hand. The starving Haitian boy was wearing a pair of ragged shorts, threadbare t-shirt, and shoes that had worn out months before.
During the peak of the famine, homeless children and orphans looked for any way they could to survive. If they could get a nickel, they could get enough scraps of food to live another day.
So when the missionary was walking on a road in Haiti and came across the sickly orphan boy sitting listlessly on the roadside, he gave the boy a nickel.
The boy’s eyes were glassed over, as if he was there, but not. His thin face showed the outline of his bones and it didn’t appear that his lip was thick enough to cover his jagged top teeth. His arms, legs and ribs were but a skeleton covered only by dry, dirty skin.
The boy grasped the nickel, held it to his chest and curled up in the fetal position. He tried to speak but couldn’t, and for just a moment, the missionary stared into the dying boy’s eyes.
The missionary scooped the boy up into his lap and began speaking softly to the boy as he rocked him back and forth in a slow, comforting motion.
The faintest smile came across the boy’s face, as if the nickel gave him hope that he would live just one more day, and maybe, just maybe, it was all OK.
Still cradled in the missionary’s arms, thirty minutes later the boy breathed his last shallow breath clutching the nickel in his hand.
A friend of mine went to Haiti for a week and spent time serving with this missionary.
He came back a changed man.
When he flew to Haiti, he had a suitcase full of new clothes, all for himself. He ended up, however, giving them all away before he left. He flew back to the States wearing only the rags that the Haitians had worn, including a pair of old shoes that had worn out months before that he traded for his brand new shoes.
Several weeks after he got back, he told me the above story while standing in a church parking lot. He would stop to wipe tears flowing from the flood gates of his eyes. At one point, he bent over and put his hands on his knees overcome by emotion and an incredible sense of brokenness.
Even years later after my friend told me this story, sometimes when I see a nickel in the change of my own hand, it all rushes in living color back into my black and mind.
Just the thought moves me to a different place, off high center, out of a mindless complacency. I need to lose weight, but there are starving children, malnourished people in this world.
What makes me so blessed? I didn’t do anything to deserve this. In fact, realistically I should be on the side of a road begging for a nickel just to survive another day.
But I’m not, so I sit here and think about it. Does thinking about it help? Does it change anything?
The smallest good deed far exceeds the greatest good intention.
Do something, Jeff. Do something.