The morning brought clear thoughts. I knew exactly how I was going to prepare our case and felt we had a winning strategy. I had submitted my brief to the judges before I left home. I met with my client one hour before we were to present our case to the full court. We went to the courthouse together. When we arrived, we were surprised. Based on my brief, the defendant pleaded guilty, and the case was terminated. The defendant fired my client because of his religious beliefs. My brief quoted several church laws and national laws that stated equivocally that other religions were to be tolerated. My client was a Muslem who was reinstated in his position with back pay.
I don’t have many governmental cases. But this was unusual in that my client wasn’t only a Muslem but a member of the opposition party. On the surface, it was a religious issue that caused a conflict between him and his boss, but it really was a political issue.
I called Alex, told him my case was resolved, and maybe we should have lunch instead of dinner. I found a small shop where I could buy some Belgium chocolates. I also saw a restaurant that served fresh mussels. I knew that’s where I was going to take Alex.
I went back to my hotel and made arrangements for my plane to fly over for my return trip.
Alex showed up a little early, “Are you that hungry? We have a little time, let’s walk.” We walked around, but the streets were very quiet. “I think most people are at work. It’s strangely quiet for a city.”
“Did you know that there is a bar here where you can get a hot plum drink?”\
“I never had a plum drink. Is it alcoholic?”\
“Yes, want to try one, my treat.”
“I generally don’t drink alcoholic drinks, but this plum drink is intriguing. Okay, let that be as a prelude to our lunch.” I knew if the drink was hot, there wouldn’t be much alcohol in it.
While we sat at a high table drinking our drink. “The council was very pleased today. They hope to use you as a case model to encourage others to step up to the plate. You are unique, and they hope others will step forward.”
“I know of some reasons kids find themselves on the street, but why so many?”
“Besides the religious bigots in the world, there are many kids who are sold by their parents because of poverty. This occurs to a greater extent in countries with a high population, poor education, and limited resources. With the absence of birth control and the custom of selling children to live, attributes to the problem. But I also have the feeling that many couples have children to sell for money. I’m sure you are aware of some countries that promote child brides. This is a form of selling the children as the proposed’ groom must offer a dowry, usually money. In a country where a man may have more than one bride, it becomes a major issue if the child does not obey. The man can turn her out, and as a result, she’ll become a prostitute.”
“It’s difficult for me to accept this, although I know you’re speaking the truth. When I look in the eyes of a young boy who is hungry and willing to do anything for food, my heart breaks. Knowing a child at any age should have to prostitute themselves to live isn’t right. It tears at me.”
We finished our drinks, but we still had to have lunch. Walking to the restaurant, we were approached by a boy who looked to be 16 or17. I looked at Alex. “Are you hungry?”
The boy nodded his head, yes, “You can join us, but you must tell us your story.”
“I can’t. Can you just give me a few Euros?”
“I know you are afraid to tell us. But I guarantee you we won’t change our minds. If it makes you feel better, I’ll tell you mine.” The boy looked at us. I was ready to give him money if he didn’t want to join us for lunch.
Alex put his arm around his shoulder, guiding him to the restaurant. When we entered, we asked for a table for three. The waiter looked at the boy with a disgusting sneer. “Alex, maybe we should go someplace else. They don’t want our money. I’ll file a complaint with the tourist board.”
“Okay, I’ll also mention this to the Prime Minister. He was one of the men you met yesterday.”
I didn’t realize the owner came to see what the problem was and overheard us. The waiter explained that the boy would cause a problem with the other guests. Iintroduced myself, gave the owner my card. Alex whispered something in the owner’s ear. I don’t know what he said, but we were seated, and lunch was on the house.
The young man excused himself to go to the men’s room. My anxiety about boys in public restrooms returned. Alex placed a hand on my arm. “It’s okay; they have a man in there to hand out towels.”
The young man returned; I was relieved. Alex started the conversation by asking the boy about his background. “My parents were killed in an accident, and I went to live with my uncle. At first, everything was fine, he worked, and I went to school. Then he started to layout work for me to do. I was okay with that at first. I did all of the housework, and he taught me how to cook. Now I had to have breakfast and dinner ready for him. I didn’t mind that until he started to bring his friends around. Some of them were not friendly and started to demand certain favors. My uncle didn’t defend me and asked that I be nice to his friends. When one of them followed me to the bathroom, I decided to leave. Later that night, I packed some clothes and took what money I could find, and left. I have been on the street ever since.”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“My money ran out two weeks ago. I have been begging since then. I met one kid who said I would have to start offering myself if I wanted to live. So far, I haven’t done that although I have met men who said they would give me money for certain favors.”
“Where have you been staying?”
“I have been staying at a hostel. The owner let me stay there, but I must do all of the cleaning. As soon as the season starts, I’ll have to leave.” There were tears in his eyes as he said this.
Alex looked at me, and I knew what he has thinking. The boy was older than my boys, but that shouldn’t matter. My thoughts were all over the place. If I hadn’t met this lad, I wouldn’t have gone looking for him. But now, how can I not offer him help. At first, I thought Alex had set me up, the realization that Alex didn’t know the lad dispelled that thought. I looked at Alex and nodded, yes. Alex smiled and ordered dessert.
All this time, we didn’t know the boy’s name.
The boy looked scared. I knew he felt if he told us his name, we would contact his uncle. It was Alex who reacted.
“Don’t be afraid. We aren’t going to hurt you. We’re going to offer you a safe haven” The boy still looked scared. Alex looked at me.
“What would you do if I told you I know a man who will provide you a safe place that will allow you to go to school. You would have 6 brothers that found themselves in the same situation that you are in, but I need your name.”
It was my turn, “I live in America, I have a large home, and over the years, as I travel, I look for young boys who are forced to work the streets. We get them a passport, and I fly them to my home.”
Alex looked at me, nodded his head yes. “You can choose a name. You don’t have to use your real name unless you want to. If you agree, we’ll go to my hotel and tomorrow we’ll fly to America. This is your choice.”
Alex and I saw the indecision in his eyes. Alex whispered something in his ear in his language. He looked at me as Alex was talking to him. I noted the head nods as Alex spoke. “Let’s go” I left a tip for the waiter, and the three of us left.
The first stop was the hostel to pick up what little clothes he had and then to my hotel. “We need to get you cleaned up to take a passport photo, and you need to select a name, first and last name. Alex will have a form for you to fill out as well.”
He looked at me skeptically, as all of the boys had. “Why don’t you have a shower. Take the clothes you’ll wear with you. As soon as Alex gets here, we can get the pictures, and the forms filled out. I’ll have them bring a roll away bed for you tonight.
I called Maria; Judy would be home by now. I told her I was coming back with two boys. Alex and his committee already had an 8-year-old boy.
Alex arrived with his camera and papers. “Carleton, what country do you want this passport to be issued by?”
“What do you mean, what country? I thought it would be the country he was from.”
“No, we can issue the passport in any country. You may not have realized it, but the group of men we visited are very important.”
“In that case have it issued by the US. I hope to have Anthony and Chris become US citizens as well.”
We filled out the forms for my new son, David Paul Jeffries. I actually felt good about that.
My new son finished his shower and had clean clothes on. Alex set up the sheet and took his passport photo. Then he began to fill out the forms. I watched and listened as Alex ask the questions in his language and then filled the form in English. I smiled when Alex told him what his new name would be. He looked at me, smiled, and then went back to answering Alex’s questions. Once Alex had everything, he left.
I called down to the desk and had them bring a roll away up for David. When the bed arrived, “David this is for you.” I watched as he smiled.
We had lunch but no dinner, “David let’s go down and get something to eat.” We went to the hotel’s restaurant. I wanted a salad. Lunch was a big meal. “David, order anything you want.”
He looked at me, “Anything you want.” He ordered a full dinner. I was surprised he order lamb chops with the trimmings. I watch him enjoy it.
After dinner, we return to my room. I put the TV on, “David, I had a busy day today, I’m going to bed. Please turn off the TV when you go to bed.”