On a warm summer day, a young child was walking with her parents through the New York City shops. A crisp 20 dollar bill was clutched in her hand, ruffling in the slight breeze as she skipped happily about. That child was me, light and carefree. The sky was sapphire blue and the sun was peeking behind cotton-like clouds. My wide eyes gazed at the doll shops, yearning for their hand stitched bodies and shiny button eyes innocent like my own. I turned my head and saw glazed doughnuts drizzled with chocolate, beckoning for me to sink my teeth into them.
“What are you going to buy, honey?” My mother’s smiling voice interrupted my dreamy thoughts. I looked down at the 20 dollar bill, which was crinkled from my tight grasp. What possession could I possibly trade this for? “I don’t know yet,” I answered. So we walked through the crowd-packed streets as I desperately seeked for that special something that would make me happy. At one point we stopped for some baked pretzels, and the scent perfumed the air. I savored every bite as the warm, soft bread sunk into my teeth and the salt melted on my tongue.
As I relished the pretzel, I looked up and noticed a little girl my age. But she did not look like me. Her dark eyes were swollen and filled with a somber clarity I could not understand at that time. There were streaks of dirt on her skin and faded colors on her dress. Her hair was scattered across a man’s shoulder, and I could easily see that he was her father. His clothes were also ragged, and his dirt speckled hand held a sign that read “Just need enough for my daughter.” I was confused about this novel scene in front of me.
“Mommy, who are they?” I questioned. My mom followed my gaze and her face turned slightly glum. She glanced at my dad, seeming to confirm something; then she turned to me. “Those are the homeless, child. They do not have money so they live in the streets with no food or home,” she answered grimly.
Again, I gazed at their depressed faces. Suddenly, the sun seemed to hide. The sapphire blue sky held clouds that were now gray, and the pretzel now was a mush of guilt inside my filled stomach. My lip trembled as this new darkness was now a part of my once blissful world. I stared at the $20 in my hand, and realized what I had to do.
I slowly walked forward, under the careful eyes of my parents. I kept walking and walking. Walking through the benches and colorful flowers that contrasted what was near them. Walking past ignorant people who were more empty than the dolls I saw earlier. Finally, I reached them. The father was looking at me curiously, as though it was the first time he was approached. The $20 was in my outstretched hand, and the girl moved forward and gently took it with two fingers. It was then that I saw some of the darkness fade. It was as though someone had turned on the lights, as hope and joy radiated from the father and his daughter. They whispered a blessed “thank you,” as I turned around to go. My parents wore expressions of pride.
It was then I noticed there were silver linings on the clouds and the sun was not hiding anymore. The world will always have darkness and some will ignore it. But all it takes is one flame, one light to a new path.