published 11 December 2013
As we left our hotel in Addis Ababa the final morning of an amazing trip to Ethiopia with charity: water and Will Smith, we headed to the local market. Goods of every kind were offered: artwork, scarves, jewelry, clothing, housewares, and so on.
At the market, a boy, probably 8 or 9 years old, began following us. The right side of his face was badly disfigured, as if it had been burned by fire. He wasn’t shy and immediately starting asking for things in very broken English. Money was the first request, and we hesitated to hand any out, as we were informed that doing so had the potential to create chaos in a busy marketplace.
I had on a small backpack, and soon this young boy began pointing to it. In broken but comprehensible English, he simply said, “Food, please.”
The first few times he said it, I couldn’t figure out why he was thinking I had food. And then I realized that just before we left the car to tour the market, I had placed a large, clear ziplock bag with several food items in it—nuts, granola bars, beef jerky—in the outer mesh pocket of the bag. It was easily visible to anyone.
“Food, please” he continued. “Food, please.”
Again I was hesitant to offer any, as it had the potential to create a swarm of children around us if not done carefully. At this point, we were done shopping and needed to leave for the airport. He continued to follow me. Suzanne and I returned to the car. I was stuck in a quandary. I knew if I left that little boy without giving him something, my conscience would haunt me unceasingly in the coming days and weeks.
Literally as our driver began to pull away, I quickly removed the bag from my backpack, rolled down the window, and handed the food to that young boy. By now he had a companion with him, about the same age, and probably just as famished. As soon as he perceived I was handing the bag to him, he snatched it as quickly as he could.
As we drove off, I watched the two of them run to an alley in the marketplace. They disappeared behind one of the stores, undoubtedly to devour their gain. I had a difficult time holding back the tears as I contemplated what had just taken place. How grateful I am, as is my conscience, that I didn’t stay my hand that day.
Our trip to Ethiopia could not have been filled with more insight into the lives of people in Tigray, more experiences to be touched and affected by the people of the area, and more opportunities to see just how blessed many of us are.
But there is something even more essential than food; even more vital to the famished. It is water.
We’re so close to surpassing $100,000 raised for clean water. I come to you with hat in hand, requesting your help one last time. This Monday I’ll be attending the 2013 charity: ball. How incredible it would be to personally thank Scott Harrison on your behalf for allowing us to participate in the global fight for clean, safe drinking water.
I’ve just contributed another $500 of my personal funds to our campaign. If you can do the same, please join me. If not, any amount you can afford will do amazing things for clean water.
Merry Christmas to all, and may clean water be one of the greatest gifts we give this year.