It’s a funny thing. Although many of the same children come regularly to our courtyard for food, I know others who only come once in a while. Sometimes, they hang outside the gate, watching, and still will not stand in line for food. Some of the other children hand food to them, and this they take and leave.
“They do not trust you,” Lucero explained. “They are hiding from their families and don’t want to be seen. They don’t want to go back.”
“But we won’t hurt them or tell their families! We’re not la perrera, the dog catchers, trying to lock them up!” I said.
“I know that,” replied Lucero, “but they don’t believe it. Anyway, they would rather be free to do what they want, all the time.”
“Free to go hungry?” I asked. “To live in the dirt, in an alley?”
Lucero shrugged. Her eyes seemed to gaze at something far away. “They steal sometimes, and get money for a room with hot water and cable TV. Or they go to the casa for a few days. They don’t go to the soup kitchen because their families might be eating there.” She flicked her eyes back at the gate, where two boys waited for someone to hand them bread. They reminded me of wild cats, nervous and thin.
“There are worse ways to live,” added Lucero, softly.
“We must help who we can, then,” I sighed. “At least they’re getting a little food here.”
Lucero nodded and took a plate of rolls to a table full of children.