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Apathetic? Take your time!

The following story was taken from a report by Father Theo Sorg from Stuttgart.

For the members of staff:

There are surely children in our groups who are looking for our love and devotion, who are happy if someone takes time and listens to them. This is never time wasted.

For the kids:

There are always kids who are left out or laughed at. However these kids would really appreciate your friendship. Take time to think about this.

One evening we made our way back home from a camp, tired from the games and battles. A young boy who had not said much during the camp walked along beside me. He was one of those who does not like to talk but is, despite this, always keen to take part. He was a cheeky chap with blond hair and lively eyes. „Have you already written to you parents?" I asked him in passing „Oh no. I don’t write." „Why not? You love your parents, don’t you?" „No." I stopped in my tracks. A boy saying something like that, without a facial expression? I had not experienced that before. I questioned him further and then I learnt about his fate and I could not let go. They are nine children at home, Walter told me. They live very modestly in a small house inherited from their grandparents at the edge of the village. His father goes to work but drinks every penny that he earns. The worst thing is, even his mother suffered under the effects of alcohol. If the parents do not have a constant supply of beer, wine or fruit wine, they become crabby and ill. The children are beaten at every opportunity. The little ones do not get any milk, only beer and fruit wine. There is unbelievable poverty in the family. The parents can only seldom give their children a decent meal. Their clothes are untidy and ripped. They are teased and laughed at in school. „Hey, the booze kids are coming. Look at the beer barrels!" Those were the calls from the children on the street. A neighbouring woman who feels sorry for them always gives them a morsel. However that is a drop in the ocean. The children are pushed out and scorned. At this point, the youth protection officers get involved. Walter is taken away from his parents and taken into a children’s home. No-one knows about his situation and background there and he blossoms and becomes a different person. One day, the house master makes the suggestion that he might come to our camp. That is a joy! In short, Walter told me everything. He blew the wind out of my sails. I didn’t know what I should say. Walter walks along beside me, a boy whose parents see as apathetic. In their eyes he was just a superfluous eater. He grew up without love, without knowing about the protection and the peace within a family. He was a child who had never been taken into his mother’s arms, a boy whose father had never laid a hand on his head and said: „My lovely son!"

We sealed a friendship in this hour. From then on we walked along together on certain ways and lead several conversations with each other. One evening I sat in his bedroom on the edge of his bed. My eyes fell on his suitcase and I saw, that it was ripped one on one side of the lock. „Hey, what has happened to your suitcase?" „Ah, I was allowed to go back to my parents for Christmas. My mother ripped open my suitcase and took my shirts away, which I had just received from the home. She sold my shirts for a few bottles of beer. I haven’t been home for Christmas since then." „What do you do during the holidays then?" „Well, - I stay in the children’s home. Where else should I go?"

The days on the camp flew by. The last day had arrived before we realised. We had to say goodbye. Our time had been filled so brimful. Now everyone had to go back home. Only one hour and then the bus would come and bring us to the train station. I sat in my room. There was a light knock on the door. „Come in!" The door opened cautiously and in came Walter. „Now Walter, I am pleased that have come one last time." The little boy now became quite bashful. He dropped his head and said: „yes, I just wanted to say thank you, Father. I don’t have anyone who I can talk to and I have been so pleased, that you have had time for me. Do you know, everything that we have read in the bible this week; that will be my new direction." — I almost felt ashamed because I knew that I should have done more for the boy, but I had the other boys, the responsibilities and preparations . . .

„I would really like to give you something," he went on after a little pause „but I haven’t got anything, nothing at all. However I would like to do something for you. Wouldn’t you like to take your shoes off? I would like to clean your shoes so that you see how grateful I am." I took my shoes off and gave them to Walter. I was very silent because I simply couldn’t say anything. — Months went past. Winter came. The town looked like the streets and roofs had been covered in a white carpet. Christmas was coming. I wrote a letter to the boy saying that he should come to us for Christmas. I sent the train ticket with the letter. I am now standing on the train station one morning. A train arrives. Lots of people are pushing their way along the platform. I finally find what I was looking for. „Walter, we are so happy that you are here." As we sat under the Christmas tree the next evening, the little boy’s eyes lit brighter than the candles on the tree. Can you now understand why I could not forget this little boy?

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