Friday, July 17, 2009

The Story of Ronnie Pt. 1

As a principle I never give change to beggars. I will sometimes take them to buy some food, but I won’t pay them. If you did this in Bangladesh every time a beggar approached you, you’d soon be a beggar yourself.

Today was different. After getting back from our day-long BRAC field visit (which I’ll go over later), I decided to go by the neighborhood supermarket. I made some purchases, including some life-saving Gnutella, and I was about to head home when a little boy tugged at my jeans. The boy, who I later learned was named Ronnie, showed me his foot. It was completely mangled, with an open wound larger than a silver dollar that was black with dirt. The entire foot was swollen and the green and yellow discoloration looked like infection, bruising, or a combination of the both. It looked like he might lose his foot if something wasn’t done.

Ronnie spoke some broken English and I talked to some people who could also speak some English to make sure he wasn’t taking the unsuspecting tourist for a ride. From what I sounded like, he really was homeless. He said he had medicine but it was “not good” (I saw him pull out a bag later with some green herbal-looking leaves, and I inquired, only to find out it was the medicine – clearly pretty worthless). We jumped in a rickshaw and I let him tellthe driver where to go (he seemed to know the driver and a lot of other people we passed…clearly he had been on the streets a bit). On the way to the hospital in the rickshaw I

called up another BRAC intern who was fluent in Bengali to get the whole story through translation. Fariya said that a car had side-swiped his foot when he was selling flowers on the street. She said that his mother had died when he was younger and his father, who lived in the Barisal Division (far south of the country), had remarried a woman who did not like Ronnie, so his father sent Ronnie to the city to fend for himself. She said that he wasn’t speaking standard Bengali, but street Bengali.

On our way to the hospital, a little girl named Rhumi, who apparently knew Ronnie joined us in the rickshaw. Luckily, we were able to get help immediately, and the nurse was able to get the wound cleaned up. You could tell he was in real pain when she was pouring all kinds of liquids on the wound and cutting away dead skin. And what’s more, he always wanted to help me carry the goods I purchased at the supermarket or my backpack. The entire hospital visit cost less than $3.00. I found out later through translations that the accident had happened over two months ago. Insane.

Ronnie didn’t have any shoes. The dressings for his wound wouldn’t last a day without shoes, so I took him and Rhumi, who also didn’t have shoes, to go buy sandals (everyone in Bangladesh wears sandals because it’s always raining). After getting outfitted, we headed back to Banani, where I live. Rhumi, who I found out did have a family, dropped off the rickshaw along the way. I took Ronnie up to my place and we watched Alvin and the Chipmunks (his choice). He was extremely polite, helping me put up all my groceries, and he didn’t even put his feet on my bed until I said it was okay. Eventually we went out to get him pain killers, Vitamin C, and antibiotics. He said he had eaten that morning, but I thought a meal couldn’t hurt. Because I was staying at the house of someone I’d met just a week ago, I now had to figure out what to do with Ronnie.


  1. We are behind you and you're good deeds 100%. You always seem to know when to do the 'right thing'. Josh, Megan, David and I are all in London. We ate at a Bangladeshi restaurant last night, in your honor! The food was great. We travel to Ireland next Wednesday. Will try to post again. Lots of Love and spread the hugs around.

  2. When I read the story of Ronnie and the "disappointing" ending, it made me think of Mother Teresa, one of my heroes, whose entire ministry was serving the poor, homeless and hurting in India. She wrote a poem, that you've probably read, that says: "People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway. - If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway. - If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; succeed anyway. - If you are honest and frank; people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway. - What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway. - If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway. - The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway. - Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough; give the world the best you've got anyway. - You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway."
    Robbie, it sounds like you are truly giving "the world" the best you've got, which is your heart, keep at it. There are the blessings of God for that. Blessings on your way - Christy Dinkins Woods