Diary of the Ghetto Priest | Melissa 'My Baby, please help me!'
They came to Brother Matthias and sat on the bench waiting at Bethlehem. "You come to get your little girl in?" asked Brother Matthias. "One of our children died yesterday. But we have a rule. You mothers and fathers must take care of your own children. They were born of you. They are your responsibility. You are the ones who brought forth this child. You must face up to your responsibility." Arlene answered, "I know, brother Matthias, but look pon me. You nuh see how me mash up? You nuh see how me pickney mash up?" Arlene held Melissa in her arms; she was all pocked with sores and scars on her arms and feet. She was thin like sticks. She was white as if chalk was all over body. There was no shiny black to her skin. She seemed almost bloodless.
EYES FULL OFF TEARS
Her eyes were large, but the white of her eyes was marked with bloody veins and they looked dull. When Brother Matthias told her no, that there was a long list of homeless children wanting to be taken into Bethlehem Home, her eyes were red and full of tears. she wiped them with her sleeves. "Okay, bredda, me understand. But remember us in your prayers." Brother Matthias went to get her a package of food.
"Where will you go, Arlene? You, yourself, don't look well." Arlene answered, "I don't have nowhere to go."
"Where do you sleep? Where do you live?"
"I sleep on the bottom of Duke Street. Anywhere I can kotch."
"And what about the baby, Melissa?"
"We sleep pon the street. I wrap her up in a crocus bag in a me belly. Sometimes she pee-pe at night. Me have fe slap her."
Brother Matthias continued to ask her: how did she get that way. Is she working? Where is the babyfather? Arlene answered "I have HIV Brother Matthias. me babyfather kick me out. Him curse me and tell me never to come back. Me might have given him AIDS. Him say him will murder me if me come back. Him madda throw out me tings. Him madda call me a whore. Since then, me visit me cousin. Dem tell me dem have tings hard; moreover, dem don't want AIDS. Dem tell me go far far, far away from this place, but don't come near dem."
'Where me a go
"Jesus, bredda. Where me a go sleep? How me a go get food?" Brother Matthias took in the little girl Melissa. Thank God, she does not have AIDS. But her arms and legs don't seem to have bones. They are flaccid. Brother Matthias says that after a year, the little girl is putting on weight. She can now sit up. She still has to be fed. She smiles a lot. She rarely cries, her skin is smooth and is of a pretty brown complexion. The brothers and our volunteers love to lift her up and spin her around. She laughs. She never cries. Melissa fits right in with other little girls. Most of them are cripples
I asked Brother Matthias, "Where is Arlene, her mother?"
She has HIV and is living in the streets. Most times she sleeps at the bottom of Duke Street. She begs during the day.
We can't take her in at the Lord's Place. Our HIV section for adults is really packed. Sometimes Arlene comes and visits her little child, Melissa, and feeds her. Then she goes to the Lord's Place and sings revivals and prays with her HIV sisters and brothers. Then she goes back out into the streets to find something to do, and to hold out both hands begging. "Lord, I beg you, give me some food."
Arlene goes to Jesus Redeemer twice per week to our soup kitchen. There is something tender about this broken woman. She is meek. She is never angry. Brother Matthias prays, "I wish we could do more for her."
I remind him. We do our best but the Lord alone is God. He alone can take on all our problems! "Come to me you who are burdened and I will give you rest."
NB: The names of the people and places are sometimes changed to guard the privacy of people. But the basic facts are as they are.