The Girl in the Pinned-Together Blue Dress

Now, during National Slavery and Trafficking Awareness Month (January), many radio shows invite me to do interviews. And with each one, the interviewer says, “Tell us a story that will help us understand.”

Good idea. May I share a story with you?

A couple of years ago, an Indian teenager was showing me her home-a make-shift village thrown together in the middle of a sprawling garbage dump on the outskirts of one of India’s most industrialized cities. I spotted a smudge-faced little girl picking through the mounds of trash. She stepped barefoot into a ditch running with raw sewage, then looked up and caught sight of me.

I smiled. “Hi,” I said. (The teenager with me translated.)

The child’s dark eyes opened wide. She fingered the rusty safety-pin held her dirty blue dress closed.

“That’s a pretty color,” I offered, motioning to her dress.

The child neither moved nor spoke.

I asked her name, but she continued to stare in silence. Then I blurted out the question I ask children all over the world: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The girl, still silent, kept her eyes on me.

Somewhat nonplussed, and overwhelmingly sad, I bid the little one good-bye and turned to go. That’s when she spoke. In a voice so soft I barely heard it, she said, “I can’t be anything.”

Traffickers don’t agree. They spy such ones as that child and see horrible possibilities. Fortunately, they aren’t the only ones who disagree with the girl. Shortly after I left, two young Indian teachers came to that garbage dump and sought out children for a school they were starting. Since then, they have patiently taught those forgotten children to read and write, and have prepared them to make better lives for themselves. Even that little girl in the pinned together blue dress. She was in their first class.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Mohandas Ghandi

About kaystrom

Kay Marshall Strom, who am I? Well, I’m a traveler, a railer against social injustice, a passionate citizen of the world. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I’m a 21st century abolitionist who speaks out against slavery of all kinds. I am a beach walker and a gardener and the off-key singer of songs. I’m a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Most people, though, know me as a writer and a speaker. So here is a bit more about that part of my life: Of my 43 published books, seventeen have been translated into foreign languages, and two have been optioned for movies. My writing credits include magazine articles, books for children, short stories, television scripts and two prize-winning screenplays. I love to write, and speak, about topics close to my heart. I speak at seminars, retreats, writer’s conferences, and special events throughout the country. And because I enjoy travel, I even speak on cruise ships. Because I don’t see how a writer can really reflect another people and land without spending time there, I’ve been trekking through India, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal, Sudan, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, Japan and South Korea, tape recorder and camera in hand, to gather stories from the world-wide family of God. Thanks to my “virtual friendship” with John Newton, 17th century slave ship captain turned preacher, I traveled through Ireland. In West Africa I toured an old slave fortress off the coast and saw a tiny set of baby manacles bolted to the wall. I was struck dumb. From that horror came a story question, and from that question, my foray into fiction: The Grace in Africa trilogy. Come join me as I travel and rail against injustice. Maybe you will choose to be a 21st century abolitionist too.
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