It was a sweltering August day in Kenya as eight-year-old Iniko swiftly pedaled his bike down the dusty path toward the old train depot. He smiled as he reached into the pocket of his shorts to make sure his two shiny shillings were still there. He jingled them joyfully, then placed his hand back on the bike handle. Just enough for a cold soda on a hot day! He’d worked hard on the farm with his father today. He’d definitely earned both the money and the break.
He could almost feel the cold, fizzy bubbles tickling his throat. Do I feel more like grape or strawberry today? he wondered as he leaned forward and pedaled faster, beads of sweat forming on his forehead.
Iniko came up over a small hill and down toward the shanty depot just as a little girl walked away from the soda machine, head hanging. She sat on the bench next to the machine and hid her face in her hands. She’s young, Iniko thought. She looked about the same age as his six-year-old sister, Tandie.
Iniko laid his bike on the ground and jogged toward the machine, still thinking about those tickly bubbles going down his throat. As he reached the machine, he heard a sob escape the little girl.
“What’s your name?” Iniko asked. She looked up, trembling with sobs, but said nothing. Iniko wondered what she was doing there all alone. Didn’t she have a big brother or somebody to help her? Perhaps she had come to get a soda as well.
“Did you want to get a drink?” he asked, eyeing the machine anxiously. She reached out a tiny hand and pointed to the bottom of the machine. Iniko got down on his hands and knees and looked underneath. Sure enough, two shiny shillings had fallen underneath the soda machine, beyond reach. Iniko’s arm was too big to reach under, and an attempt to retrieve the coins with a slender branch proved unsuccessful as well.
Iniko turned and looked at the girl again. Her eyes were hopeful, and the tears were just starting to dry on her round, rosy cheeks. She surely reminded him of Tandie.
“I can’t get it,” he said. Crestfallen, she scooted herself off the bench and began to walk away.
Iniko tried his best to turn his back on the little girl and forget about her. Just put the money in the machine and enjoy your hard-earned treat, he told himself. You’re not responsible for her. You don’t even know her. But it was no use. The words of his Primary teacher just last Sunday echoed inside his head: “We must have charity to be like Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us in the scriptures that serving others is the best way to show Him that we love Him.” Iniko loved Him. And he knew what he must do.
“Wait!” he shouted and ran after the little girl. He took her hand, and pressed the two shiny shillings into it. “They’re for you.”
The little girl smiled, revealing a missing tooth on her bottom jaw.
She sure is cute, Iniko thought. That was worth it just for the smile.
The little girl ran toward the soda machine and, having purchased her prize, skipped away down the path.
Iniko was still thirsty as he mounted his bike and began pedaling slowly up the hill. But somehow, the soda didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. He thought of Tandie and smiled as he rolled along the dusty road toward home.