The Waiting Line



About The Waiting Line
About GLO

About The Waiting Line //


A man decides to leave his home and travel to a foreign place. It's not your regular holiday destination - it's dusty and hot and filthy dirty. He doesn't much know why he's going, or what he expects he can do, he just feels he has to go. The people are in need - and he has so much.

He arrives in a Western plane, having eaten well and slept a little, having only privately viewed the unfamiliar landscape from comfort above. Now, he steps out into a heat-hazy, choking morning where it's 7.15am, but already 30 degrees.

Reality hits him in the face.

Along the dirt roads lined with ramshackle buildings, hundreds of people walk, run, cycle, hobble. The jeep streams past with a giant tail of dust. Everywhere the man looks he sees people, people, people. 'There's a famine on' the driver says. 'Most of these people have no food. The rains have failed again and there's not enough. It's a bad time.'

The jeep slows as the crowds thicken. There's some kind of gathering ahead, spilling out over the road. Inside the jeep, the man jostles for a good view; the crowds are agitated, nervous - they're waiting. The sound of approaching lorries sends the crowd into a frenzy. It's a food drop-off - men, women, children tear off in the direction of the approaching vehicles. The jeep rolls slowly onward, following the crowd. The UN trucks come into view; tired, sagging under the weight of tonnes of rice and grain, the simple meals that mean the difference between life and death for these people.

As the distribution begins, the man spies a five year-old girl stood next to one of the lorries, waiting for someone to give her some of the food. She's alone. The man reads her face: eyes that have seen too much and lips that have cried in pain too many times, and yet...there is something different about her. Against the melee of the crowd this girl seems to the man so serene, so helpless yet so at peace, as if the gift of life itself brought all the joy she could ever need.

She smiles and waves at him. She beckons to him to come to her but the driver is afraid - 'they are running out of food, sir, it's not safe. We must move on right away'. He wastes no time in starting up the engine.

The man gazes at the child until she is lost from view, as the trampling feet of desperate men press in toward the lorries. He never sees her again.

Looking back, many years later, still the man sees the image of the girl in his waking dreams, vivid in his thoughts. Her face, her unforgettable smile, piercing him, transforming him - someone so fragile and so helpless yet who knew such grace, such joy despite the tragic hand life had dealt.

He never got to find out if she got food that day, or if she lived to see a time when she wasn't always waiting to be kept alive. All he knew was a simple truth - that he had gone with so much to give, but he was the one who had gained.