Orphan Survival Stories Index |
A SURE SIGN THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM
I sat there somewhat in a daze, along with about 60 other children, our stomachs aching for something good to eat - just a little something with a bit of flavor to it. I traded my eggplant for a piece of bread, which I slowly turned from edge to edge eating only the crust to make it last as long as possible. The white portion of the bread, I wadded into a small tight ball and then snuck into my pocket for a snack later on that evening.
I closed my eyes for a moment and thought about the super market that I had seen on the little black and white television set. I just could not believe why the people who owned all that much food would not give us just a little bit, so we would not be hungry any more.
After we finished eating our supper, we returned to our dormitory. Some of the boys went up to their rooms to do their homework, but I went outside and sat down in the grass by the big oak tree. I sat there watching ‘Old Mack,’ the black gardener, raking leaves over by the nursery building. He was a kind old man and he always use to make us kids laugh. I really liked it when he would tell us stories about what all was happening outside the fences of the orphanage.
I got up off the ground and I walked over to where Old Mack was still raking. I asked him why he raked and cleaned the yards all the time.
"It's to makes money," he said.
"You mean you get paid for working?" I asked.
"That is why people work. People will not work for free, you know," he replied.
"Mack, we don't get no money for working and we work all the time."
"That's a different kind of work. You kids get paid by having a place to live and foods to eat," he advised.
"Do you have to eat eggplant and drink powered milk all the time?" I asked.
"No. I don't care for eggplant, but I sure like okras - fried okras and grits. That's my favorite," said Old Mack wiping the sweat off his face and then laughing as hard as he could.
"How come you get the good okra to eat?"
"Cause I buy it with the money that I earn from working here at the orphanage."
"So if I get a job one day, I can buy whatever I want to eat?" I asked.
"If you be real honest and if you work real hard, you can eat whatever you want," Mack replied.
"But how do you get a job?"
"The newspaper is your best bet," he said.
I walked back to my dormitory and sat for hours trying to think of a way that I could get a job without the orphanage people finding out. I knew that we kids were not allowed to have any money. If we got caught with money, we were beaten, 'cause they would say that we stole it.
Finally, I came up with an idea. Later that evening, after everyone had gone to bed, I sat down on the bathroom floor and made myself an advertisement. I wrote the ad on a large piece of plain paper, which Mrs. Cherry, my Grade 4 teacher had given me to do my homework.
That was many years ago. Now every time I travel back to Jacksonville, Florida, I can still see that same sign being used throughout the city. In fact, just last week I saw one of my signs being used in my own town of Brunswick, Georgia.
There was this raggedy looking old man standing beside the road just watching the traffic going by. He was holding up my sign, which read: "WILL WORK FOR FOOD."