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As Good As A Boy Can Be



His name is Lucas. His world is different from ours.


The seventeen year old boy treads the dirt road from work to his dismal home, dreading another confrontation with his embittered father, Theng. Theng is a sixty years old chicken cage maker. And it has been a while now since he has received any order for his craft. With no money, Theng is likely to be short-tempered and Lucas knows that his father is bound to take it out on him. 


The house is silent as usual. Lucas finds Theng napping on a plastic chair by the door, and inwardly he is glad. The worse bouts of arguments between father and son have passed ever since Lucas has taken the initiative to remain silent instead of speaking up. However, he cannot help but feel a twang of guilt. After all, this rancorous old man is after all his father.


There is no drinking water, and as he quietly hauls the bucket of water from the well, Lucas ruminates about his bleak future.


Day after day, the boy manually puts cookie after cookie into plastic containers for Rp. 1000 per dozen containers.  In good days, he would be able to pack 30 dozen containers. In other days, he’d be lucky to see 15 dozen containers. This exhaustingly bland work has been the best that he could do to feed himself – and oftentimes, his father.


Lucas’ parents were divorced when he was barely 8 years old. His mother had since then remarried and moved away. Lucas has had no contact with her for the past 9 years. Theng, often drunk and unhappy, had neglected the young boy most of the time, leaving Lucas to fend for his own.


At 14 he finally stopped going to school because he could not afford it.


“Even when I was still at school, I was not able to really attend,” Lucas told us, “In a month, I would often be forced to skip like a week of school because I have to help out trying to work for money.”


This is altogether becoming an increasingly common story among the children of Cirarab Village in a woebegone neighborhood district, littered by shanty huts a structure away from being a trash yard.


But there is something which sets Lucas apart from the other children. His dreary existence does not make him a yielder. Instead of sinking into bitterness and loathing like Theng, Lucas dedicates himself to managing the humble Cetiya by his home. He appoints himself as the caretaker of this little solace amidst the drabness of his surrounding; a boytending to a tiny flicker of candlelight in the darkness of his existence.


He sweeps the floor. He makes the tiny bed. He buries the fallen leaves in the yard. He washes the fruits and vegetables. He keeps the candles burning.He delights in the occasional visit of BhanteKhamsai and treasures those moments he could share with the Shangha.


“It helps me you know, that I know about Dhamma. It really helps me to accept my life more,” he claimed. But while he understands the necessity of acceptance, he is not the kind of boy who gives up just like that.


 So on the 9th of July, 2011, Lucas put himself forward and met up with PintuBelajar team. He had filled up an application for asponsorship. He came alone.


“I know for a fact that I do not want to spend the rest of my life as a manual laborer with no skill. I do not want to end up as a factory worker who cannot offer anything,” he said.


“I know I have been out of school for three years, and I know that I will be older than the other children in the class. But I want to go to school. I want to continue with my education.”


He has a clear vision as to where he wants to be in the future. Mathematics being his strongest subject, Lucas aspires to continue his studies to become an accountant. Where grown men faltered, this boy made the decision to move on and fight.


He will be an accountant, he says. He will go into business and build himself a life if nobody is handing it down for him. And he will push himself forward and upward, attending school again, practicing numbers and calculations, to bring himself out of that shanty town, out of the sprawling debris of existence.


When asked about Theng, his father, he fell silent for a moment before replying.


“I want to give him a better life when I can,” Lucas said, his eyes steady, “I know that his life is difficult too.”


Hence the story of Lucas; the boy who tends to the fire in his heart, to keep it burning against a cold and hard life. And perhaps, just perhaps, this warmth may spread across all of us, who might have begun to understand his plight and of many others like him.