He couldn’t have been more than ten years old. It was our last night in Rio, and we had just begun one final terrifying taxi ride to Santa Teresa when I saw him. We were stopped at a light just off Copacabana Beach with the typical zillion cars zigged and zagged together in automotive contortion and this young boy weaved in between to wash windshields. He wielded a spray bottle and a brush and used his shirt for a towel—a typical Friday night it seemed for this ten-year-old. He took pride in his work with great attention to detail, finished and collected the change from the disembodied arm of the driver and glided with a swagger between the bumpers to the shoulder of the road exactly on cue as the light turned from Flamengo red to Brazilian green.
He made a strong impression on me, although I suspect the dirty little kid from the favela would prefer R$5 than an essay from an American about an impression he made in the span of a traffic signal.
I am officially a lawyer and live in a land and work at a school that celebrates and promotes the rule of law. I am not ashamed of this in the least. And I do not prefer to live in a world where ten-year-old boys have to work in the middle of a dangerous road in a dangerous city for loose change on a Friday night for God knows what purpose. Hopefully it was for his personal needs, although that alone would be tragic.
And yet . . .
That ten-year-old boy appeared in that brief scene to be more of a man than I am right now what with my petty fears and complaints and indulgences. I cannot say that I wanted to exchange places with him in that instant, but I did consider that I might hope to be like him when I grow up.
No excuses and no complaints.
I hope people will look through those spotless windshields and see that incredible kid.