Leandro, A True Story By Edie Lynch

4 May


Song: “I Have Traveled Such A Long, Long Time”

Original Music By Composer RB Lynch                                   Lyrics By Edie Lynch

Sung By Jazz Artist, Ellen Starr

Leandro, A True Story

All is well on first glance on this balmy night in Rio de Janeiro.  A young, shirtless, barefoot boy sits on a stoop at midnight holding blossoms in his hand. The boy’s eyes are gentle and seem misted with drops of rain that are just beginning to fall.

“Boa Noite, Criança,” I say.  The boy bids me “Boa Noite,” asking if I am going home.  Yes, I say, and so should you. The boy’s face radiates with sweetness and mystery.

He tells me that he got separated from his mother who sells water on the beach and he does not know his address and they do not have a telephone.

A neighbor joins us and pulls me aside to tell me that – though the boy looks sweet – these homeless children in Brazil are dangerous, that they grow up around drugs in Favelas and learn to kill in order to survive.

The neighbor says Leandro must be given a bath so that people will treat him more kindly and he takes him to his home, within sight of the stoop.  Leandro emerges wearing the neighbor’s daughter’s pink slippers, and a festive tee shirt. The neighbor gives Leandro a sheet to wrap around himself while sleeping on the street.

When the neighbor leaves I take Leandro to my home. The doorman smiles at Leandro wearing his pink slippers and we proceed into the elevator where Leandro pushes all of the buttons. On the ride up I think of Joel Rufino dos Santos words in the book, “Lost Arguments” written about the many human rights abuses committed against the Brazilian Homeless Children.  Santos says:  “The poor appear to be disqualified as human beings and because they have nothing, they threaten those who do.”

Leandro’s eyes light up upon entering the apartment.  He loves a chair that the Harlem kids living in homeless shelters in New York City had hand crafted out of wood.  The chair is an animal with its head cast toward heaven – howling to the forces beyond that control the Universe.  Several sandwiches later, Leandro is asleep in the guest room.

Morning finds Leandro rested and in no hurry to find his mother as he shyly and, very carefully, arranges my collection of candles and sits again in the Meditation Chair.

 Maxine Green in her Lectures on Aesthetic Education says, “There is no human being, no matter what age, who cannot be energized and enlarged when provided opportunities to sing, to say, to inscribe, to render, to show – to bring through his or her devising, something new into the world.”

 We finally head out to the beach and walk its miles long length.  Leandro stops along the way and insists upon posing in front of an amazing hand crafted Sand Castle.

Leandro and I stop off while we are on the Copacabana Beach to visit my friend Sophia who lives right near the Copacabana boardwalk.  Sophia is recovering from a broken leg she got as a result of being hit by a motorcycle while crossing the street from the beach area to her apartment.    Leandro is thrilled to visit Sophia’s home and he gently touches her leg, telling her “I will come and visit you every day, and soon we will walk on the beach together.”

Leandro tells me that where he lives the air is thick with smoke from dope, thick with crime and thick with ugliness of every kind.  There are shattered bottles, spent bullets, blood, filthy trash, and drunken bodies on the black dirt field that serves as the play yard for Leandro and his friends.

Leandro wants to sun himself in a real beach chair of his own and he asks a woman putting bleach streaks in her hair to dab his hair a bit.  We all laugh as Leandro’s hair is patted lightly with the cream and for a good hour Leandro is in dreamland as he naps and becomes a blond.

I awake Leandro and tell him that we cannot put off finding his mother any longer.

Leandro grasps my hand tightly and we walk to the Copacabana Police Station. The Captain tells us that where Leandro lives is too dangerous to go into at night. Leandro will be taken to a shelter and they will try to find his mother in the morning.

Leandro bolts from the station and the police give chase.  A weeping Leandro is brought back to the station and he suddenly remembers his phone number.  At two o’clock in the morning a very beautiful woman comes into the station carrying a baby that is eight months old and a three year old toddler is clinging to her skirt. She has ridden on several buses for two hours to fetch Leandro.

Leandro’s mother smothers Leandro with kisses and tells us that he often runs away to places that have blue water, green grass, trees and flowers. She says that in Benfica, Leandro’s jaw is always clenched, ready for some disaster. In the abandoned warehouse where they live, the disasters often come with a Capital D.

Leandro’s father is a fisherman and must rely on his wife’s work of selling water on the beach to feed the family when he simply has no fish to bring home.

As dawn is breaking Leandro’s family boards one of those speeding buses that stop so suddenly your teeth are jarred.  Waving goodbye, I pray that I will see this little miracle boy again who imagines a different kind of life for himself and who has the courage to go and find it.

Leandro makes his little escapes when his spirit can no longer handle the degradation around him, but he loves his family and always returns home.  Twice he knocked at my door in the beachfront community of Leme, and I let him stay a night or two.

 Four years have passed since I moved to another Rio neighborhood, Vila Isabel, where I teach Art to orphan and homeless children. A tall, barefoot boy walks into my class and sits next to me, shoulder to shoulder for a full three hours.  My heart flutters and I ask myself, “who is this arresting boy who is as drawn to me, as I am to him?”

Days after he quietly slips out of the Art class I realize the boy is Leandro, the brave little boy who risks all to have a moment of peacefulness and natural beauty in his life.  I have a pair of sneakers and a warm sweater waiting for him and pray that “My miracle boy” will show up again.

Leandro has traveled such a long, long time, with little time to rest – and somehow he knows he will be all right to weather the storms that come his way. With candles that flicker brightly and return with a much stronger flame, Leandro simply never gives up.  It is so dangerous what Leandro does – escaping for a few days to rebuild his spirit.  The homeless children in Brazil are hunted down at night and killed by the police, killed before they even have a chance to grow up because someone does not want them begging from the tourists.  No one will say who the someone is or who the “someones” are.  It is an old problem Brazilians say – an old problem that needs much studying and political reform.  But in the meantime, while the Human Rights Agencies fight their hard battle to keep as many children as possible alive, many thousands of street children are murdered each year by police and private death squads so that Brazil may maintain its sunny, picture perfect image.  Every time Leandro runs away to find solace, he is in danger of finding much pain – in danger, truly, of losing his life.

Leandro’s life is a life of long roads and many stops, with little time to rest, because always, his new journeys begin.

My heart is always with Leandro and my presents are still waiting. I shall be so happy to buy Leandro a larger pair of sneakers.

Edie Lynch can be contacted at


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