Rye Barcott was a student at the University of North Carolina who spent a summer sharing a 10-by-10 shack in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya. One night he awoke with diarrhea and stumbled to the public outhouse. He slid onto the cement floor and vomited as his bare body hit puddles of human waste.
He left his soiled pants outside the hut, but when he went to find them later they were gone. He was directed to another hut where a stick-thin girl, with missing clumps of hair, had the pants, scrubbed and folded, in her lap. Barcott said softly, “I’m grateful,” and asked her why she had cleaned them. “Because I can,” she replied. A week later, she died of AIDS and her body was taken in a wheelbarrow to a communal grave.
- From "The Rugged Altruists" by David Brooks
This is an excerpt from a news article. Yet it is also a self-contained narrative. It is both like a parable and a poem. I love that there is beauty amongst the horrific. The contrast is arguably enough to make it beautiful, but that it is about a random, selfless act of caring and kindness is what makes it heart-wrenchingly beautiful to me.