Updated: May 4, 2021
We were having our monthly school assembly. The purpose was to raise awareness about world hunger, and a representative from UNICEF had been invited as the guest speaker. With our limited understanding of the world and others' misfortunes and suffering, we sat there and listened to the passionate speech.
The UNICEF representative had just wrapped up and our school Principal began to address the students. "This is the greatest crisis facing our planet, it is the biggest issue of YOUR generation: solving world famine. You know millions of kids go to bed every night without food in their mouths". The Principal proceeded to get my little brother Ralph to stand up in front of the assembly "...kids just like this one".
I immediately began devising another of my mischievous plans. Turning to my good friend Davey I leaned over and said "you know my brother was adopted". "Oh but he looks like you kind of..." "Oh yes, but don't be fooled we are nothing alike. My parents found him in a public restroom while on a trip to Calcutta". "Really? How?"
Moments later when I was back in my classroom I proceeded to tell my entire class his "sad story" : Ralph was an orphan my parents had taken in and he had suffered from malnourishment for many years. This was why the Principal wanted the entire school to see him, to understand this kid was hungry too not long ago, to get kids to be empathetic towards him.
And so the next day kids began telling their parents about this poor kid's plight and what he had endured. In the next few days, one kid after the other would stop by and just stare at him, smile, occasionally give him a hug. Some would even drop off their lunch to him, leave him an extra cookie or their carton of milk. "But I already had my carton of milk this morning" my clueless little brother told one kid. "I know but you need this more than I do".
The girls especially would regularly ask if he was ok, if he needed anything. They would bring him blankets, clothing and other essential items. Little Ralph was just happy to be the center of attention, but at the same time confused beyond belief.
Random kids he hardly knew would offer to have him over after school for milk and cookies, often sitting there, with their parents, just looking at him in amazement. "There....have some more....have as much as you want" as they pushed the food towards him. Ralph was getting so stuffed that he'd often turn down dinner at home, which had my parents puzzled beyond belief. Within a month he had practically doubled in size.
Not wanting him to ask my parents what was going on, I told him that he had won a prize. That the grade 6 students had drawn his name out of a hat and that the present was that the entire school had to pamper him. It was as if every day was his birthday. He was treated like a medieval King, with the entire school being his every day peasants and servants.
But eventually, every good story had to come to an end, and Ralph had collected more toys and items than one could possibly hold in his school desk or locker and he began bringing some of the stuff home. My parents suspecting something was off, took him aside and proceeded with a full length interrogation. A call to the Principal and a few parents later, and my devious scheme had been unveiled. Although the punishment certainly didn't fit the crime, I was forced for the next month to stay after school and clean the floors.
In the following years whenever I would see kids wearing the UNICEF boxes around the neck, I couldn't help but let out a chuckle. To this day, whenever I see my brother we can't help but recall this ridiculously embarrassing episode.