Think about this. There is a child somewhere who cries himself to sleep every night. He is not yet accustomed to the sharp pangs of hunger. He wishes that he had the powers to make food appear miraculously by snapping his fingers, but he can only snap them for so long. The next day, his alarm clock, hunger, does the favour of waking him up. He snaps his fingers. No food. Grim reality dawns on him. He has to accompany his family for a long walk in search of wild fruits. As if hunger is not enough trouble, the sun decides to mercilessly unleash its mighty power. When they are finally able to gather (barely) enough fruits, he has to wait for hours for the fruits to boil. He cannot take it anymore. He wails.
There is another child somewhere whose pillow is drenched in her tears, but for a different reason. She is called names by the very people who brought her to earth. Whenever she makes a mistake, a ‘you’re good for nothing, I’m ashamed of you idiot’ sentence comes hurtling towards her. It hits her. The words sink in. She believes that she is extremely stupid and aggressively ugly; that the people who came up with negative adjectives had her in mind; that anyone who points out something positive about her is a liar.
These are stories of children struck with different kinds of poverty. One is deprived of basic needs, the other is deprived of love. Hold that thought, I am leaning in to tell you two stories of two people, both middle-aged. One loathes carpets, the other detests bicycles.
When this middle-aged man was a young boy full of life, an incident that remained forever in his memory occurred. On that particular day, he had immersed himself in mud (like any child would) and had had the time of his life. He went to a neighbour’s house and, in all his innocence, stepped on the carpet. Hell hath no fury like that woman upon realizing that filthy feet had made contact with her squeaky clean carpet. She chased him away, calling him unprintable names. To this day, that man has never liked carpets.
What about the one who hates bicycles? When she was young, people who used to come to their house to beg had one thing in common. They all rode bicycles. Her parents used to tell her that the people on bicycles were exceedingly impoverished so she grew up believing that bicycles are for the paupers. That is why she never ‘deigned’ to learn how to ride a bicycle. To this day, she holds onto that notion. Telling her that in other countries professors and ministers ride bicycles is futile. That will not change her attitude.
Here’s what I am trying to bring across, our experiences in childhood continue to influence us into adulthood. I get saddened when I see children going through abuse. Children who lack basic needs, those brought up in an environment devoid of opportunities to excel. Like it or not what they are going through will affect them. Deeply.
I am throwing you a challenge. Whenever you can, help a child. If you have the means, you could adopt them, provide food, pay their school fees or take them to specialists to help them overcome trauma from abuse, the list is long. Also, something as simple as saying kind words to them could go a long way! Make a child smile. 🙂