Friday, October 14, 2011

If the eyes never see light, you will be blind

brothers in arms

Two weeks have past since C and C joined us and I am only now reporting their arrival. The eldest of six, the brothers have spent varying amounts of time on the street and - in a gracious (and rare) twist of what we usually see - it was their mother who sought help when her two boys became increasing uncontrollable.

For short lives, their histories are long and complicated. Chilling things, one is thought to have done - things quite unimaginable for a boy whose voice is yet to break. A heavy frown and pursed lips, so hard to tease into a smile. Court-mandated medication that knocks for six and (one assumes) suppresses the urge to fight, to harm.

There is a war that is going on - and its victims are boys like these. Without hyperbole, there is a battle that rages day-in, day-out for their lives, their allegiances. It is something more profound than simply ‘nature’ throttling ‘nurture’ among the alleys riddling the slums: just another case history of crappy company doing its damndest to derail and destroy.

I watched the other day a kid - he must have been only about five years old - perched on a bar stool at one of the many ‘hole-in-the-wall’ drinking establishments around these parts. His dad was drinking and smoking with a pal a few yards away, while loud, obscene music was blasting out of a couple of speakers so big the tops of them reached the edge of the bar.

Clearly, when the law treats us as adults, we become responsible for our actions, but sometimes - especially when a child is raised in an environment dominated by (for want of a better word) trauma - I sometimes wonder if ‘blame’ is even appropriate in this context.
Oh mum, oh dad
Once poor, always poor
La la la la la
Interesting drug
The one that you took
An interesting drug
The one that you took
God, it really really helped you
You wonder why we’re only half-ashamed?

“Because ENOUGH is TOO MUCH!
...and look around...
...can you blame us? CAN you blame us?”

Interesting Drug
In similar vein, C.S. Lewis wrote about how some people are so easily pleased by what they have (and what they know), that they become like “an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” The slum has been as good as it gets for some of our boys, and where family was absent (or unwilling), wrong associations readily filled the vacuum. In the words of Professor Barker, Physician and Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Southampton:
“Like everything else in life, experience during development sets up how you handle or don’t handle things.

 It may well be that experience establishes how we begin to handle things (in a physiological sense), but I would argue that mere personal experience alone is never enough to structure a life. At least, not a life with hope.
“In every age the transition to adulthood is a turbulent time. The message here is that in today’s world there is much that is fun, free and promising about this stage of life, but a dark side of apathy, confusion, loss and grief is less readily acknowledged...What is striking about the responses to a whole string of questions probing how these young people deal with moral issues is how few of them seem to grasp what is being asked. Murder, rape, bank robbery are seen as wrong. But what about cheating on exams, cheating on lovers, even driving drunk? They talk about whether they might be caught, how their friends would react, how they themselves might feel. Where it is a question of others’ questionable behaviour, a standard answer is that it is up to each individual to decide for himself. Very few seem to think that right and wrong are rooted in anything outside personal experience.”

The Economist
, 17 September, 2011
And there it is again: experience. It is not our aim for the boys merely to experience a more stable, loving and disciplined environment, where before there was instability, a lack of love and no boundaries. It is for them to be rooted in something outside the capriciousness of mere personal experience. To know something of the love of God.

Although histories can be turbulent, it is said that the night is darkest just before the dawn. Our new brothers do not talk of their recent past in romantic terms, nor - at this stage - with words of regret. But one thing is becoming clear, even after such a short time: before the hem around them started to unravel, they came from a context of love and of limits. My hope is perhaps best expressed by one of the brothers:

“Each day I wake up here, I feel happier and happier.”


Ania said...

i feel that even 5 hours with these kids where they can feel/behave like children in a loving family makes a big if they stay for days/weeks/months - what an impact it is on their lives!

Luke said...

Yes. Desperately need more families to step up to the challenge here in SP. Thanks for your thoughts, Ania.

Camilanini said...

It's so good that one of them expressed his hapiness!!! And you Luke, are part of it.
May God continues to give you hope to work for a better future for this kids.

Segun said...

Great to meet you and all the team. It was also great to hang out with the boys. You guys are in our hearts and we will be praying for you all.

Luke said...

Thank you, Segun. It was BRILLIANT to have your family stay - you really blessed us! Please, please stay in touch and ask difficult questions.

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