I just stepped outside an hour ago to watch the twinkling stars in the night sky and the valley that I call The Valley of Kings. I know it’s not Egypt but one of the mountains looks like a pyramid and the valley is just stunningly beautiful (and my fav book series is set in Egypt…). I love on starlit nights watching the silhouettes of the mountains, the dots of light in the village and just simply take in the serenity. For me it’s happiness.
Where I work, in the township of Hangberg, happiness is often a bag of crisps, a sweet, a soda, sex, abusing someone else to feel powerful, or drugs. Happiness seems to evolve around escapism. Quick fixes. If you can’t access your heart for true happiness, then that’s the best you have and you will fight for it. You will abandon morals and dignity for it. Because without happiness you can’t exist.
I believe everyone is beautiful if they live their heart. I think if people commit crimes, do bad, etc. it’s not because their heart is corrupt, it’s because through life experiences their mind has corrupted them. There is a tiny voice inside telling right from wrong and alluding to what would bring happiness, true happiness, but many have become numb; experts at drowning their own desires as they, falsely, believed they would only hurt them. A child seeking love from a parent who doesn’t give it learns to quench their thirst for love and numb themselves by doing something else which brings some form of pleasure. Pleasure, not happiness.
Last week I found out one of my foster/mentorship kiddos had done something that could be an indication of witnessing sexual abuse, or at least sex. Today (now yesterday) I found out another had wanted to play some game that could only be described as an imitation of sex, or rape. Not that they actually ended up playing it, as another of my kids threatened to tell Liezel (principal at Little Angels) and I, which they also proceeded to do and that threat was enough to stop the game before it started. Still, I came home feeling like I had been…crushed.
I don’t really wanna write this blog. I think it’s too private. I think it hurts. I think a lovely kid can’t possibly even think to play such a game. Impossible. Doesn’t happen…happened. I feel ashamed…embarrassed, confused. I’m ashamed I didn’t stop it…that somehow magically after being in these kids lives for less than a year I would somehow have healed them. Of course I haven’t, but I still feel responsible. I’m petrified thinking of the scars these kids carry within and I’m equally petrified my love can’t heal them. I mean all kids play some crazy game at some point…the stories I’ve heard from what friends got up to as kids, especially in the sex arena…crikey. And they turned out just fine, but it still frightened me.
The reason I’m writing this, even if I think it’s personal, is because I’m not the only one facing these things. I started this blog to share my life experiences the way they are to enable others to come to terms with their experiences. I believe if we are all honest it’s a lot easier to heal, move forward, and come together in loving support of one another. There are parents out there who face their children having been sexually abused, or mothers, or fathers, who have been physically or sexually abused in front of their children. There are parents whose children turn out to be drug addicts, or criminals. In Hangberg I hear of these stories every day. I know some children have parents in jail, others are drug addicts, prostitutes, abused, abusive…the list goes on. Similarly, many of the grandparents have children with those problems and, hence, are raising their grandchildren, whilst their own children are abusing them. I hear these stories, but somehow I disconnect from them. I can’t take everything in, I’d go crazy, or rather: I can acknowledge it and release it, but I can’t get overwhelmed by it. Yesterday, I got overwhelmed by it.
I know my kids have been abused, I know that. I know they are behind in some things as they haven’t had what I call a normal childhood, and that used to worry me terribly, as recently as last Saturday I woke up in the middle of the night wondering how one of them will manage school next year and what will happen if he doesn’t? I don’t believe this kid will enjoy, or learn much from the traditional system, so what will I do?
So I had all these thoughts right, and worries about how their past might shape their future. I had an inner meltdown of fear. At the same time I realized if I can get them to act from their hearts, they will be OK. How do you do it though? I had a long talk about the fact that we aren’t bad because others say so. We don’t have to do bad because others do so. I was telling them they were great, that I love them, and that if anyone does something like this to them, I will send them away. And if they try it themselves, I will send them away. I’m not big on threats but in this case…a memory of my dad flashed through my head – he told me if I ever do drugs he would kick me out the house. I never did drugs. I also remembered though that it somehow made me feel unloved, so I kept telling the kids how great they are, how good hearts they have, that I love them and that they have to act as the nice people they truly are.
Did I do the right thing? I don’t know. Today they seemed even happier than normal to see me, so maybe love and boundaries are what they need, but I don’t know. I really don’t know. I will get them a therapist as well and have a meeting with child welfare.
I’m scared…I’m scared of making the wrong decisions, I’m scared because I can’t remove the kids from the environment they are currently in (you can’t remove 60% of the kids in the township, it’s not like London, or Stockholm where there are a few bad cases – we have 40 million poor people in South Africa from what I’ve been told, and poverty fuels drugs, which fuels abuse) – even if two of them have already been removed from their parents I can’t prevent them from seeing them and other people in the community who don’t necessarily act with integrity all the time. And kids often imitate. They play games doing what they’ve seen adults do. Or, as mentioned, they do things to numb pain. They seek some form of pleasure when lacking happiness. That’s how good kids end up doing bad things – they imitate, or they are looking for some sort of pleasure to sustain them (that’s why people end up in gangs doing bad things right – the “happiness” of belonging make them ignore the voice that tells them that what they are doing is hurting others), because if you think all hope is gone, all pleasure and happiness is dead, you are gone.
At least I know, even if there are a lot of kids in Hangberg seeing and experiencing bad things, there is Little Angels where the kids go and are safe. I know there are teachers running to child welfare and the police if they think something is wrong. I know there is a bunch of us trying to create safety for these kids – we are the ones that ensure they get fed, go to the doctor when they are sick, have nappies, and so on. We are the ones they come to if something happens. Maybe we don’t have the money to do everything we would want to do and maybe we don’t always get it right, but we do our best, we keep learning and improving and the kids love us, which goes to show something.
No, I definitively don’t know everything, but what I realized yesterday is that focus is very, very, very important. I was taught by Darren Eden last year that focus creates reality. What would I love to focus on? Building a sustainable future for the kids, or freaking out about their past? Believing in them and building their skills, or having a melt down about what they can’t do? Think about what their learned behavior may create, or what they could create with their hearts? Where we focus is where we intend to head. Therefore, it’s equally important what I make the kids focus on – that they have a heart filled with love, dreams, and desires and if they act from that heart they will find happiness. It won’t protect them from everything in life, but it will bring them inner happiness. And I see their hearts every day, they are such wonderful little ones. So, may God/The Universe/Love/The Force of Good help us being able to teach the path of the heart. May the kids find love, peace, understanding, and happiness and may the teachers find the same.