Last night i had an interesting experience. Maanie came by the flower stand before we went to sleep. I have known Maanie the entire time i have lived here. I think he was around 10 or 11 when i first met him back in 2000. I really have a soft spot for him and have seen him go through many ups and downs. Right now it seems that he is very "up", which is great for me to see! I don't think he would mind me saying that he just got out of jail the day before yesterday. He had a couple of old cases that stood up against him so he had to spend a couple of months in jail. He said while he was in there he thought a lot about his life, his child (who is one of the cutest babies in the world), and his future.
Maanie said all these years living on and off the streets, in and out of jail, he had always looked at other people to blame for his predicaments he continued to find himself in; his parents, the government, the NGO sector, Cape Town, this guy, that guy...everybody but himself. Now he says, though he sees the role that they all played in the things he has been through, he is currently in a place where he is "old enough" to take responsibility, stop looking for others to blame for his situation, and also look at himself, along with the choices and decisions he has made over all the years that have brought him to this place (even if he was not mature enough to make them at that time). He now takes responsibility for the "place" he is in, but more importantly, he is taking responsibility for his future.
Anyway, as i said, i have always had a soft spot for Maanie; i love him to death. It was really good to see him last night and see how good he looked, and i think he was glad to see me. At the same time, i think it was a little bit strange for him. He said he heard about what i am "doing" (here on the streets) while he was in jail. He kept looking at me with disbelief last night and i could see a mixture of emotion in his eyes: pride, concern, pity...to name a few. He looked at me with concern and said, "You look tired!". I said i was a bit tired because it had been a long day. He said, "Do you have a cold? Here, take this!" and he handed me the cap from his head. I thanked him. He said, "Do you have enough clothes?" and i told him that i only had the clothes i was wearing but i planned on washing them soon. I could literally see the pain in his eyes. I think he finally realised how i felt (and still feel) all those years coming and visiting all the kids on a daily basis.
I told him i stink. He leaned forward and put his nose to my chest and took a big whiff and said, "No you don't. You smell like I always did!". And that was the moment that was so surreal. I was standing there like a stinky little "street kid" and Maanie was standing there nicely dressed, looking and smelling great. I think it was a moving experience for both of us! He told me he wants to do whatever he can to support me in this and that he believes in what i am doing! I appreciated his words and told him that the best way he can "support me" is to continue in the positive way that he is and look after himself. To see him looking so good is the best support i could ever have. That is why i am doing this!
Once a kid has been allowed to grow up on the streets it is not easy for him to come away from the street life (especially after many years on the streets). Maanie is very aware of the challenges and open about the temptations that are out there for him. Like i have said many times before, we have to catch these kids before they even go to the streets. Before the streets suck them in and steal prime years of their lives. I am so proud of Maanie! I know he will make mistakes again, but i also know that we have to take it one day at a time and today...Maanie gave me hope!