a few years ago i fell in love with a small community between lavender hill and muizenberg call capricorn. at the time i was working with a group of boys from this community who were leaving home for extended lengths of time, sleeping and getting into trouble in muizenberg. through that work, i met each of their families, which led to meeting other families and people in the area. quickly i got connected to lots of random people, especially since i was the only white person i saw roaming the streets of this overlooked community.
one family i met really took my heart. it's a complex web of relationships, but basically there is a grandmother named auntie m with 5 children (was 6 but the youngest died 2 years ago). M, S, B, S and Bru, in order from oldest to youngest. Now, M's (19 years old) girlfriend "fell pregnant", as they say in cape town, and they have a son michael. S's (17 years old) got 2 kids from her ex-boyfriend (she was 14 when she had the first son. Her oldest son is 3, his name is Leshwin. The little brother is baby Ryan (yes, named after mr brown himself!) and he's maye 1 1/. B is 14 and wanders around selling herself to guys on the street. S and Bru, 11 and 8ish, are in school and have somewhat normal lives for kids (minus the continuous drug use going on in their house and the random people who shack up there).
ok so the reason i'm writing this blog is to share w. you a bit of s's situation. after birthing two children before the age of 17, she started realizing how much of her life she was losing b/c of these kids. so sometime in this past year a shift occured in her behavior : she started staying out for days on end, she lost lots of weight cause of the tik she is smoking, and now she has moved out of the house and is living in a car on the harbor with "an old man" as her little sister told me. So yesterday i got a call from her mom, auntie m, desperately asking me to go look for stephie. it was all-pay day and s needed to be present to collect the R400 she gets each month from the government for her two kids. s needed to take her i.d. to collect the money, no one else could stand in for her.
so off i go with a carful all intent on finding s. we get to the harbor and a few of the kids jump out and run towards the docks. they returned a few mintues later with the information that s and the "old man" had made their way to a community 30 minutes east and there was no word that they were coming back anytime soon.
s with her kids.
two of the many people in my car were s's two motherless children, leswin and baby ryan. clueless as to what we were doing, why we were all concerned, and what impact this would have on their next month, they were busy climbing from lap to lap, grabbing my dog's face and shaking it, popping their heads out the window to catch a view of the beautiful blue ocean water, speaking in half words and sounds that it takes much time and patience to understand.
what struck me about this experience is hard to put into words, probably because i know this family so well and i have had 3 years to watch the ups and downs of each family member. so, what i still struggle to sit with is the "normalcy" of behavior such as s's. while disappointed, no one freaked out that she was (a) living with an old man in a car, (2) off on some adventure with no one aware of how to find her, (3) neglecting the welfare of her two children, as well as the financial state of her family who relies on that money to feed her kids, and (4) most likely coming home with a new bun in the oven, thus making her mother of 3 by her 19th birthday.
as i dropped her kids back home to their kinda-creepy stepgrandfather and their uncle m, i just felt really sad. i felt helpless. i felt determined to take leshwin and ryan away from s and raise them myself. i felt angry at the injustice of their situations...the cards they have been dealt while i drive away in a nice car to a nice flat to eat nice food and hang out with nice people. i felt compassion for the community of capricorn and even for stephie who i know is just being a teenager, not much more rebellious than i was at her age.
i want more people to feel burdened for families such as this, cause they are all around us no matter where we live. i want hearts to be touched for the great power we have to change a life simply by being available and choosing to walk through life with others. i want pity and apathy to create action and creativity and ideas. i want to drive by capricorn and see trees and flowers and rubbish bins and kids with shoes on and families with lovely food-smells drifting from their homes and smiles on people's faces.
wherever you live, whatever you do, however you live out your values...i challenge you to be inspired by the world around you, to embrace the power you have been given, and to bring change to the world.
"Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." --Desmond Tutu