Because we are extremely social creatures, we are in constant contact with other humans! There lies our little difficulty. The problem is not in the child or person, but in the way that we interact with one another! The tricky stuff happens is the space between us, in our social exchanges.
2 days ago, 2 children had a not so pleasant exchange. A boy and a girl who are in their adolescent years who in reality are probably a little fond of each other have been at each other for the last month. The boy knows exactly how to push her buttons and she is reacting accordingly. The girl has been in the project since it began almost 6 years ago. The boy began with us at the end of last year.
To put a little context to the story, the girl who has been literally rejected by her mother lives with her alcoholic and violent father. The boy lives with his family in a very small crowded house on the edge of a rubbish dump. His dad is also alcoholic and violent.
The girl is so much better than she was. Her reactions used to be hysterical. Running off, crying, and screaming. Now she is much more controlled. She can now express what she is feeling, which would never happen before! What I mean is that she takes on whatever is disturbing her, has a little outburst, expresses how she is feeling and returns to as she was before.
The boy has a very violent father. Nothing seems to phase him. The way that he talks about violence is like is part of everyday life. Unfortunately, it is. We basically have no contact with his parents. We had a number for his father’s mobile phone but it is now out of action. Every now and then I call past the house to show my face. I haven’t been getting much of a friendly response.
So, after the near physically violent episode 2 days ago my colleague Sergio mentioned that we should have a meeting. The verbal abuse was getting to a horrible level and considering the situations with the children's parents, any mention of them would just set them off. The most common form of verbal abuse is directed at the person’s parents!
Sergio is from Monte Chingolo. He is our percussion teacher and so much more. He has a passion for the community, for the kids, and for the music that pulses through his veins like the beat of a bass drum! He wanted to sit the kids down and share a little bit of his history and how he received a lot of bullying about his parents when he was younger. Just so that they might be able to begin to register that there is another person with a difficult history on the other end of their abuse.
Yesterday the time had come for the meeting after another exchange of abuse between the boy and the girl. We went into a room with all of the children over 10 years old who had come to Food for Thought that day. We sat down and to change the air a little, we played the song that we had recently recorded with the children for the first time. The mood had changed a smidgeon. Then Sergio began to talk about his difficult past.
I am not going to mention any of the things that we talked about yesterday because we agreed to all of those words staying within that room. Once Sergio had finished speaking, one by one every child began to talk about the difficult situations in their lives. Every child in that room had a personal story that brought Sergio and I to tears. I have tears in my eyes right now thinking of the bravery that they not only showed to share their stories with us yesterday, but the bravery to get out of bed every morning.
It was a humane gesture from Sergio to share his story, and it received a humane response. Once the kids began to talk, they didn’t want to stop. They even asked if we could do it again next week. I was surprised by how eager they were to talk about the secrets that they hadn’t shared with anyone. It was surprising yet comforting to know that they had the confidence to talk to us.
It has been a moving week. So much turbulence. It is hard to explain exactly how I feel right now. I feel our boat has just survived a massive storm. The waves haven’t quite calmed yet, but the sun is peaking through the clouds.