Yesterday when I was waiting for a couple of children, one of the boys (12 years old who lives in a very difficult home situation) arrived early and sat down beside me. We greeted and started small talk. As we talked, he very casually, as if a passing comment, slipped into the conversation that his bike had been stolen. I was like, “hold on a minute, your bike was stolen? When did this happen?”. He said “oh, just now. Two guys appeared out of nowhere, knocked me to the ground, and stole my bike.” showing me the graze on his elbow where he had hit the road. His tone didn’t change, nor did his face. He told me this as if he was telling me a story about eating a sandwich.
What struck me was his calmness when talking about what happened. He proceeded to tell me about his day. Firstly, he was biking to the shop and his front wheel fell off which resulted in him being catapulted over the handlebars. (side note: this is the bike that his brother purchased after “finding” AR$17,000 -about US$400). So, he carried the bike back home and reattached the wheel.
With the bike back in action, he set off on his journey to Food for Thought. This was when the two youths set upon him. They crashed into him, sending him flying from his bike for the second time that day. The bike also went flying causing the wheel to fall off, also for the second time that day. The two thieves picked up the separate parts of the bike and ran off. He said the two young men were bigger than him so he didn’t stand a chance. He then told me about how his older brother was going to give him a hiding for losing the bike. All of this without the twitch of an eye or a shadow of emotion on his face.
Now there were a million thoughts going through my head about what was going through ‘his’ head! Having worked within the community for almost 6 years, it is nowhere near the first time that I have been witness to the normalising of violence. I see several possibilities in relation to what might have been going on. 1. The violence is such a common occurrence in his life that it doesn’t even register to him that something bad had just happened. 2. He is so used to swallowing his emotions that he has become very good and not expressing them. 3. He registered everything, it is something that happens in everyday life and his emotions reflected that he wasn’t concerned at all. I am going to guess that it is a little of all of those options.
He processed the incident with greater ease than I ever could. He was a little aggressive that day, but overall well behaved. I take my hat off to him and to how he is functioning extremely well within a world where violence is normalised. His reactions within Food for Thought towards other kids are violent but not malice, and more often with words as opposed to actions. He participates in all activities. He is interested and inquisitive. He always seems to be able to smile or tell a joke. I don’t know how I would function living in the same environment.
In the democratic circle, we had a talk about his verbal abuse towards another child. I can say that considering the way that his day started, he was doing extremely well to even show up! The responses that came from the kids were great. One girl said in a sarcastic tone, “yeah because I am perfect and never do anything wrong”. When I asked the boy’s friend what he would do in that situation, he responded with “you know what, it’s really difficult to change!”. Those words stayed with me for the rest of the day because they couldn’t be more accurate. It is difficult to change, and it takes time. Imagine how hard it would be to change your violent ways if all you knew was violence…