Friday 10 February 2023

Never maltreat a child

I heard a child speaking

I spoke to a child this morning, and I listened to what she had to say. She was staying with a couple, her guardians far away from home, the male was her relation (a distant uncle, perhaps) and the female, was the wife of her relation. She had to do chores around the house apart from being a hawker of goods in the streets around where she lived.

One day, she counted out change from the trading purse in the sight of her uncle and then put the purse away. Her uncle then pilfered the purse which left the child accused of theft. The wife had already been wicked to her ward and could not be convinced that the girl did nothing wrong.

Saving the child from brutality

The culprit however in trying to deflect blame from himself punished the child for hours even as the child insisted she did nothing wrong. Reprieve came with an intervention from the neighbours who concluded that if the girl had been pleading innocence for over 6 hours, it was unlikely she had done anything wrong. The sadism of her guardians was just unrelenting.

Many acts committed against the child sometimes left her within the breath of death, and after that punishment, she could not attend school for two weeks, that was the severity and barbarity of their actions, such people should have ended up in jail for the brutalisation and battering of a child.

When her guardians were transferred to another city, another relation refused to allow them to take their ward with them, there was every indication they would do worse to her. Her new guardians had a kinder man (another distant uncle) and a possibly tolerable but nasty wife, maybe, a case of just jumping from the fire into the frying pan. If you’ve been to hell, any other place will present a modicum of comfort.

Maltreatment displaces honour

There was nothing to honour or celebrate about the first set of guardians when they passed on, the evil they had done would live in the memory of this child and be told in stories to which I became the audience today.

Of the second set of guardians, she was so totally distraught when he was brought back to our village in a coffin, but she did not arrive on time for the internment. That his legs were tied together with a string in the coffin only spoke to who his wife was in character and much else.

If anything, you should never maltreat a child regardless of what you might want to achieve, to violate an innocent child is considered the most heinous thing to do, especially if you are responsible for them and they look to you for guardianship, protection, guidance, and if not love, at least a sense of care and consideration of their vulnerable humanity.

A child never forgets

That child is an octogenarian who has had a successful professional career, is retired and is still involved in her community, a mother and grandmother, apart from being a mother to many more she has schooled, taught, mentored, and guided.

The child remembers quite respectfully and fondly those who treated her well, but the recent death of a younger sibling of the first guardian’s wife triggered the memories of the manifest evil meted out to her.

They might well have been forgiven; the forgetting part is more difficult. Even when Jesus said we should forgive seventy times seven times, it would suggest you need to be able to count to know how much has been forgiven. 

It is not that these issues occupy our minds or our lives, but for stories to be told as they happened, the memory recreates the narrative that we must not forget how people treated us even if out of love we release them to attend to the consequences of their actions, by provenance, intervention, or some other means of fate or opportunity.

A child never forgets even if the child has children of children of children. Do not mistreat or maltreat a child.

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