Monday, August 03, 2009

Counting my blessings

As longer term readers will know, I had a bit of a bumpy ride on the journey to adulthood. Divorced parents in an age when this was uncommon. A permanent shortage of money which meant that I went without a lot of things my peers took for granted. Add to that some bad choices both on my mother's part and mine, and you have a recipe for disaster. The fact that my life is far from disastrous today, is something for which I am permanently grateful.

On a recent trip home, my Mom told me "You did a good job of raising yourself," which I took as an apology for the choices she made in respect of me. And it is true that, by and large, I did raise myself. My childhood was neither easy nor happy, but over the course of the last 24 hours, I have come across two different stories that put things into perspective.

This story in Cape Town's Cape Argus newspaper tells the story of a boy of 15 called Tapiwe who left Zimbabwe after the death of both his parents in search of a better life in South Africa, only to find that the streets were not paved with gold, after all. He became one of Cape Town's many homeless people, sleeping under a bridge. He worries about his little sister, whom he left in the care of neighbours back in Kwekwe. He hopes to be able to find a way to support her, but is unable to get work in South Africa because he is under age. The Adonis Musati Project is trying to help him complete his education and improve his chances of securing a decent job.

Last night, our church heard from a young man called Minjun from North Korea whose father died in prison when he was only 9 years old, after the authorities learned that he was making trips into China to earn money to feed his family. Because of his father's criminal record, he was unable to get into a decent school. At 17, without daring to tell his mother, he left North Korea for China and from there made his way to South Korea to start a new life. He struggles with guilt for having left without telling his mother and he worries about the treatment she will receive because of his 'betrayal'. He told us of the many people in N. Korea who are dying of starvation and of the poor medical care provision which saw his little brother die in early childhood of TB - an eminently treatable disease (my own father had it and was successfully treated).

What hammered these two stories home to me is that my elder son is the age that Minjun was when he fled from North Korea, while my younger son is the same age as Tapiwe. I am so glad that neither of them needs to have to face a journey like this, all alone.

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