Through a program called Brothers In Arms I’ve been buddied up with a 12-year-old girl. Once a week we try and catch up and hang out, and I guess from the outside there’s nothing interesting or amazing about this at all. But there is, this girl has had a life few of us could even imagine, her life has been peppered with injustice and unfair acts, heart breaking moments and cruelty.
This isn’t a blog entry about me hanging out with her, or me at all. It’s about the human spirit and amazing things we so often forget to be thankful for.
This little girl and her family live in a Housing New Zealand house; with 6 sisters and two parents more often than not there are least 7 people in their home. Their home is busy and bustling, with kids rushing in and out of doors, and a million different conversations happening at once but what home with so many children isn’t.
The girls are close in age and range from 6 to 16 years, and at times in their life miss out things because there simply isn’t enough money. Things like celebrating a birthday, no matter how young you are, are never guaranteed. There’s little in the way of after school activities, as these cost money and generally require transport to and from. This family has no car, if they want to go somewhere they ride the bus or walk. They walk to school, and walk to the supermarket, catching the bus is even something they have to budget for.
What there is though, is love and loyalty, no matter how much the girls argue over the soccer ball, computer or TV they’re quick to stand up for one another and unite for a common cause. For a family that has so little, the girls are still interested in helping others, two of the girls this weekend did the 40hour famine to “raise money for those who have nothing” and to “know what it feels like” [to go hungry]. Their mother also helps with school fundraisers, the Walking School Bus and is an “aunty” for other kids in the street. This family still digs deep for others and those around them.
They certainly don’t dine like kings, dinner and lunch are often basic but are most definitely made with love and everyone helps out. The younger girls help Mum or Dad by grating and chopping what’s needed, and the older kids are responsible for the dishes, all of the dishes, and when there’s on average 9 mouths there’s a lot of dishes. There’s a wee bit of yelling and the odd grumble, but these are still real kids, and most children aren’t actually fans of chores.
I’m going not going share with you the painful details of her life that wouldn’t be fair. But if you use your use your imagination I’m sure your mind can concoct some childhood nasties, the type of moments that dramatically shape your life and steal parts of a childhood, making them forever lost. But regardless of all of this, regardless of all the unfair moments in her life, she is still a kind and amazing kid. She says “thank you” every single time she gets out of the car, and says “thank you” for every single hot chocolate or lunch. She’s concerned for those bullied at school, and those in the world who are hungry.
She is a bright kid, who’s talented at sport but can’t be part of team outside of school because of the cost implications. She is artistic too and sees beauty in things that most 12 year olds wouldn’t, the rippled sand at the beach, knotted roots of a giant tree or lines in a cloudy skyline. She still appreciates the world, and all it still has to offer her, and is excited to see things and experience them.
The girl who I first met in August with the plan of leaving school as soon as she could, has since decided she wants to work hard and go to university so she can “get a great job and be whatever she likes”. She’s now a girl who is slowly realising her potential and that despite the odd roadblock she can go far. She’s no longer that heartbreaking 12 year old already planning her escape from education.
This 12-year-old girl is even a person who tells me, someone who hasn’t experienced a smidgen of what she has, that it will be okay. This 12-year-old girl is still always excited for someone else whether it is somewhere they’re going, something they’re doing or something they’ve got.