What a lovely party we had to celebrate my first birthday at Mercy House. Our mothers had made a cake – heart shaped – and iced it with pink and green roses. They need these tangible signs to remind them that life’s journey is meant to be one of love and hope. So much has happened to them to break down their belief in themselves. They made clowns from ice-cream cones and marshmallows to entertain us children. From all the singing and chatter that accompanied this activity you’d know that they were also entertaining themselves. Except for one. Poor Mantsho is still so traumatised by the horrific experience of being gang raped that she could only let her clown speak for her. Its arms were bent and misshapen and, sad to say, the clown had no face.
Now back to the party. All the same people sat around the coffee table and were served first (and last and in between!). There was singing for me – after all, I was the belle of the ball and one year old. We had balloons and whistles and even some of our ‘gogos’ danced. That’s how my first birthday was spent – in a shelter. Thinking back I realise that I was born in a shelter. Do you hear an echo of another child who was born in a shelter on a cold winter’s night?
Next day it was back to porridge and old clothes. In the skills room some are busy making track suits to keep us warm this winter. Others are making cushions and bags. The news has come from the Department of Social Development that all shelters have to be categorised according to section 9.3 in pg. 72 in one of their endless policies. Those who work in the offices on the sixth floor on the TPG building are making a strong case to show that there is no relationship between victims of abuse and homeless women. Everyone is bothered and there is much consternation. From my point of view – very close to the ground – homelessness is a very real form of abuse. Obviously, working in a high-rise building encourages one to lose touch with reality.
By now you are wondering how such a young child has thoughts like these. Well, the big misunderstanding about children is that just because we cannot speak most people think we cannot hear or understand what’s happening around us. When all is quiet at night and everyone is settling down to sleep I feel the silent sobbing of my mother who is a homeless victim of abuse. Her body shudders as she thinks back on what has been and looks forward without much hope. All I can do is reach out with my little hand for her breast and snuggle close to her. She responds thinking that I am thirsty. Her thirst is greater than mine and I long to comfort her.
Everyone participated in preparing for the Passion Play for Good Friday. There were lengthy discussions over the distribution of roles, where to begin and which songs to include. Finally, all was ready. The drama opened with the holy women discovering the empty tomb and then went on to the appearances of the risen Christ. The audience were surprised that the suffering and death were not mentioned. In retrospect the reason is evident. Our mothers did not need to include this part in their role play. Their own sufferings are so many and varied that it was not necessary to play it out. They are seeking to rediscover the seeds of life and how to nurture them. Londi arrived on Holy Thursday. She came from the hospital where she had been admitted after her partner had beaten her so badly that she couldn’t walk. Londi is pregnant and she has sad eyes. In the early hours of Saturday I heard them phoning for an ambulance – Londi is in labour. Now the news has come that her baby has arrived. From the murmurings and mumblings it emerges that there is something wrong with the baby’s head. Is this because of being beaten while still in her mother’s womb or because he arrived in this world too soon? I hope he’ll be alright and come home soon. It’ll be nice for us to have a tiny baby and I’m going to share my things with him. I’ll even give him turns on the small motorbike!
Today is Easter Sunday and we’ve been to church as a family. Our mothers decided that we would all attend the Universal Church in town.
From the photo you’ll see that we represent a diversity of nation but the unity of God’s people.
Now I’ll finish off my musings and as I set off into my second year of life I am inviting you to journey with me and to help me to live life to the full. That is the real message of Easter and the hope Christ promised to us.
Kathy Rule rsm