Last week my younger sister and I were walking in town heading to a bus stop. the streets were bustling with life, lots of people walking around and in some tight spaces people pushing to get way. I was walking slightly ahead of her in file as ‘Matatus’ (public transport mini vans) were parked on our right and others were moving on our left. there were other people walking, Matatu touts and drivers jostling for parking space and calling out for passengers.
Suddenly a street boy stood right in front of me and demanded for money. He also aptly informed me that he had a bag of feaces which he would generously smear on my person if I did not comply with his demands. I froze, then I started shaking. I then opened my wallet to look for money. All this time the street boy was unrelenting in his demands and threats; he never stopped talking even for a moment. He also made it very clear that he did not want coins, I must give him notes. I only had a fifty shillings note in my wallet, which I handed over to him. He demanded for more and threatened me the more. I gave him a twenty shillings coin, he pushed back the fifty shillings note and the twenty shillings coin to my hands and demanded for a hundred shillings note. I was now in begging mode. I opened my wallet for him to see, I did not have any other money (Thank God!). I begged him to take the seventy shillings and allow me to go. Finally he let me pass.
All this time the street boy is terrorizing me, nothing stopped. People continued walking past us, Matatu’s kept driving past us and parking next to us, touts and drivers were walking next to us and calling out for passengers. My younger sister walk right past me assuming that I had mercy on the street boy and decided to give him some money for food.
Just before the street boy let me go, I looked up and saw my sister standing a few steps ahead of me looking at me. She was in the process of opening her own bag, I contorted my face in a warning that things were not as they seemed. She stopped. I left the street boy, grabbed her hand and quickly rushed to the next available Matatu where I explained what had just transpired.
I have been reflecting on this incident and asking myself many questions and my responses to people who seem to be fine but are not.
The wife and mother who is in an abusive marriage (physical, emotional, verbal,sexual). That woman who is always in huge shades, a plastic smile, frequent broken bones, unexplained bruises: TAKE A SECOND LOOK
The young child (boy or girl) who is abused at home either by parents or by their caregivers. They suddenly do not want to interact with other children, they are not smiling anymore, grades dropping, weight loss: TAKE A SECOND LOOK
The young man/woman who is trying to express the burdens they are carrying. The demands from parents, friends, society, from themselves. The desire to be something yet the pull in the opposite direction to conform. Begins to oversleep, no longer wants to take a shower, withdrawals from family and friends: TAKE A SECOND LOOK
The new mother who is feeling overwhelmed. Has a body that has just undergone a huge transformation, a young life that demands her attentions 24/7, a husband who is clueless on how to step in, a colic baby, contradicting advice from every corner, sleepless night, crying baby. She begins to withdrawal, loses interest in the baby, does not want to take a bath, starts talking to herself, is always angry and snappy: TAKE A SECOND LOOK
The man whose job is hanging in the air. He is not sure whether tomorrow is the day the axe falls. Demands on him from every corner, financial demands, performance demands, social demands. His business is failings, he is losing contracts, payments are not forthcoming, risks are not paying back. He starts drinking, coming home late, withdrawals from family and friends: TAKE A SECOND LOOK
Not everything is as it seems.
I was being threatened and my wallet frisked by a street boy in the middle of teeming life! Nobody noticed how scared I was, nobody stopped to listen to our conversation. Everybody must have assumed I was being kind to the street boy, little did they know I was being held hostage, against my own will forced to give all the monies I had.
Take a second look: Not everything is as it seems
That woman, that child, that young person, that man might be crying for help: TAKE A SECOND LOOK
Their forced smile, their dropped face, their twitching eyes, the long sleeved shirt/dress, the pullneck, the whispering voice, the silent tremble, the passing wink, the falling handshake, the frequent last minute excuses not to show up; it might be a cry for help: TAKE A SECOND LOOK
You never know which life you will save.