Not Everything is Weakness

By: René Muhindo, (Bukavu, République Démocratique du Congo)

"Congo River" by Olivier Gerard for CIFOR:

“Congo River” by Olivier Gerard for CIFOR:

In my neighborhood I hear judgments like: “They’re strange.  They don’t love their children, they can’t raise them, their children only inherit suffering.”  It’s the typical image that we cast on poor families.  And yet!

Old Rukara is 70 years old, for 4 years he endured and resisted before accepting to sell his plot of land, to abandon his job as a shoemaker and to return to his village.  That might seem incompressible!  But what else could he do – he who was never invited to community meetings, he who was criticized for having no place in the city.  When talking about current events, they told him to “Be quiet.”  Every evening, children threw stones on the roof of his house.  His neighbors tried to occupy, by force, part of each side of his plot.

Luc is a young boy, 12 years old: his father, who is handicapped, has gone to great extremes to be able to support his family.  Luc sleeps at the market under a table.  That way, he’s the first to offer his services to merchants early in the morning.  In the dry season, he exchanges water for manioc which he re-sells.  He finds wood for those who build fires, takes care of cutting up cow legs to help keep things moving for the venders, and occasionally works as a porter.  The weekends he sends money back to his mother.

Louise is a little girl who sees how her mother deprives herself of food so that her brothers and sisters can have enough to eat.  To help her mother, Louise walks far to sell sandwiches and beignets to the men who work in the quarry.  They’re regular clients, but they still give her a hard time (…).

Every day, the parents of Luc, Louise, and plenty of others like them, are heckled and accused of not loving their children.  And yet, their children are the most precious things to them.  For their children, they give the best of themselves, to ensure their health and education.  Depriving oneself of food or giving beyond one’s physical ability for one’s children, it’s normal, it’s the sign that they love them.  The poor are the builders of peace, and Rukara is a beautiful example.  For him, “peace is worth more than anything.”

All parents want nothing but happiness for their children, but the violence of poverty blocks any route to hope.  Moreover, need comes and grows this hopelessness.  If there were no needy in society, everyone would be dignified and independent.  Poverty isn’t a choice.  Next to weakness, there is strength.  Everything is not weakness.

(This post was originally published in French on the blog Un Monde Autrement Vu)

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