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Children are also suffering

There was a knock at the door.

The level 5 lockdown restrictions were just eased to level 4.

Why would someone be outside, I wondered as I walked to my front door.

Should I open it? What if this person was infected, I asked myself?

As I opened the door slightly trying to protect myself and block the germs of Covid-19 from hitting me, I noticed a young man standing in front of my door.

He was slender and tall in stature. He could not have been more than 14 or 15 years old. Neatly dressed in a dark blue jersey and shorts on a chilly autumn morning.

In his hand, a plastic bag. The content looked like three large potatoes or maybe some onions.

“Can I please wash your car,” he asked in a soft shy manner.

“I would like to buy some electricity for my house,” he said, looking down at his flip-flops.

I could see from the dirt on his feet that he has been walking for kilometres . . . that my door was not the first door he knocked on.

The first thing that went through my mind was, why are you out begging for work? You should be trying to catch up on your schoolwork.

I realised I had no cash on me.

I still feel guilty that I had to tell a child who is trying to help his family financially that I didn’t have any money, that I could not help.

As he said thank you and walked away my heart sank even more.

I wondered if he was used to hearing the words “sorry, I can’t help”. Or has he heard harsher, ruder and more hateful words?

I wondered about his parents. Where are they? Why was he out begging for work and money?

Has his father abandoned him? Was his mother bedridden? Or was he the one taking care of his smaller siblings because his parents were deceased? Then I thought, where were the social services? Why was no one looking out for this boy?

Even though I love this country, I also hate the fact that our children are not protected from the harsh realities of adult life.

How long will he take “no” for an answer? How long will he beg for work? When will he hear that crime is easier than people looking down on you like you are nothing but a dirty street dog?

Sometimes we don’t realise how lucky we are. There are people who aren’t as fortunate to live in a house with running water and electricity. There are children who go to bed hungry.

It has been weeks now and I still wonder what happened to him.

I hope someone was able to help him.

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