Usually when we talk about children -the conversations I’ve witnessed and experienced, anyway- we tend to focus on all we do for them. But I think what they do for us is a miracle as well. There are two particular children in my life whom I love very much. One of them seems to have gravitated towards me and always looks forward to my visits. In fact, at a very low point in my life, when no adult would have wanted to be me, I remember her saying, “When I grow up, I want to be like Mommy Tebo.” Not because of anything I owned materially or any accolades I had earned but because of the humanity she had seen in me: the good side that can’t be quantified. It remains the best thing anyone has ever done for me and reminded me that it is worth it to someone for us to strive to be at our emotional and mental best, to be balanced and to be understanding -even when no one is looking.
I’m not saying this in order to brag. This article is part of my gratitude series, whose elements I’ll be publishing here and there until the end of next year. And this particular article is an expression of gratitude for the people in my life who see me in a good light. Sometimes, it is easy to focus on the ones who pour poison and ill-will in our lives. Those who love to highlight every ugly scar we carry. Those who like to tell us we deserve all the bad that came our way or who choose to mock us and minimize our strengths. There are even those who will invent evil sides of us that never existed and do their best to spread those lies to anyone who will listen.
And then there are those who choose to give us a chance to explain when we’ve done something they don’t understand. (Note that the thing is deemed (by them) something they don’t understand, instead of something that’s definitely wrong with us.) Those who give us the benefit of the doubt and always remember the times when we have been at our best. I have a friend who has been that for me and I can only hope that I’ve been the same for them. I’m grateful for those in my life who have reminded me that expressing my gentler side is still necessary and that I can do that without fear of being taken advantage of, or without feeling like a fool for having tried -as long as I am careful who I do it for.
I am thankful for every time someone was just a person with me, because that takes courage and we both won in the end: there was a human connection (even if it was only for a few minutes) that many people search for nowadays in this lonely planet, and they were able to exist outside of the acts we put up and labels we slap on in order to keep our lives together.
And today I am thankful for the child who recognised my humanity in a time of need, even if she wasn’t aware that’s what she was doing. Her name means ‘Mother of the Nation’ and she’s quite proud of that. Even at her young age, she is very perceptive and self-contained. She is happy to make up her own mind about things and is not easily influenced in one direction or the other. It has been such a delight watching her grow. And it’s been scary watching her watch me. I hope she never loses that discernment that makes her so sharp and the joy that she finds in everything, nomatter the circumstances.
This year has been the tail end of an era (which I recently decided to call My Dark Ages) when I had to be quite protective of myself and retreat inward to gather my strength and get through life. I am finally emerging from survival mode and can sense that it’s time to go back to reaching out to people and also helping other people more. I would not have got to this point without the encouragement of some good friends and the presence of the two children in my life. Thank you to these two groups of people for making my life bearable during the Dark Ages.