too little, too many
It doesn’t take much to make children laugh and smile. We see their beaming faces everywhere, with not a care in the world. They seem to live in a world of their own, full of fun and happy moments. But it’s not always a happy story with a happy ending. It rarely is.
Elizabeth is 8 years old and doesn’t talk much.
Her sister Michelle, however, lives a life that could have been the opening script for some TV soap opera. She is 12 years old and is the eldest daughter in a family of 7 children; second oldest if one were to include the eldest child who died during infancy. She would have been in a family of 9 children if another one of her younger siblings survived a crippling disease at the age of 4.
She goes to school, but only for a day or 2 in a week. She is still in Grade 2 and is expected to stay in elementary school for many more years unless she drops out of school completely. Her mother just gave birth about a month ago and so she has been tasked to do the household chores which her mother cannot take care of at the moment. Her father is still nursing a stab wound from 2 years back due to an altercation with her uncle and cannot do any heavy lifting. Their source of income comes from selling brooms at P100 apiece, of which a large portion goes to buy rice that only lasts a few meals, maybe not even for a day. Life is difficult.
Both of them were drying straws on the side of the highway. Cars whiz by at blinding speed carrying people who are always in a hurry to get to or from home, never noticing the little people who live along the periphery, the little people whose biggest challenge in life is to survive the day with food in their stomach, clothes on their backs and roof above their heads.
This is the path leading home, only it’s not the kind of home that you and I know. It’s not even a house.
It has always been said that children are a blessing. Maybe for some but not for all. With a difficult life like this, who is enjoying the blessing? Not the parents who have to work more than two lifetimes just to get their family out of poverty, and certainly not the children who are not responsible for the difficulty they have been born into. When will it be more important to consider the quality of life rather than the quantity? They are not a bunch of straw that can be left on the side of the road to shrivel under the sun.