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"The Journey" by Tracey Jane Bell ..cont

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

They say your school days are the best days of your life. I am not so sure I agree. Looking back I see that I would have been labelled a “nerd” if it were recent times. I loved to bury my head in a book. I was a loner. I tried to fit in desperately but was never “hip” enough to belong in the “gang”. Being bullied was a norm for me. This would continue throughout my school years and even into early adulthood. Yet, even as the long now “shut in a box” memories are dredged up I realise how important that was to ensure I would be able to have an inbuilt sense of empathy with what I so love doing now. Loneliness is a huge part of the vulnerable oldies' lives that we take care of in our mission in Zimbabwe. In fact, it is a sad reality in general in life as the years advance.

Primary school would teach me the fundamentals. Reading writing and arithmetic. It would also offer me the opportunity to take to the stage. I loved being a part of that world. That world where you could be anyone you wanted to be. In the strangest way, it again was preparing me for a time when I would be scrutinized by an accepting and not-so-accepting audience. You don’t see all of that at the time, do you? Why would you? A memory that has just come up is how proudly I wore a hand-knitted jersey my mum made. It was purple. Lol. The school's colour was green. It was the only wool Mum had in the house. The innocence of youth. Yes, I was laughed at and jeered at. Did I mind? Maybe for a little while but I was warm, I loved the colour and soon the jeers stopped as another unsuspecting victim was picked on. This is sometimes the sadness of the human race. We are so quick to judge.. so slow to understand. That brings me to the years when I was forced and that is the correct word forced to drink the most disgusting soup handed out to all children they felt were underweight. With no understanding of any underlying reasons for a fast metabolism for example. "Skinny child"? "Must be starving at home! Likewise, the thick slices of brown bread that went with a bottle of milk. I am dairy intolerant so all of it would come up soon after. And the vicious cycle would continue. Now all of it was from people who had “ your interests at heart”, However, what it did manage to do was single out those who were not “normal”. It made being “ assisted” something to be ashamed of. With words like “ She’s a welfare CASE “ isn’t she? “No I think THE father just drinks all his pay away.” “ The mother is lazy, smokes and sleeps the whole day “ “SHAME”! (All within earshot of said “Welfare case”. Even as I recall my throat becomes thick with emotion. My goodness. I am sure as you cringe at these words you are already coming up with excuses as I have done over the years..” They were only trying to help” “They knew no better”. I am happy I do now! It has armoured me with knowledge on how to deal with so many of our vulnerable old folk as well as with a very different mindset. To understand the different backgrounds, and how they come to be in these circumstances. To offer love rather than judgement.. hope rather than unfulfilled promises. respect rather than scorn …did I say LOVE ?… (to be cont)

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