Sometime last December, I happened to be home on a weekday and I decided to do a few chores at home. While doing that I couldn’t help but notice some boys who were just by the tap outside my apartment fetching water and gisting. Now, kids coming to fetch water in my compound wasn’t anything new or strange. What I found very strange which literally made my ears tingle was the conversation they were having. Initially I couldn’t make out what they were saying but when I thought I knew what they were talking about I leaned towards my window to hear them more audibly. Though I was staring right at them through the net of my window, I could see them but they couldn’t see me.
“Because say my girlfriend fine pass him own….” I heard one of the boys say but I couldn’t make out the last part of the sentence. After his statement, they were other comments which to be honest I wouldn’t have been concerned about but then another boy said, “E done tey wey I f@#k oh”. At this point I couldn’t take it anymore; I knew I had to speak to these young boys who by my estimate should be between the ages of 10 – 15. If I had heard grown men having an x-rated discussion, I will simply ignore or simply say in my heart, “may God help us”. But this was different – these were very young boys, they could be my younger brothers and the youngest of them could be my son. I had to confront them.
So quickly I stepped outside, ordered the four of them to line up beside each other facing me. They obeyed sharply.
“What’s your name?” I questioned looking at the first boy from my left.
“Daniel”, he answered.
“And how old are you?” I continued my interrogation. Fourteen was his answer.
I repeated the same for each of the boys and in the end I had Daniel* (14), Dexter* (11), Friday* (13) and Miracle* (8). I informed them I was listening to their conversation. Friday (who actually was the most vocal person and the one that used the f-word) wanted to deny but I pointed at my window and told him I was watching him from there. They all stood still, ashamed, sober with heads bowed down, barely raising their heads to look at me intermittently.
I tried my best to counsel them by encouraging them to espouse the values of hard work and godliness by focusing on their academics and God more than anything/anyone else at this stage of their lives. The oldest among them, Daniel and Friday were both in class three in secondary school, a class I was in eighteen years ago. I shared a little of my experience then and encouraged them to maximize the opportunity they have to make the best out of their lives. At a point in our short session, they became a bit more relaxed and at my request, started suggesting vices they should never be involved in.
I sat back and thought about my encounter with these boys and I remembered a scripture from the holy book that says “If the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Somewhere along the line, I believe these kids’ upbringing must have been neglected or outsourced to no one resulting in their current state. I see on TV teenagers and young adults paraded for several heinous crimes like rape, murder, robbery and the likes and I can’t help but wish that someone gave attention to them when they were tender and malleable. Please let’s pay more attention to our children and kids around us generally. Sometimes it can be as simple as putting down your phone and checking in on them, know what’s up, let them ask questions. Of course, the earlier you start the better.
Back to my four musketeers, I read somewhere once about a research which showed that people forget 40% of what they learned after 20 minutes and 50 – 80% after six days. Maybe they’ve all forgotten all I said to them and frankly speaking I’m not sure a one-off encounter is enough to change a person. But I prayed for them after I finished speaking with them and I hope and pray that at least one of them will be inspired to follow the right path in life. I hope that I’ve planted a seed that will provide a fillip to their positive change.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the boys.
Photo credit: Anthony Asael