Huddled around an old photo album in a small apartment on Nelson Street, tales flow of the extraordinary life of well-known mas man Benidict Morgan.
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QUESTIONING OUR HUMANITY
To give love and care to those humans without the capacity to even acknowledge our presence, who are unable to share a smile to encourage us to carry on with the love and care, is a human challenge we face with babies born without the most basic of human capabilities; but who are yet as fully human as we able-bodied people are.
We have long extended care and concern to those we characterise as being “challenged” and “differently-abled.”
We appreciate and cherish such people as they return our feelings.
But there are those whose interaction with us is minimal, even non-existent. Such living, feeling humans are nevertheless part of our lives.
They impact on our consciousness, and their condition of helplessness demands that a great amount of our physical attention, quality love and humanity be extended to them.
If we do not give constant care and love to the needs of such people, they will not live very long.
Christians and people of other religious persuasions firmly believe that babies born with incurable defects and degenerative diseases have been sent to extend our capacity to be loving and compassionate.
In their condition, such people ask of us: “Are you capable and willing to love and care for us who are as human as you are, but do not have full and/or the regular capabilities as you?”
Parents, relatives and professional caregivers are gifted with babies, children and adults with the challenge to love them unconditionally for a lifetime.
There are no rewards to be had, other than it is a love which can expect nothing in return, not even acknowledgement of being grateful for being loved in such a special and demanding way.
The reflections of this column came to my mind at a recent very joyous occasion at which everyone was happy, celebrating, dancing, eating and singing.
We were all contented with life, and joined in fulsome celebration of a couple of our relatives and friends.
But there among us, hardly noticed amidst the understandable and well-seasoned gaiety, there was this “baby-like” child, difficult to estimate an age, lodged lovingly in what looked like a special carrier pram.
He or she seemed completely oblivious to all that surrounded him/her; simply satisfied to be nestled into the carrier and totally dependent on parents for love, protection from adversity, and so too from patronising sympathy of a kind not wanted.
Just looking at the baby/child made me think of what I would have done if presented with such a challenge to love unconditionally a child of my own without expecting anything in return.
It is easy to answer when not confronted by the challenge.
Increasingly in this society we are being forced to question our very humanity, the kind needed to love and care for babies, children even adults who are in desperate need of such attention.
The brutal violence we perpetrate against each other leaves us to wonder if we are indeed suffering from some form of mass insanity which makes us incapable of being fully human.
And this is not confined to the violence of the gun perpetrated by the “bad boys.”
Those individuals and institutions that inflict economic and financial violence on others; those who dig the social chasms so deep and offer no hope and assistance to anyone at the bottom of the pit, a ladder to clamber up the sheer walls that keep those in the dungeon, they too are guilty of inhumanity.
But the love and care are not only needed at the individual level, but at the communal level, the village, the town, the city and at the level of our institutions, especially those institutions which have care and concern as their rationale for existence.
Clichéd as it may be, it still is true that a society of people can be judged for good or bad based on how we treat and care for those who cannot be responsible in part and/or in whole for themselves.
I am not in touch (and that in itself is an indictment) with the institutional needs, the policies and programmes required to systematically and lovingly care for all of the challenged and those without the capacity to be self-sufficient.
However, I am sure that what we have put in place to care for our children in need of such love and care is nowhere sufficient to meet the needs of all categories of challenged babies, children and adults.
Subsequent to conceiving of and writing this column, I became aware of a group of parents whose babies and children are in desperate need of special care services from the State, but not receiving it.
Parent Alicia Phillips-Sealey from the far south-east of the country told me that approximately 60 children in towns such as Rio Claro, Mayaro, Guayaguayare are in desperate need of getting a chance at an education notwithstanding having a disability of one form or the other.
The parents say the primary school principals all tell them they cannot take the children into their schools because the necessary assistants to teachers to help with giving educational attention to the challenged children are simply not supplied by the Ministry of Education.
I would love to hear from parents and anyone knowing of children in need of love and care, so that I can highlight the need for us to become fully human by providing the facilities and extending love and care to all our children.