Three young boys smiled up at the camera. Victoria Terminus, India, was their home and they chatted easily about life there: which children made their living begging, who picked up bottles for a few rupees and who scoured the rubbish for discarded coffee cups to lick. One boy was very matter of fact about having his leg beaten until it broke.
Every now and then, we were shown a child sleeping in the road frighteningly close to a passing truck or bodies strung out on drugs and covered in flies.
But most shocking to me was the boys’ laughter about which of them had been attacked for sex, often by random men. They were street children. They were easy prey. This was just another part of life. As the narrator said, and as was fairly obvious, they had no pity for themselves or for anyone else.
I’d gone along on a whim when an email asked for a STOP THE TRAFFIK supporter to exhibit literature on behalf of the organisation. Street children’s vulnerability makes them prime candidates for human trafficking. Poverty makes people vulnerable to exploitation.
The last time I did anything public for STOP THE TRAFFIK was a few years ago when a friend organised an anti-trafficking week at our university, getting societies to put on events to raise awareness of human trafficking issues and raise funds for the organisation’s work. Another friend and I put on a poetry night and I performed one of my songs at another society’s acoustic group.
We felt motivated, mobilised, part of something big. Our chocolate was Fairtrade. We were clued up on the “issues”.
But as the noise died down since, I feel like the bridge from the song I’d written became a self-fulfilling prophecy:
“Paralysed by the sense of not achieving what I said I would
Wishing I hadn’t made promises when I can’t
Or is it can’t?
Or is it won’t but should?”
Though my sore pelvic girdle doesn’t thank me for lugging a heavy backpack of STOP THE TRAFFIK leaflets across Bristol for the Unchosen film campaign, I am grateful for having been there. It reminded me of my responsibility toward others, locally and globally. It was a chance to be pushed out of paralysis.
It’s made me continue to think about the things I want for the creature as she grows up. I want her to be informed about and sensitive to the suffering of others. And I want her to do something about it. This inevitably means her father and I need to think about what picture of humanity we’re giving her, what we show her is important. In short, what we do.
Little could beat the picture of humanity my mother gave me. I think of her decades dedicated to working with people from “disadvantaged” backgrounds, noticing their strength and simply trying to build relationships where they can take hold of their own power. Money has never been a motivating factor for her. Love has.
For my own life, I’m going back to the chorus of that song I wrote in twenty-one-year-old excitement:
“I still think silence is worse
Too many sounds across the earth compete to be heard
I still think there are things that we should all believe
Call it naïve but there’s little excuse for apathy.”
It’s very easy to think these issues through in abstract terms. I’m still trying to work out what it means in practice in my own life – how do I tangibly live out love in my context? It’ll be encouraging to hear what others are doing. How are you trying to live out love?
Images from the film Victoria Terminus, directed by Gerard Vandervegt and shown as part of Unchosen’s film campaign.