Sunday, February 04, 2007

Learning Life The Hard Way

I had the chance to interview a neighborhood toughie. At a young age of 19, he has graduated from petty crimes to the more "rewarding" drug trade. Alone, with a wife and kid to support plus 5 young siblings to take care of, he has turned to the life of crime for survival. I will call him Astig to hide his identity. He creates a lot of trouble in my place and every one's afraid of him. Although I have heard a lot of stories about him, he never really bothered my little store.

We crossed paths when I prevented a gang from another area from beating him up. I was able to pacify the gang and convinced them to just leave. I learned that he is quite intelligent. Although a high school dropout, he was a straight A student. His family's woes began when his father was imprisoned for being an alleged pusher. The father had a friend who lived with them. Unknown to them, the friend was a pusher. The police raided their house and found a big stash of 'crack or shabu' in the friend's room. The friend then implicated his father. The mother, not skilled enough was unable to hold a steady job. With mouths to feed, the mother turned to prostitution to make a living.

Astig's mother started using shabu to numb her senses to be able to stomach the business she is engaged in. Soon, the mother was caught taking drugs and was also sent to prison. Now Astig had no one to rely on and started working in the wet market. Doing odd jobs, he tried to work for his sibling's survival. Of course it was not enough, he turned to doing petty crimes to augment his earnings. He made sure that his brothers and sister had enough food and attend schooling.

He said that even if he worked and stole, it still wasn't enough. He became a runner for a pusher and as of late, a pusher himself. Now, with his new 'career' in peddling drugs, all he has to do is sit and wait for his customers to come and pick up their 'stuff'.

I have tried to council this boy but I have failed as I have nothing to offer him. My wife often sends them food before. He now rejects the little help we extend him. I sense a lot of hatred against the world in this boy. The harsh realities of life seems too much for him. Losing both parents at the age of 16, I cannot even imagine the hardships he had to go through. Still, I have not given up on this boy who has a lot of promise. I know there is still some good in him. He was after all a former altar boy and used to be a good student in a Catholic school. He confided his dreams and aspirations in life during our series of interviews. I know that given the right break, he will rid himself of his evil ways.

I wonder how many Astigs there are in our country today. Having to learn about life the hard way and facing each day with pity and hate. Sometimes, we cannot just condemn but understand. The last advice I gave him before we parted is what I always tell my kids and friends whenever they find life too difficult: "Try looking down instead of up, you will see that you are more fortunate than others and that you do not experience the sufferings they have to go through in life."