Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Stealing

Something that struck me as a bit odd found among the Asian and African continents is this peculiar habit of stealing among children.  Not that it is not prevalent among children of other continents, but something that is more of  a blot than a passing shade.  I was reading the testimony of a couple of missionaries; one from Korean in Africa and another from the Philippines in Pakistan.  Add to that my own experience of stay in Kondadaba (mind you among Brothers!) and here at Ramanthapur itself (with street children).

The first time I heard of stealing among the seminarians in Kondadaba I was quite shocked; only to be told that it is quite a regular phenomena. Often the one stealing is not caught. Even is one is caught, he is not reported (for fear of him "losing his vocation" - as if he was sure he had one!).  In that sense the boys here at Ramanthapur are a little better off. Not only in the art of stealing but also in the honesty of reporting!

Why steal?  I perfectly understand when some boys steal food or take things because they want money to buy something to eat.  Children as they are, they have no means of looking after themselves as adults who earn money.  So if there is no sufficient food provided, then naturally they resort to stealing, merely to satisfy hunger.  I perfectly endorse it!!  So one of the first things I did here at Ramanthapur was to tell those incharge of the kitchen, especially the cooks: "Children should never go hungry! If they do not have, it is your duty to provide them with what you have. Never deny food to children.  Luxury for none, but enough for all!"  Thanks to that, I was told recently by some staff and even boys that stealing of goods of the house reduced much.

But something that still continues is stealing among themselves... small petty or costly things.  Most often I've noticed it is 'just taking'... not stealing!  They are merely 'taking'!!  Confront them with this fact of 'stealing' and they'll break down as though they have been charged with murder or rape!!  They do it merely as a routine thing, not something maliciously planned out or sketched (though there are a few who do that too).

I figure it has something to do with the way one is brought up.  How one's moral compass is formed over the years, especially when as a child.  They just don't see anything wrong in it.  While in some cultures this notion of right and wrong and the means of differentiating the two is learnt early on in life, in some other places, there is a lot of grey area left for one to learn from experience (often the hard way).  

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