Just like most lads in my neighborhood, I went to the public secondary school which was located just down the street. Most of us came from low-income families but were blessed to have parents that cared about our upbringing. We all played in the streets together. We went to school together and did things in groups. Sometimes in school, we ended up in fights in defense of someone from our street. We were really close and almost inseparable. When chicken pox came, I didn’t feel the brunt of it because most of my friends also came out to play with bodies covered in ‘calamine lotion’.
So, it was really a surprise to us when we came to school at the beginning of a new term to see a Jeep parked in front of the school and a student dressed in our uniform sitting in the passenger’s seat. I knew from that moment that I was not going to be fond of that young lad. He was an oddball and representative of all that our parents taught us to despise – the rich and the pampered. I looked at Jack with scorn and disdain as well as a little touch of envy. The teacher introduced the boy as Jack and someone shouted ‘Jeep Boy’ to the amusement of everybody. After school, the Jeep came to pick him up and we never saw him again until the next morning.
When the second wave of chicken pox came along, it passed without almost any notice. All of my friends had already developed an immunity to the disease. But Jack came to school with spots on his body. We were all surprised and confused all at once. How is it that they could afford a Jeep but couldn’t protect their son from chicken pox? Nobody wanted to play with Jack, and his recent predicament didn’t help in changing the attitude of people toward him. Since he wanted to be a snub and act all high and mighty, then we weren’t going to be by his side now that he needed it.
Ten years later, I remembered Jack and his chicken pox and realized what happened then. The young lad was born into a rich family and his father didn’t want him to mingle with ‘ordinary folk’. He never came outside the mansion for any reason. He never played any games with us. There was no contact with lads his age. He was not contaminated by the environment, therefore, he never developed an immunity to diseases. At this moment, everything made sense.
If he had mingled with us, he would have had a tougher mental fortitude and his immune system would have grown stronger. In a bid to protect him from the harsh reality of the surrounding environment, he was exposed to more dangerous situations which lads his age had dealt with at a much younger age. He could have done better if he had mingled with us. His father, in a bid to protect him, ended up putting him in much graver danger than he would have been.
I have encountered many Jack-like scenarios over the short time I have been a wanderer on this wonderful planet. Finally, I subconsciously came to the realization that when the government or parents or other organized institutions try to keep the harsh truth from the younger generation, they end up bringing up a generation of Jeep Boys.
You get shut down when you oppose a popular belief. When you ask questions, you get answers like ‘just leave it like that’ or ‘that is just the way things are’. We grow up knowing nothing about anything and when a strong wind blows toward us, we abandon ship instead of fortifying our sails and riding out the storm. This cycle goes on and on until it gets to a point of no return where nobody has a clue of what is going on or how to deal with it.
Let the truth hurt us now when the marks can heal easily so that we do not have to grow up with nasty scars on our faces.