Social challenges, friendship and inspiration


Monday, February 19, 2018

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Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our cheery office attendant, Miss M, is on two weeks' sick leave as a result of being injured in the melee following that horrible stabbing incident at the Coronation Market two Saturdays ago. For those who may not have heard, a blind gentleman stumbled into a display of eggs, breaking six, much to the annoyance of the egg vendor. Seeing her agitation, a bystander offered to pay the $750 for the eggs, but the woman would not listen. Instead, she stabbed the blind man (now in hospital), grabbed her child, and ran off. When a woman stabs a blind man over half-dozen eggs, we must all ask ourselves if we have worked hard enough to protect the sanity of our people.

People started to run amok, including a handcart man, giving Miss M such a blow that her kneecap was dislocated. She came limping to work last Monday in such pain that we sent her off to the doctor. The poor lady is still in pain, but thank goodness she is expected to have a full recovery.

As we contemplated this crazy incident, we harked back to a recent discussion on mental illness. Professor Fredrick Hickling, Dr Wendell Abel, and Dr Geoffrey Walcott all agreed that children who have aggressive, violent behaviour have had high levels of abuse. “Hitting a child is not discipline,” said Dr Walcott, “That's just abuse.”

We were encouraged to hear that the Ministry of Education launched a behaviour modification team in 2013 which has seen a reduction in violent incidents in schools from 1,000 to 200 in five years in primary, secondary and institutions for young adults.

Dr Abel said there is a “toxic triad” which leads to antisocial behaviour and mental illness — separation, abuse and neglect. Our leaders keep calling for good family life, yet the communities which some lead are not providing the opportunities for families to stay together. Violence and the lack of job opportunities chase away some of our best people — mothers and fathers who seek employment abroad with the hope of one day sending for their children.

In one case I know well, by the time the mother was ready to file for her son, he was already in the clutches of what she called “bad company”.

Power-hungry politicians have packed the poor into tenements so they are easy prey for voter intimidation. It is sickening to see political party fanatics chasing a man from their location because he was not wearing their 'colour'. God must be weeping to see people turning beautiful green and orange colours into reasons for violence and intimidation.

Please newcomers, show the courage of our heroes and stand up for what is right and true.

Florida school shooting

It is an idyllic Florida neighbourhood. I know because my cousin lives in Coral Gables right next to Parkland. Her brilliant son graduated just last year from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and is now in college, but hurting deeply at the loss of former schoolmates and favourite teachers. They are shocked at the tragedy that took place on Wednesday, the holy day of Ash Wednesday and the day of love, Valentine's Day, when a past student went on a murderous rampage, killing 17 people.

This mentally ill man was able to legally buy a semi-automatic weapon and, having trained with a white supremacist group, made a deliberate plan to commit multiple murders. We are praying for the bereaved families, even as we agree with the surviving classmates that “thoughts and prayers are not enough — we need action”.

Farewell, Ambassador Niu Qingbao

Chinese new year gives us second wind on our traditional new year, one for which we are grateful after the trials of the past six weeks. In a ceremony of positivity and affirmation, Ambassador Niu Qingbao spoke of the strong bonds of our people to China.

We will miss Ambassador Niu and family as we appreciated their warmth and support. The ambassador's daughter has been attending Campion College where she shines in advanced mathematics.

Jamaica can learn much from the discipline and productivity of this world power that has the fastest-growing economy of all developed countries. An embassy press release states: “In 2017, China's GDP [gross domestic product] grew by 6.9 per cent to 82.7 trillion yuan or 12-plus trillion US dollars. It recorded the first acceleration since 2011... China's economy performed better than projections, maintained a sound and stable momentum, and has been developing in a more coordinated and sustainable way.”

Ambassador Niu noted, “2017 was... the 45th anniversary of China-Jamaica diplomatic relations. Over the past 45 years, and 2017 in particular, China-Jamaica friendly relationship greatly expanded and benefited both countries and peoples.”

Referring to his country's 19th National Congress last year, he noted, “General Secretary Xi Jinping declared to the world that China will stay committed to peaceful development and to a win-win strategy of opening up... The Chinese people are ready to join hands with the people of Jamaica in pursuing our shared dreams of world peace, prosperity and happiness of the people.”

120 years of extraordinary dedication

We gathered at the St Paul of the Cross Cathedral in Mandeville on Saturday to celebrate two anniversaries: the 70th anniversary of Sister Mary Benedict Chung CD and the 50th anniversary of Sister Miriam Krusling as Sisters of Mercy. This adds up to 120 years of serving the less fortunate in the less glamorous locations of Jamaica, day after day, rain or shine.

Joining the convent at Alpha at 16 years old, Sister Benedict has had a distinguished career as an educator, as the founder and still the CEO of the Laws Street Trade Training Centre, where she lives, and as former chairman and now director emeritus of Food for the Poor. Sister Benedict is credited with initiating a truce between warring gangs in central Kingston and has been lauded for selfless dedication to the poor.

Sister Miriam, a registered nurse who hails from Cincinnati, Ohio, came to Jamaica 23 years ago to serve at St John Bosco Home in Hatfield, Manchester. Not only has she been nurse and second mother to hundreds of boys over the years, but she also serves in several clinics in Clarendon, Manchester and St Elizabeth.

Both women are still hard-working and energetic. One of the finest tributes at the event was given by 99-year-old Sister Mary Paschal. Who has time to age when there is so much to be done? Bless their beautiful hearts!

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