I was walking along the street when a young girl I didn’t notice was walking beside me said, “Auntie, your bag –“
I didn’t hear her completely. Looking down in confusion to check if I had mistakenly left my purse open, she repeats, “Auntie, your bag is beautiful.”
“Oh. Thank you,” I say, taken aback by the compliment.
Crosschecking that I hadn’t been pickpocketed, I look at her hands, she is holding a single ATM card. The girl is eight or nine years old, I estimate. Too young in my judgment to be sent on an errand to assist with withdrawal. I dismiss the thoughts.
I cross over to the other side of the road. I am supposed to turn into another street on that side of the road.
I glance back briefly at my little friend as I cross over while making sure there are no oncoming vehicles. I sense my little friend’s emotion is slightly bruised. Why choose to cross at this time, not earlier or later?
I reply the thought. Mere coincidence.
A minute or two later, my little friend crosses over. She is entering the same street. But this time, says nothing as she walks past me happy-go-luckily.
I am left wondering. Why did she have to say the compliment to my hearing? She could have merely admired from her safe distance. Moreover, we are not familiar.
I marvel at the sheer innocence of her heart and wonder how long till the harsh reality of life – or adulthood snatches that from her.
I arrive at my destination. I am there a while. Say two hours. After the visit, I am set to go and I leave. My aunt, whose family I visited, sees me off and parts pushing a 200 naira note in my hand as she whispers, “Use this for transport. I am very rich now. I will send you some money later.” I smile at the gesture. She does not have to feel obligated, I think, but thank her as I get unto the tricycle to convey me to my next bus stop.
A few minutes into the trip, I have to truncate my journey to meet a friend. I open my wallet to pay and I am dazzled by its emptiness.
Wait, I think.
I have money in this wallet. Avoiding spending too much time searching for money that is missing, I pay with the 200 naira note I was given a few minutes ago.
Was I pickpocketed that time? I try to wrap my mind around the possibility. It is hurting and depressing to think about. I am joined by the friend for whom I truncated my journey. I relay the incidence and state without mincing words how pained I feel.
“What could she need the money she stole for? Biscuits? Sweets?” My mind could not reach a favourable response.
“How could she have so smoothly pickpocketed me?” I wonder.
As we climb unto the bus to take me home, I still struggle with reaching a favourable response.
A few minutes to arriving at my bus stop, I find my money littered in my purse. Not my wallet.
My emotions are ruffled. I am dumbfounded.
Wait. I accused her falsely? My thoughts were correct the first time? Oh, sweet Jesus. She truly was an innocent child.
This happened in Surulere, Lagos. I was on a holiday and decided to pay my aunt a visit. I remember my cousin cautioning me about safety in Lagos. Even though this incident ended on a good note, it raised my awareness about safety in the street.
And since it ended on a good note, it reminded me of Matthew 18: 3-5
“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
And had me praying, “Oh, Lord, make me a child at heart.”