Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

This article should have been posted before the response by  Fr Kevin Barr.  For those who have not read the response, read this first, and then scroll down for Fr Barr's response.  Apologies to everyone.

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in www.connectme.com.fj/news/opinion. I thank Allen and Connect for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Allen Lockington
You Make Your Own Luck

 Poverty is an interesting subject to talk about, it seems to be the in-thing today – “eradicating extreme poverty”.  A few people who lived in dire circumstances have gotten up and found a way out and did it with just a little assistance from the authorities. A friend of mine is an example. He was kind enough to retell his life story over a basin of yaqona. He had two bowls, out of respect.

He was in form six when he made his form five girlfriend pregnant and was condemned by both sides of the family and also by the girls family. This was about 27 years ago and suddenly he found himself in trouble. He was good in school and passed with A grades and B +s but his one mistake nullified all of that, isn’t that sad, many of us preach forgiveness, but seldom practice it. He dropped out of school and lived on the streets and when he got a chance he would visit family who were tolerant of him. To them he was a lost cause, they pitied him every so often  and lent him clothes , money and food but he never stayed more than a night because he would soon hear about the wrong he did and that he had brought shame to the family. He joked saying that whenever they felt uplifted by the holy spirit  they would pity him.

But being a toughly built young man he got a job as a dock worker. He used to meet his school mates and they would talk and a few would lend him a dollar or two. A few of the young girls envied his tough guy outlook and would blush when he said “hello” in his silky baritone voice. What they didn’t know was he envied them for having the chance to go to school and have three square meals a day and someone to look after them when they were sick and someone to say , “I love you.” He often slept under stairs of empty buildings out of the public’s and the polices’ eyes. He will never forget the many lonely nights when he first hit the streets. He knew if he returned home he would be told off and he couldn’t stand the repetitious condemnation. Life on the wharf was tough and of course alcohol soon got involved in his life. And soon he was on the wrong side of the law. He says he has more friends in the police department than in the family. Real friends that is because he found many of the police officers to be kind and considerate. Oh he has met a few police officers who would be better off with the Queensberry Rules. He has a few memories from those days, broken teeth and a slight limp reminds him of those tough days.
One day out of desperation when he went everywhere for food and was rejected he decide to go to the OPM. Not the ATM. It was to the OPM (Other people’s money) Then he spent five years as a guest of the state and when he returned to civil life he decided that he would become civil once again. As time went by he got back with his sweetheart because he was proud to have a son. Her love for him kept them together and he waited for his return. All their years as sweethearts made her know him well, she knew he a had a decent streak in him that would one day come out. They would meet in secluded places and he would carry his son and cry silent tears. He knew one day that kid would look for his father and one day in his drunken stupor it hit him like a ton of bricks.

He returned to his job at the wharf and stopped drinking and smoking. He progressed up the ladder and soon was earning a little more as a rigger.      He would find and read old newspapers and see pictures of students graduating and his heart would ache. He knew he had made a mistake and he was paying for it. He saved money and each time the urge to drink or smoke came he would envision his son graduating. When his sweet heart came of age she moved in with him and they were ostracised by their families. They didn’t care, because they loved each other and doted on the boy. They lived in one room in a down and out part of Suva and made enough money to send the boy to school. His wife found a job and together they rebuilt their lives. She was working as a clerk from sun up to sundown but her boss was a nice person. It seems they had the same outlook in life. They were made for each other. They saw the boy through primary and thence to secondary school and today he is a proud father of lawyer.

At this point I stopped him and went and wiped away a tear that dared escape my watering eyes. I think the grog was too strong and made an excuse to get more water. But you can’t fool a streetwise man. 

Then they decided to go on family planning and decide to have only one child because they saw family struggling to feed the many children they had. After family saw them prospering they returned to ask of money and he never refused. But he often stayed away from traditional commitments and was soon condemned again. They didn’t care because if they did they would struggle to put food on the table and had their child’s tuition fees to tend to. They had city and land rates and they have never missed a payment. He said his motto was, To thine own self be true.

A few years prior to this they checked their savings at the Provident Fund and to their surprise they found they could afford a two room flat. So they invested in the property. They rented one room to people who were not family because it was easier to get unpaid rent and there were no blood ties. Hard work paid off and he built another two rooms and rented them. His wife having finished school had a better opportunity and he became the planner and brains and she the financier. Life on the streets had taught him a thing or three.

To cut a long story short, they are well off now their son looks after their property in Suva collecting the rent and banking it. He is now their legal advisor. Soon to be married. They moved out of Suva because the wife applied and got a fancy high paying job in the West. He resigned from his humble job at the wharf and never forgets it because that’s where he rebuilt his life from.  He is now friends with his family and has made up and forgiven everybody. But he lends sparingly because he doesn’t want them to be spoilt. My mate is a believer in fate and he said, “Allen, you make your own luck.” Most of all he believes in the philosophy of life. He looks at the many people who say they are poor and wishes they can got off their backsides and do something about it. If he who has no land can do it, others can.


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