The last week, since the High Court decision not to allow Florence and Precious Mhango to stay here, has not been easy for anyone, least of the ten year old girl at the centre of things. I have seen her on several occasions this week. I broke the news to her earlier this week (her mum couldn't do it). She listened carefully and said very little but she took it better than I thought. I heard she wouldn't go to school on Friday so decided she needed some reassurance.
I was shocked when I saw her. I forgot you see. I forgot about the time I saw her in Dungavel when she was a terrified, almost mute little mite who clung to every word I spoke, her eyes never leaving my face for a second as she tried to figure out if I was going to help her or not. I forgot because it was not something I wanted to remember. It was made easier because as they started to make progress, first by getting out of detention and then by winning the appeal in the high court, Precious changed. She was a normal little girl again, playing with her friends, painting her toenails, leaving the nail polish on for weeks and weeks, smiling, even laughing sometimes!
Besides, I didn't think I'd ever have to see that look again. I was certain the court decision would go in her favour. But on Friday afternoon Precious had reverted to the way she was in Dungavel, exactly the same. And it broke my heart. Seeing any child, any human like that would be hard but I'll tell you why this girl is so special.
Her mum and others were also worried and they did everything they could to reassure her so by Saturday afternoon when I saw her she was a lot better. She's obviously still terrified and who can honestly say "it's okay Precious, nothing will happen to you"? Nobody. So although she was relaxed enough to come out with me yesterday for some fresh air, this is a ten year old child with the weight of the world on her shoulders. And yet still she has time to care about others.
We went to the Hobbycraft shop at The Fort to buy knitting needles. You may recall she lost hers in her messy bedroom and had been using paintbrushes! When we were in there she pointed out a girl from her school. She told me the girl was Polish and spoke no English. "She just walks around the playground by herself" she told me "and I keep trying to get her to play with me and my friends but she is shy". I told her to say hello to her in the shop and she did. And the wee girl looked at the floor and walked on with her mum. I told her to try again a minute later and she did. This time the wee girl said "hi" (nudged on by her mum) and smiled shyly.
If you could have seen Precious' face you would've struggled to keep your composure. She was so happy and so excited. And it's not because she needs more friends, she has loads of friends. It was because she worried about this little girl being all by herself. And she's hoping this means she can persuade her to play with them.
The weight of the world on her shoulders and this precious little girl still has room in her heart to care for someone else. Well, I don't know about you reading this but writing it has got me started again! I don't think I really need to say anymore do I?