Not Home for the Holidays

There are things you see and you never forget — the phenomenon of the Pororoca in northern Brazil, the aftermath of a tornado, a grotesque tumor on someone’s face, and someone being hit by a car moving at a rapid speed. These are just a few of the things I have seen and never forgotten.

But none of these compare to a random sight I had one day while distributing free Christmas meals to deserving families in the town of Macapá in northern Brazil. It was Christmas Eve and the people were so happy to receive a meal. They were very poor and had nothing. One of my younger brothers, a pastor like me, was leading the effort. Since I was on vacation with my family there, I wanted to participate.

We were leaving one home when I heard noises that didn’t sound like they were human noises. They were grunts, somewhat defiant, somewhat pleading, definitely scary sounds. In all honesty, it sounded like the noises pigs used to make when I was little and my dad used to slaughter them. To this day, I have nightmares with that particular kind of noise.

I followed my ears and realized that I was not dealing with a pig after all. It was a fully grown man, probably in his 20’s, being held on the ground and tied by two other men, hands and feet, the hands tightly wrapped on his back. The job was done so there would be no possibility of “escape.” The victim screamed, protested, and pleaded for mercy. I could hear him barely saying “Don’t do this to me” and something to the extent that he would behave himself.

I wanted to go across the street and stop the freak show but was strictly forbidden by my brother and others who knew the situation better. I found out, to my dismay, that the young man was an alcoholic. Since the family had no resources and the government offered no help, that was the only thing they could do — tie him up starting Christmas Eve and leave him that way until the Christmas “festivities” were over.

The young men had gotten drunk so many times and would come home and break everything he could find in the humble house. He had hit other siblings and even threatened to kill his mom. He would get out of control when he got drunk. When I tried to say something, I saw the face of his terrified mother lurking on the back. His brothers were saying that they were doing that because “we love our mom.” Mom looked over and could not hide her love for her son lying on the ground, mixed with a look of resignation that marks those who believe “there is nothing also we can do.”

Every time I approach a Holiday now, for some reason, I think of that young man’s predicament and of his mom’s sorrow, and  I cry. And then I think of all the other thousands, maybe even millions, who have to spend Holidays away from their loved ones because of addictions. May God be merciful to you this Holiday season.

Ivanildo C. Trindade