Hank: Mariama told me that her dad has more than one wife.
Me: He does. Mariama and her parents believe that as long as a man can support, love and respect more than one wife then he may have them. This is a part of their culture and their religion, but that is different than what is normal in Portugal.
Me: What Mariama told you is a true thing and something I know and your papa knows, but something other people may not understand or respect, therefore this is a good time to talk about gossip and rumors. Do you know about these things?
Me: You and Mariama are best friends and she trusts you with her business. What happens in a person’s life, as long as they are not being hurt or disrespected, is their business and if they choose to share their business with you that is a gift. It is not your business to share, although some people do not understand that and they tell the private business of one person to another and that is how rumors get started. For example, lets say you went to school and told Lara Sofia that o pai de Mariama (dad) has more than one wife. This is not a normal thing in Portugal and Lara Sofia may be curious and could go to Mariama and ask her about it. This is called gossip, but if Lara Sofia didn’t go to Mariama for explanation and instead went to Maria Louisa, Bea, Clara, Diogo, Carlos and told them what you had told her then that gossip becomes a rumor, because trust me, all of those people will not respect the private business of Mariama and that rumor will spread and change and grow out of control. That is a very bad thing.
Hank: I would never do that.
Me: And that makes you a great friend. Gossip and rumors quickly turn mean and ugly. When a friend tells you their business it is a gift and something to keep safe.
Hank: Unless someone is being hurt?
Me: That is right. If you hear something that scares you. If anyone ever tells you they are being hurt, abused or disrespected then you are to reach out and tell an adult you trust, like me or Professora Susana or Professor Manuel (teachers) or your pai (dad).
Me: When I was in school, in sixth grade, my friend who I shared my desk with told me that her parents were hurting her. She has marks on her arms. I listened then told her that we needed to tell the teacher. She was scared and didn’t want to, but I said we could tell her together. We went to the teacher and the next day she wasn’t at our desk or the day after.
Hank: Where was she?
Me: I didn’t know and I was very worried. She came back to get her things at the end of the week and was very mad at me. She said she hated me for making her tell the teacher and that her parents were taken away. I was devastated. My heart was broken, but my teacher told me she was scared and that we had done the right thing. Change was hard. A few months later she came back to the school to visit and she was very happy. She gave me a big hug and said she was living with another family while her parents were getting help. She told me that she was not mad and we played and laughed like we use to.
Hank: Did her parents get better?
Hank: That makes me happy.
Me: This could have been a very different story if I chose to tell our classmates her business rather than the teacher. I would have broken her trust and that gossip could have spread into a rumor and by telling the wrong people I would have hurt her more than helped her. Words are powerful.
Hank: (thinking) I understand, Mama.
Me: Do you?
Me: I never told anyone about my friend in sixth grade. You are the first person I have ever told besides our teacher.
Me: Yes. I trust you.
Hank: What was her name?
Me: Laura. Her name was Laura.