A gun attack that left one of them struggling to walk, three fires at their makeshift store, and the sudden death of their daughter this year could have wrecked Collie Smith and his wife Geneiva Smith, also called Miss Sue.
But the couple from the Kellits area of Clarendon remains high-spirited while still operating their store – a source of glory and pain.
Mr. Smith recalled that, on a painful night about five years ago, gunmen pounced upon him in a dark area after he closed the business and was making his usual trip home on foot in what was considered a safe haven.
The gunmen asked him for money and he told them he had none, he recalled.
“Dem walk off and one a di man seh ‘shoot di bwoy an come’,” Mr. Smith further recounted.
He got a shot, which went through his right leg and lodged in the left one.
“That shot still inna mi foot right now; the doctor dem seh dem naah trouble it based on how it lodge,” Mr. Smith told The Beacon. “Mi can walk, but mi can’t pressure the foot too much. Sometimes it swell up and mi haffi just go on with it same way.”
Mr. Smith spent a large amount of funds on medical bills and could not help his wife earn through the store for a protracted period of time, he said.
Though he feels pain and admits to still being traumatized, Mr. Smith resumed traveling to the store sometimes to give a helping hand.
He is happy to be alive, and he wouldn’t find it hard to forgive his attackers.
“Mi can forgive them, but mi can’t forget about it (the incident),” he said while proposing tougher penalties for gun crimes.
While Mr. Smith was recuperating, his step-daughter Keisha Brown was among people who rallied around him.
She died suddenly in January this year, leaving three young children in the care of her parents.
Her mother, Mrs. Smith, said the death of her daughter was a major blow.
She recalled raising the late Keisha and three of her other children without their father, who left Jamaica decades ago and never looked back.
Mrs. Smith has a fifth child, whose father is Mr. Smith.
Eight months after losing her young daughter, Mrs. Smith landed into another tribulation. The small store she and her husband operate in Kellits town was destroyed by fire.
The blaze reportedly started at a neighbouring restaurant and spread quickly to the container store where the Smiths sell cosmetics, clothes, school items and other goods.
“When I leave from home and reach up here [at the store on the night of September 11] everything already burn down,” Mrs. Smith said, adding that she cried when she saw the devastation.
Their business not being insured, the Smiths ended up borrowing funds to get it back up and running. It costs them just over $3 million, Mrs. Smith said, adding that the loan is to be repaid over a period of time.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has made recovery more difficult for the couple.
When it forced the closure of schools, the Smiths lost a huge chunk of their clientele that comprised Kellits High School students. Their business is located just outside the school compound.
“The school lock down and so business nuh too good because a mostly school things wi sell,” Mr Smith explained. “Because the school naah keep, wi jus haffi live hand to mouth. But wi still give thanks for that.”
The fire in September is the third occasion on which the Smiths’ business was going up in flames.
“I feel like this is the third and last time,” Mrs. Smith said, adding that she has been operating at the same location in Kellits town for 38 years.
She also worked as a supervisor at the town’s market for three decades, but laments not getting any pension for that service.
She and her husband are happy that, despite their many setbacks, they were able to work honestly and care for their family, especially their children.
“Little is much when God is in it. Mi still give God thanks for what he has done for me,” Mrs. Smith declared, lifting both hands above her head and looking fixedly towards the skies.
Her husband, too, is grateful to God.
By Horace Mills, Managing Editor
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