People of the desert who can teach us a lot
I would like you to shut your eyes and ears for a moment and imagine yourself 3,000 miles away in the savannah desert in the far north of Ghana, where at this time of the year there is no rain and the ground is hard and dry.
The sun is hot very hot but the sky is not bright blue as you might imagine; it is hazy, for the harmattan wind is blowing from the Sahara bringing with it a fine greyish dust which fills the air.
There is no noise of traffic, no rush of feet but the gentle scuffling of pigs, sheep and goats and the strange squawking of guinea fowl. The land is flat and the trees are sparse and small.
The people live in compounds which are built of mud, hard-haked in the sun: groups of huts in a circle with walls joining them together making the whole look like a miniature fortress, with roofs beautifully woven with grass, looking like so many pointed straw hats.
Sitting in one of the huts and looking out of the small door one can see some of the kitchens in the courtyard, each one a low wall with three upturned earthenware pots in a row against it and set into the beaten mud floor.
Between these the women can rest their cooking pots with the fire-wood underneath. In the evening they sit on a small stool and gently stir the soup or millet porridge for the family.
1 think you would be struck by the timelessness of life here. There is no telephone, no bus to catch, no time to keep; instead there is love to be given to the children, there is water to fetch from the well, and 'firewood to gather for cooking. But there is no rush, and friends meet at the well and talk of many things.
Every third day is market day and the women go to buy and sell, carrying their babies on their backs. For the first six weeks the baby and its mother do not leave their hut, and the family minister to their needs.
The baby is fed from the breast when it is hungry and before it even cries; being in close physical contact with it all day long, its mother feels every movement and the youngest mother soon learns to interpret the meaning of even the slightest movement. African girls from the age of seven or eight are taught to carry their brothers and sisters in this fashion so that by the time they become mothers all
baby movements have a meaning for them.
Frequently the mother sits for hours at a time with her legs stretched out before her and the baby lying along her legs, and she fondles and plays with it continuously. This custom is typical of the very close relationship which exists between mothers and babies in rural African communities.
There is no time, no one is in a hurry, and relationships have a chance to take root and ripen. For instance, in the evenings everyone sits around under the stars in the compound "sharing each other's wisdom" by talking, listening and pondering in silence together.
Let us take a look at our life and compare it with this. There is little simplicity for we seem determined to make our lives complex; we have little time for one another for we seem always to be in such a hurry; and certainly we have little time for our children, for it suits us to expect them to grow up without "bothering us" too much.
We think of Africans as so poor that we have to be continually giving to them. Surely the truth is that they in many respects have even more to give to us.
Dear Lord, let us not be blind to the beauty of quiet and the love which you teach us to bear for one another, particularly our children.
Dr. David Rosenberg