Monday, October 25, 2010

Options

The options we have in life can be likened to a dinnertable buffet.

We all arrive with an empty plate.
We curiously proceed to fill our plates with this and that.

The Regulars are satisfied and pleasantly surprised with what they have chosen; occasionally they take more than they can eat ( sight and aroma can be deceptive: We choose that scrumptious-looking concoction that ends up tasting like rubber. Uuggghh!) and end up with leftovers and a slightly guilty feeling.

The Freebies a.k.a Feeding The Hungry Heart group pile their plates high,with more than they can swallow, force feed themselves anyway, ending up with heartburn, indigestion and obesity simply because they have a hunger food will not satisfy.

There is also an upgrade on this group:The Prof-Freebies a.k.a the Sharks.

For this group it is a question of the plate:
They didn't overfill their plate; the plates just happened to be too small. Their motto: If it's available, take it all.

The Save-it-for-a-rainyday group does the round with 2 plates simultaenously because for them a second round might be too late: they want to take some home for later. So they take a double portion in advance, secretly wrap it up in tissue where forgotten, it will fester and rot and end up thrown away in the trash.

For The Choosers it is more about choosing than eating. They try a little of everything and end up eating nothing.

The Fear-of-life group blanches at the sight of so many options and instantly loses appetite. These ones end up with a tiny side plate so that automatically their choices, if they make any, will be limited to fit the size of their plate.

The Old Faithfuls automatically choose the one thing they also eat everyday at home because this is all they know. Anything new is a potential danger.

The Snipers already know in advance what the best dish of the day is. They go for a calculated kill and clear it out instantly.

So what does this all say about the choices we make in life?
What does this say about our ability to make choices?
When do choices go from nutrition to indigestion?

When is enough, enough?

Friday, October 1, 2010

I am because we are. - The importance of sharing in community building.

Suppertime in any given West African village.
Dusk is heralded by the chirping of crickets and the lighting of kerosene lanterns. After a day of blissful cavorting in the dust and bushes, the children are finally homeward-bound, their round empty bellies lured by the smells of the humble meal awaiting.

Of all my memories of my african childhood, this little example on the meaning of togetherness and continuity of clan-spirit; is one of my most carefully preserved memories. It is tightly and lovingly interwoven as a guiding principle in the tapestry of the woman I have become today.

Meals and mealtimes have always played a special role in community(building). A meal in Africa is never eaten alone. Often food is not plentiful, a piece of meat, a rare luxury. The family dinner is eaten collectively from one bowl. Every member of the extended family, from elder to toddler, feeds from this one source.

Sharing meals is like a social thermometer, a traditional way of coming together and catching up on the day, of showing your strenght in the face of anothers' vulnerability. A way for kids to adopt various social skills like taking others into consideration.

During these meals, friendships and alliances are reinforced, dissonances are laid to rest, strangers are shown courtesy and accorded a warm welcome; winning through sharing becomes apparent when everyone realises that by just eating enough and not more, all bellies will get filled.

The adults tactfully refrain after awhile so that the little ones who need the nutrients the most, can lick out the bowl and enjoy the last tidbits.

Going back in time to the child I was, sitting on the packed earth of my grandmother's kitchen hearth, what touches me the most is not the ubiquitious malaria mosquitoes that relentlessly peppered my bare limbs or the simplicity of plain boiled yams dipped only in palm oil.

My moments of complete happiness came from watching grandmother's ancient weathered face in the firelight, softened and relaxed as she told her countless stories.

What did it matter that there was no electricity or television?
What did it matter that we ate with our hands instead of cutlery?

Her stories fed my deepest hunger and the smoky warmth from all the bodies gave off an unparalleled sense of belonging.

This concept of I am because we are can be transferred to any cosmopolitan network or community: Welcome the stranger, share what you have and give the Up-and-Coming a chance to grow.

This, for me is the true meaning of connection. This is what a real network is all about: A tapestry of individuals united in diversity yet lovingly committed to carrying each other.