Time is really the thief. Now when I chat online with friends across the globe, they also share stories of their children with videos of them walking or dancing and the like. These kids were born in the distance and to some of them I am the unseen uncle from a land far away. In other words, a figment of their imagination.
As a kid, I would look up at young cousins in their mid-20s and think they knew all about life and the world. In family gatherings I would hover around the older cousins and mimic in earnest whatever they’d do, much to their annoyance. The older men were my heroes. I was the over smart kid with the big head and quick answers.
At over 30 now, I look at my friend’s children and sometimes wonder who pulled a fast one on me. My friend on the computer screen looks younger than ever before with his new haircut, but they say we are all aging. I suppose the distance assists in making one forget that other lives have a timeline too. Here on the Far East, thousands of miles away from the many lives I know, I am on my own timeline. I become my own world, my own hero, my own schedule trumps everything else and I fool myself that am still young for anything serious. I am long past that barrier where a young me would have looked up to me for moral support. I’m not sure I’d really look up to the person I am now.
A few months ago, I was speaking to a few of my countrymen during a programme held to commemorate a traditional festival. The occasion gave me a chance to bond with a few folks from my hometown and laugh at esoteric jokes. Let me add that as a basic speaker of a foreign language, translated jokes really don’t work and there’s an inexplicable release when laughing at jokes in your native tongue. I shared with them an experience in the run up to the weeks before I left home, older folk would come to give their much coveted wisdom but some of them came to say that they were looking forward to what I could ‘give back’ to my people. Sure, I wanted to give back and I told myself I could not dare forget how unabashedly I told many seniors I was in this to serve. However, what stayed with me through those meetings was the stress given to a particular tribe, the fear that other tribes are leading and the desire to ‘have our say’. That day I shared my conviction on how we needed to shed such a mindset if we really talk about leadership in the first place. That in a place where there is so much of diversity, any form of leadership cannot be talked about without listening to others first and taking them along the road. To be still thinking like tribes in competition is being stuck in a warp zone.
So I tell youngsters and friends from my home town that if education makes us go back down that road, we haven’t really progressed at all. Yes, I am proud of who I am, the tribe I belong to and my roots. But make no mistake, fist-fighting with other tribes for a misplaced cause does not make one any more loyal or patriotic. We have to resolve to stop feeding our children with this mindset of competition between tribes. We have to resolve to stop telling stories where we say ‘he/she was from that tribe’, no matter how innocuous it may seem. So much of bad blood is carried through generations because some people just don’t keep their mouth shut. It’s like that saying, you want to bury the hatchet but remember where you buried the hatchet. We often say we want younger generations to remember and learn from history, but we cloak in so much of bitterness and without a sense of forgiveness that the bad blood is carried in a new host.
Unless we firmly resolve to change the way we have behaved for so long, I’m afraid we’ll either have a hot –blooded generation quick to act but without measured thinking, or we’ll inherit a passive generation with no passion or motive at all. But the key is that balance. We must have young blood infused with considered fresh thinking, the kind of youngsters that would make others sit up and take notice and even doubt- only because it is so unconventional.
I am reminded of how our Lord Jesus ate and drank with ‘sinners’ and tax collectors much to the indignation of the Pharisees. It was so unconventional that the so called holy men of that day just couldn’t take it. We need to go back and sit with those we have called sinners and love them and ask for forgiveness. But that wouldn’t happen when we are prone to only wear our Sunday best and take the front pews to show others how holy we are.