There is an old African proverb which goes like this “ if you notice your neighbor’s beard is on fire, then you better get some water by yours.” I love African proverbs because they say so much with so little. I recognize that there are slight variations to this adage but I prefer this version. As a little girl, the image of someone’s beard on fire seemed funny, but as an adult, I realize that depiction is no joke.
In a globalized world where we have become so interconnected and news travels faster than light, this adage couldn’t be more apt. In simple terms, the proverb implies that you cannot be unconcerned about what happens around you, because sooner than later, you will be directly impacted. Thus, an individual who witnesses their neighbors beard on fire and does not act proactively to redeem the situation, will sooner than later be faced with a similar or worse predicament.
When God inquired of Abel from Cain, his response was “Am I my brother’s keeper”? Imagine that response. Today, as in back then, the correct response is an unequivocal “Yes”. We are each other’s keeper whether we are ready to admit it or not. In order to know the real character or moral value of an individual, gauge their response or reaction to any form of injustice. Distance (whether by blood lineage or physical distance) should not be a reason why we cannot empathize with another.
The more proactive we are in being our brothers keeper, the better our own lives will be. Because in reality, by keeping watch over another, we actually watch over ourselves. I recently heard someone say that “you can’t fake your way through 2020”. There is nothing more truer than that. People’s real intentions and values are being tested. In this quiz of life, you cannot respond “pass” to any question you are not comfortable answering; you’ve got to provide an answer, you need to bare your soul.
In a world where we appear to be in a transition (to put it mildly) and things are “falling apart”, being silent is no longer an option. For so long, we have waited for people in positions of power to lead us and we failed to realize we are all leaders, even if we don’t hold official titles. For society to continue to evolve in the right direction, we will have to lead from whatever platform we have available. I am saddened by the recent loss of lives in Nigeria and other parts of the world where people are fighting for the right cause, fighting for a new form of independence and freedom. This time, it’s not a fight for deliverance from colonial rule but rather sadly from local imposition.
As tragic as the loss of those lives is, it would be an even greater tragedy if change is delayed. I remain hopeful that in the midst of the shuffling and confusion, we will be enlightened and there will be an emergence of something new, something better. This is one of the few times where I wish I was gifted to be an artist; I would have painted a portrait depicting this moment of chaos and hope. Since I can’t do that, you get to read my thoughts (lol).
I wonder how Noah felt when time came to step out of the ark. Everything must have looked very different and yet a little familiar. He had some animals and a few humans with him, but it would be good to know what his initial reaction was. When the dust settles, I hope we will be proud of what awaits us on the other side.