Monday, 16 September 2013

Umhlaba uyahlaba (The world is a pain-filled place)

To all the people of my generation
Raising children
And helping raise nieces and nephews
And other little ones
Please tell the children the truth
*Umhlaba uyahlaba.

Love them. Protect them.
But please don’t end your lectures at,
“Listen to me:
You’ll work hard and pray everyday
And get married and live happily ever after.”

Life is hard. Even for the ‘regular do-gooders.’
Life brings the unexpected. It’s full of surprises.
Some of them unpleasant.
But don’t tell them that if they behave well
Life will be good to them.
That’s just not true.

It’s the virtuous thing to do. It’s the honorable thing to do.
It’s what must be done.
But, no. Being good does not lead to perpetual happiness.
Really, perhaps it’s not at all for our own joy. But for others.

Please teach them resilience,
Where you would have read them fairy-tales
Teach them ambition, instead of to live in a dream world
Teach them to love stubbornly
Even in the face of loneliness, fear,
rejection, segregation, the unknown, the unfathomable,
the incomprehensible, the unaccepted, the unacceptable
-when they stand to gain nothing but pain, included.

Read them myths, maybe. Of overcoming the impossible.
Then tell them that someone somewhere in the world
Made that myth reality
Because that would be the truth.
Tell them you are telling them
What you are telling them
Not so that they expect hardship and anguish
But that they breathe with complete abandon
and happen to be prepared when the terrible comes.

For the love of truth and honesty that may hurt but builds,
Please tell the children.

*Ndebele phrase meaning, ‘The world is a pain-filled place.’

By Tebogo G.H Ndlovu (Zimbabwe)

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