Our family has been watching old videos. Seventeen years ago we lived in Kentucky, then Zimbabwe, then Kentucky. Many memories surfaced as we watched the Heise family gathered together for our last time before Dad died. We sang hymns for about 45 minutes in February 1991, a wonderful time together even in death's shadow. Many more memories came with pictures of Mike and Lyn, and of the memorial to their daughter. We saw images of Zimbabwe, from Bulawayo to the Eastern Highlands, a beautiful country, so delightful, and today so ravaged by corruption and greed for power.
Memories are good. They remind us of who we are, for better or worse, and help ground our present existence. Those reminders took me off guard at times as we watched. During Vaughn's birthday party an old man carrying a bag stopped at the guest house, of which we were the hosts. I was taking the video of the children playing, and called out to him, "UBaba, tshaya ibell" -- ring the doorbell, father, implying that someone would take care of him.
I watched that clip, incidental to our family memories, and wondered at myself. Within the Ndebele culture an old man deserves respect. I showed some, by way of the courtesy of calling him "Baba", but I continued my own task of shooting the video. I wished as I watched that I had either stopped the video or handed it to someone else and walked over to him, greeted him with the courtesy due his years, and inquired after his health and life and finally his business with us. It would have cost me little, and would have also showed him a white person treating him with the kind of respect white people too rarely give to others.
In my regrets I wonder also if perhaps I wish this only because then I would have shown myself a better person. Such habits as caring genuinely for others are developed throughout a lifetime, not manufactured for the moment in Bulawayo.
For Christmas 2007 then, I have an early resolution -- to learn from the best of southern African cultures the value called "ubuntu": an acknowledgement of the other person's value as part of the human family, expressed in word and deed whenever I interact with others. This resolution I know I will break, but seeking to carry it out, a practice that takes a lifetime to perfect, is worth the effort.
Christmas Joy to all in my own family and in every part of our world.