How weird it is to come up with a title like this one; how does one get lost inside really? Why even ask?
Well as usual, more like my routine, l woke up Sunday morning to go for an early morning Mass. That l do so religiously, l don’t drink nor eat except for the few drops of water that touch my tongue as l brush my teeth. No family member of mine should excuse themselves for the morning blessing including my 3-year boy.
As for the early morning mass, l don’t have many reasons expect that l get to do my other chores, not worrying about having to take a break and go to the Holy house. It is a day as well l get to rest updating myself on my favourite soapies if electricity permits or other tasks not so vigorous.
So, my kind of church service is the one that starts early and finishes quickly, the priest’s message has to be short and precise; not too long least it takes time. My preference for men of God are the white Priest, as their sermons are summarized and guess being aware they are in the ghetto, they deliberately do less is more concept. And this schedule works perfectly for me.
Back to that Sunday of the 8th of September 2019, a day after the former president of Zimbabwe R.G Mugabe was pronounced dead (my thoughts and feelings will be shared later). With my niece and boy, we arrived on time and positioned ourselves in our usual place, not in front and not at the back just in between somewhere, where l don’t really need to participate on anything l don’t feel like.
No dancing, no singing (well I told myself I’m no singer) – because l have a hoarse voice. The procession of mass servers and the priest aligned in the hallway, stood ready to go in front. I checked from an angle, to see whom the priest of the day was, and to my disappointment, l saw that it was my kinsmen, dark and tall, full of energy, even his steps confirmed that he had arrived, and a smile plastered on his face showing he had plenty of time.
He was quite familiar to me, l had attended his masses before and well, because of his mispronounced Shona, l could as well switch off when bored, he is Zambian by the way…,” but what of time” I asked myself? He likes singing in between readings, prolonging the sermon that which is already stretched.
Since l was already there with all the effort l had put walking approximately one and a half to two kilometres, waking up as early as five am and on empty stomach, l just had to embrace him, I mean, How could l not?
The verses spoke of the lost sheep, lost coin and the prodigal son. Again nothing was new of these verses. They had been read before and shared in all kind of interpretations; even my sixth sense disputed the scene were the widow lost her coin and after finding it, called all neighbours and friends to celebrate …
Ha-ha is that even logically possible? It is a big loss if l may say,” Why call people for that?” l thought.
Maybe the worst of our economic hardships was getting the best of me; where that one dollar is important and if lost and found there is no reason to celebrate because it is as necessary as much as it does not buy anything these days, hence l had to reason like that; to be economical, to be stingy and Selfish.
Part of the readings, l didn’t get, perhaps l was already lost in my own thoughts, on what was real, what would work, what was practical… but what made me come back to reality, to that moment where I was in church, and be present, was the question that the Priest posed to the congregant. ” Brothers and Sisters in Christ, “he said, “what did the second reading of the previous Sunday say?”
If l could, l would have risen and shouted in the loudest voice as possible asking who on earth remembers that.
If l could forget the readings being said at that moment, what more of last weekend’s? I wanted to laugh out so hard, as if I was at one of the football matches or in a line awaiting the ZUPCO bus (public bus), shouting all the obscene words I was acquainted with. Well, l reminded myself l was in a church, a house which the Lord resides and had to bring the civil me along, besides, the mind does what it needs to do; sometimes a hero and a villain in a split.
‘Anyway, no one would remember,’ l thought, and in that very moment, a lady in her late 50’s just had to stand up and narrate the reading, Philemon 9b-10-17…“Agrr! Show off! “,I thought, rolling my eyes, “she is old, what better use could she put her time to rather than read-(more like cram if you ask me)- the bible every day, and speaking of time, this priest seemed determined to take it all.
l will not go into detail of the readings, but three things stood out: that Paul was a prisoner; writing a letter to Philemon; introducing Onesimus, whom he regarded as a son since their time in Prison.
Our Priest made reference to the parable of the prodigal son, one of the readings of the day, and three things stood out too: the son who used up his father’s wealth on earthly things; the father himself; and the elder brother.
What caught my attention was the definition of the name ‘Onesimus ‘meaning useful; and the prodigal son, after he had squandered his wealth, then living in poverty decided to leave the country and return to his father to ask for his mercy and at least consider him as one of his slaves.
I followed closely how he spoke of the father seeing his son from afar, being filled with compassion, and running to his son, hugged and kissed him. l also listened as he spoke at length, of the older son, who seeing and hearing that his father had thrown a party for his younger brother who was lost but now found, got him angry.
Once again, the priest posed the following questions:
“If you were a father to your son(s) or daughter(s), on whom you have sent to expensive schools and colleges, and probably have sacrificed everything to your last, only for he/ she /them to come back with nothing at all, not even shoes on his/her feet, hungry and pale looking ,would you embrace him or her?
More so with a hug, a kiss, the best robe? Maybe in this century a suit or an expensive outfit all money could buy t; even a ring and shoes?
He further modelled the question to husbands and wives:
“If your husband or wife would go for years and come back like the prodigal son, would you feel compassionate?” – And not waiting for a reply the church (I included) was in an uproar, well this is where we can be heard in crowds not noticeable, where l can murmur and groan as much as l want and still not seen.
Back in the days, I saw the likes of husbands he was asking, the ones who go far and at times brought in wheelbarrows; sick and crippled from their days of joy…some, yes, taken in to have decent final burials. Some spouses leaving it to the mother or relatives to take care of such, and if ever l would find me in the predicament would do as such.
Lastly, he said,” Imagine you being the elder brother or sister, with no parents to receive the lost son/ daughter. Just you with all the power and authority. “OH gosh, there he had excited me; l let myself wander around. How can my brother or sister go awol lavishing, leaving me at home to be that a good model?
Do you know how difficult it is to be good? To be the best image parents approve? To be what community adores and wish they would have a child like that?
A child with no criminal record?A child not in the bad company of friends? A child who studies hard to the top and comes back to work and provide for the family? A child who is married or marries as per societies expectations? Simply put the child who sticks out, of the boxes.
I bet at that moment if he/she comes begging for mercy, l would have prepared a salted shambock (LOL)… good size as we say. That moment l understood the anger of the elder brother; l would do too ,if not more. To slap me in the face? Throw a party for a wild child…gutting l must say.
But all this? What does it have to do with this boring, talkative, singer of a priest? I don’t know about you but as for me, l believe, that sermon was tailor-made for me, yes me, that child with all the good attributes. It had located me right there in between the backbenchers (Ha-ha), and yes l heard him well when he spoke of Onesimus.
In other words, am I being useful?… was the question. Useful to whom, rather, to what? And who cares anyway? I with less than a hundred followers on social media, a nobody, not even close to rich, with an undefined career, yes me? How can l be useful? I always looked at myself as an introvert and still believed it, but so what the case? What stops me from being useful?
As l read further the letter of St Paul, l realized that Paul never stopped being useful because he was in prison and even so, he never regarded himself as a prisoner except for Christ. Paul took advantage of a bad situation to do well. He taught and baptized non-believers in prison. He wrote letters to different people telling them about the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I mean who does that? Mind you, prison is no close to a hotel, where you breathe fresh air and eat what you want and do whatever you desire. I have never been to one, but what l have seen on television is horrific, furthermore, imagining our own Chikurubi Maximum Prison and its state, tires me to imagine myself being useful.
I can imagine the zeal of Paul being prisoned for preaching the gospel of Christ.
Well what of me who is not confined to the 4 walls ; me who sees people daily and chooses not to be Onesimus ; me who has tasted hunger; who has gone endless nights of darkness without electricity ; who has queued for six hours to board a bus home ;me who knows how to fetch water from a borehole a kilometer away from home, yes, the person who learnt to lit a fire ; the very me who knows that chicken bones is still chicken … l can go on but, the question is,’ am l Onesimus?’
Back to the late President R.G Mugabe on the 6th of September. As l learnt of his passing away, you would probably want to know how I felt. Well, to be honest, l felt happy and relieved to the extent where l borrowed data to check on social media if it was true or another hoax, but looking back, did l feel happy? Was l relieved? The answer is a big No! For either alive or dead l was irrelevant to him; a nobody; a commoner he will never get to know.
That definitely saddens me because, in my 35 years, l haven’t made myself useful. I have told myself,” there are people for that. “What people you may ask?
Well, those with voices affected; politicians; human rights activists etc. I ask,” but what stopped me from being one of the voices or activists? Don’t I have the qualifications? Am I not knowledgeable enough? Don’t l know wrong from right? What have l done in all my years to show that I’m here and have a purpose? Am useful.”
Of the little l know of the late president, l realized then that, unlike me, he made himself useful back from the time he was a boy in Zvimba; the time he was in prison and took advantage of a bad situation attaining 4 degrees; he became president and was useful to others, and to some, profoundly disappointed. But again, he was a human with flaws. The fact that he was the President, who but not him is the best to vent my anger to; my failures.Because unlike him, who became useful.
l waited to blame a “dead man”.
In my quest to be successful, l remember migrating to South Africa for employment. Whilst there, l realized being educated is not the key to a satisfactory job or life. There are other important aspects that one should have; such as being light-skinned, knowing local languages (especially Afrikaans being a plus.)
From afar, l saw that not many houses were built to perfection and the posh houses- for few elites.
Well, l learnt to open my suitcase and lock my qualifications away. I worked as a runner (aka cleaner) at an upmarket restaurant until l held the position of duty manager, a rank many disapproved. Why a cleaner? A black girl, skinny and a foreign for that matter?
Over the years l travelled in many parts of Africa and l have seen how the African child still suffers. Most countries lack such initiatives as proper town planning (the things l took for granted back in Zimbabwe).
It is in those countries l got to bump into a herd of cattle or goats, ferrying buckets to purchase water, because it doesn’t come out from the taps…In some places, no taps; no flushing toilets. l then realized how useful the president of my country was.
As l returned back home with that vast knowledge, l shared with my father the ordeals having more to add, as he reminisced about how they went to school without shoes; not because they couldn’t afford but that the white man didn’t see it fit to be equals with the black man…so he went on and l listened carefully. As the conversation died its course, l had great admiration of President R.G Mugabe, for he abolished that act of black people not wearing shoes.
Then, it seemed like a small act when l was in conversation with my dad, but when l read the letter to Philemon by Paul again, and I quote “…. I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while l was in chains, formerly he was useless to you… no longer a slave but better than a slave …”, it dawned me, that being a slave is no joke, an experience that can still be felt today when you are a slave.
The system is designed to make you and I conscious that now, we are slaves; useless persons. First, is to remove thine shoes and have best quotes in different languages reemphasized, that without shoes, we are slaves; powerless; useless things that are simply at the mercy of its leader(s)or master(s):
-” Bvisa shangu dzako nekuti wava muranda “
-“ Vula nsapato zako , popedza uli mndende mpaka atagamula kuti ndiwe wosalakwa”
“Toa viatu,kwa sasa wewe ni mfungwa mpaka utakapo paikana hauna hatia”
The above quotes are brutal l must say, and l bet they pierced the former President R.G Mugabe whilst in prison, and on coming out, made sure we wore shoes; no longer useless but useful. Evidently the average Zimbabwean can read, speak and write .
Never have I met a human species such as the one in Zimbabwe, who can speak fluent English, no matter that he or she comes from the worst of remote areas. That act itself is huge, and for once on the 6th of September, l wanted to forget all the good l grew up hearing; the good l had seen too. l wanted to thank him; putting him on my status; on social media, for making himself useful.
But again what would my friends, family and my not so many followers think of me? They would be angered; betrayed; block me from all social platforms, and all for a man who knew nothing of me.
So behind the scenes, l visited the famous voices l religiously follows. l saw all kinds of uncouth attacks to this dead body; to this infamous president who had made everyone useful. l joined in to attack, but attacking what? I ask myself today. Who am l to hate him? to expect perfection?
But I’m sure, God the Father seeing his son, the former president, from afar, came out embracing him in compassion; clothing him in the best of robes; giving him the best welcome party in heaven…. and will rather celebrate thee president with a feast… For at least in his time he was Onesimus.
Until again l find inspiration to pen down yet other thoughts …
I will go and be useful in the queues l lineup, awaiting the bus; and fetching water…kkk
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