Do not fold your arms-(15-02-07)

Do not fold your arms
If the fish in a river
boiled by the midday sun
can wait for the coming of evening,
we too can wait
in this wind-frosted land,
the spring will come,
the spring will come.
Njabulo S Ndebele
I met a man just now who said, 'what can we do? Prices are ju

st going up and up. And we have had no water in Mabvuku for a week. They have no mercy, these people. What can we do?’
Can I answer the question? I have no answer that will bring him water to wash in this hot weather.
‘They look for rent, these people, and impose water charges. But there is no water. If you try to vote, they steal the votes. If you take to the streets, they will shoot you. What can we do?’
Another man put it this way, ‘(the President) has made scavengers of us all and stripped these grown men of their dignity as they fight over a worn bike tyre. Reduced us all to desperadoes and thieves, made us small and bleak and old and tired. Made us lose our love of life itself. Split our families and left my parents impoverished, alone, afraid.’ (Peter Godwin, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, p. 246). Godwin’s book is a memoir in which he describes how the events of the last seven years have affected his own family. It is a moving account of discovery but the undertow is of bitterness and frustration without answers.
We can wait fishlike. The cool of the evening will surely come. But it is hardly enough. Fish can change nothing. They can only wait, fins folded.
There is a waiting though that I can do. Perhaps it is an attitude? ‘God clothes the grass in the field that is there today and gone tomorrow. Will he not much more look after you, you people of little faith? So do not worry’ (Matt 6:30). I do not take these words to mean we can fold our arms and wait. Actually ‘not to worry’ is hard work. It implies a tough attitude towards every situation. I will not give in to this situation – at least, and at first, in my mind.
At least in my mind I do not accept this situation. Someone once wrote, ‘walls do not a prison make.’ The human mind is greater that the stones and bars and laws and cruelty and indifference we see each day. In Zaїre (now the DR Congo) in the hard times of 1993 they used to say, ‘il faut pas croiser les mains.’ (Do not fold your arms). Jesus, especially in John’s passion account is steady, dignified, clear and comes across as somehow in charge, whereas Pilate is squirming around trying to find a face saving way out. Pilate is not prepared to do the one thing he knows he ought to do. He is torn, worried and afraid.
Fish endure, but humans are called to do more than just endure.
10 February 2007

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