The First Letter to an Unknown Stranger

Dear Stranger,

I often imagine the days I was born as somewhat of a crazy, wild and comedic scene. My poor mother carrying me for all those nine months and eventually the motherly need and biological reality of her needing to deliver me was suddenly met with an impending complication. I was supposed to be born in a small village hospital but she had to be moved to Eratumu General Hospital in the bigger village. But she couldn't "push" me out. She had no strength. And subsequently, I was brought into this world through what the educated in our village call "vacuum extraction". She was told she probably shouldn't have another child because the procedure was dangerous that first time and could possibly kill her the next time.

Let me not bore you with the details, but the point is: my coming into this world was not a breeze. Subsequently, I have often thought of my life as a whirl-wind from day one. Do not get me wrong, the Mighty One has taken good care of me, yet I have lived with a conscious awareness that life in this village is not easy. I am sure you can relate. Sometimes it does not rain. Sometimes we plant crops for them to be devoured by our neighbors' animals. Sometimes diseases attack our animals and we lose all our wealth. Sometimes in the past we have seen these strange little gadgets that have been invented in villages far off that literally take away people's jobs, it's crazy! Sometimes those closest to us betray us. Sometimes, and as you might have heard, some strange diseases afflict us and terrorize us. Life, my life - as I have known it - has been a whirlwind from the first day.

We feel it more precisely with this storm that is afflicting our village.

After my birth, my mom's family gave me a name. It translated to "We are thankful". I was their first grandchild. My grandma and grandpa must have been really thankful. My mom called me by another name for a while. The name was not in our village's language, and frankly, it meant nothing. My father was in another village far away working. He saw me for the first time when I was about a month old when he could eventually come. I am told when he came he reminded my mom how she enjoyed watching moving pictures at the bioscop of this one particular man from a land far away from us. They gave me his name. And then also gave me my grandfather's name. I liked my grandfather's name. The other name? Well, I tolerate it.

I apologize for all the details, but even my naming seemed to be a circus show. Even the people that love us the most cannot fully "name" us. It is the reality of life in this village. We as fellow villagers can try all we can to assert an identity on each other, but truly speaking, we can never fully do so, and when we do, we usually use very arbitrary means that only make sense to us as fellow-villagers. In the Writings of our ancestors, we see a clear picture of how our true identity is actually found in the Mighty One. Apparently, it is very clear from the Writings that even though we sometimes look down on those people from other villages who do not follow our customs or norms, we cannot ascribe an identity on them because it is only found in the Mighty One, and is lost apart from him.

Dear Stranger, in these times of unprecedented turmoil in the world, I hope you remember your name. Your real name. The one assigned to you by the Mighty One. Nowadays people in our village are so caught up in things that are trivial. And this obsession has led them to be forgetful. This storm that hit our village a few weeks ago has exposed it all. Some of them have reverted to panic and fear. The other day as I was sitting at the beer-garden drinking opaque-beer with my friends I saw many mothers running into the stores at the growth point and buying all the food in the shelves.

Surely, what has become of the people in our village? We used to think of each other and consider each other. I took a huge gulp from the cup and as I wiped the residual grain around my mouth with one hand, I almost dropped the cup in my other hand as I saw an old man pushing a cart with 50kgs of mealie-meal. Who needs that much, really? Have our people forgotten that the Mighty one has always taken care of us?

I know what has happened though. Our people have forgotten that life in this village has always been a whirlwind, much like the whirlwind of child-birth that brought all of us into this world. Our ancestors told us that when the son of the Mighty One walked on the streets of our village He taught of how it will always be hard living in this village, but He apparently also said that He would never leave us alone — He would always be there for them (us) in their (our) hardships.

In the comfort of the big huts with fancy thatching, big granaries and many cows and donkeys in their homesteads, our people have also forgotten their names. Strangers have assigned names to them, and they have not resisted. If they remembered their names, they would also remember who gave those names to them, and they would perhaps hold on to our ancestors' teachings in the midst of the turmoil we are in. The Mighty One is always with us.

Stranger, do not drink in the wells of comfort, get drunk and forget where you are. You are in this our crazy village. It is tough here. We have lost loved ones and lost things. But we have not lost hope because we have been promised that another village awaits us. I often imagine how life will be in this new village. I have heard that there won't be any trouble there. We will not need a tribal council to try offenders because they won't be any. We won't need any of the herbs we have been using in our sicknesses because they won't be any. What a wonderful village that must be.

In the meantime, I hope you will continue to live life as normally as you can. Showing kindness to your family and friends, eating and enjoying food, enjoying drink, listening to the great music of our people that is played on our shiny wireless-radios, basking in the sun, staring at stars in the night, sharing stories around the evening fire, praying to the Mighty One, and remembering His writings with your family. Stranger, these times are hard - but it is not anything new — remember your name.

Maybe if you do, I will address this letter properly next time. I am not sure of your name either. Hope you take care. You will hear from me soon.

Your fellow-villager,


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