by Abbott Bailey
In early May I attended a chanting workshop and learned a new short chant that stuck in my head immediately. The words are very simple: All I (we) need is here. I will often start my time of meditation singing that chant for a few minutes. It reminds me that I really do have all that I need by way of basic provisions. I lack nothing of necessity on a daily basis. I also imagine it as a sort of intercessory prayer, calling on God to manifest this truth in the world for all creation.
On Wednesday while painting at the Circle of Peace School, I taught the chant to Tracey and Cathy, inviting Tracey to “do her thing” by layering in a beautiful harmony. As we sang, Joshua one of our painting companions and a member of the Bbaale family, joined in with us.
On Friday, Tracey and I had the opportunity to teach the children at the school several of the chants and songs we sing at St. Andrew’s Church and School. We taught them, “Over My Head,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “Peace Before Us,” and “Arise, Shine.” We threw in “The Hokey Pokey” for fun as well. It was such a wondrous experience, only intensified by having some of the smaller children gather tightly around me later that afternoon singing softly, “Over my head, I hear music in the air.”
On Saturday, we went to the village and again had an opportunity to teach the children some of our songs. Though the children in the village do not speak much English beyond their names and ages, they mimic well. In return, they taught us one of their songs, which I’ll call, “Dodo.” Phonetically, its something like “dodo awo mama sike, do do mama n’jangala.” We had great fun with this one, because when they sing it they dance by putting one hand on their head and the other of hand on their hip with a little hip-shake. It’s adorable, and they found our imitation of their gestures absolutely hysterical. As cute as the song was with its gestures, we all were sure it must have been about a boy and a girl who fancied each other.
It turned out the song was about a green vegetable! The translation is roughly, “Do do (the green spinach-like vegetable) – it’s good when it’s fried. Mamma loves me!” At each verse they change the name of the person (Dada loves me, auntie loves me, etc). Food preparation is, apparently, a gesture of love in every culture!
Cyndy and I talked about teaching the children of St. Andrew’s School the song on a morning when they are having spinach for lunch to get them excited about eating their greens. Maybe they will say, “Cyndy and Abbott, n’jangala.”☺
As fun as all this was, we were reminded that cooking oil is expensive, so having something fried is a real treat for the village children. It would only be on rare occasions that they would enjoy fried dodo. As it is, many people here may eat only once a day, sometimes twice (and of course there are those who experience food scarcity on a regular basis). The children at the school eat porridge in the morning, and rice and beans for lunch and for dinner – every single day. They have a sombosa for snack, and on rare occasions they’ll get matoaka (mashed plantains).
Having these reminders of how much of the world lives has made me reluctant to teach the chant, “All we need is here,” as beautiful in its simplicity as it is. I’m not sure what it would be like for them to sing something that is so far from reality for them on a regular basis (or if I’m honest maybe it is more about what it would be like for me to hear them sing it). Perhaps they too would sing it as a prayer, calling on God to tangibly manifest the truth of God’s provision for them.
On Friday, Diane, Cathy, and Cyndy spent time in each of the classrooms reading books and interacting with the children. They had a really special time by all accounts, while also having some experiences similar to mine. Diane and Cathy read some of the their favorite books to the children. One of them was called, “The Crown on Your Head.” Diane said she loves this book because it is about each child having her own unique gift to offer the world that is special, but no more special than the next child’s gift. She said her throat caught while reading, “The world is a wonderland waiting for you,” wondering if, to these children, the world really is a wonderland waiting for them… or something else…
Cathy read a book about love with the assurance that “wherever you go, love is there.” At the conclusion of the story, she asked them to name someone or something that they loved. Several said their mothers, or parents. One said he loved his president. Finally, one boy said, “I love my life.” I love my life!
What is there to say? We can’t even begin to fathom their experience of life in so very many ways – the hard ship, for sure, but perhaps even more the fortitude and whatever it is of their interior life that enables them to not just endure but to feel blessing and gratitude. What a witness they are to us!