Saturday, December 24, 2016

“If you wait for the mango fruits to fall, you'd be wasting your time while others are learning how to climb the tree” ― Michael Bassey Johnson

Our neighbor, Bwana Jackson, has a beautiful, large mango tree in what you would call his yard.  Mango trees take years to grow and bear fruit, but they also provide lots of shade from the hot sun and do what God has always asked them to do—they provide good fruit.  Bwana Jackson’s children are in charge of that tree.  One small girl’s job is to pick up all the fruit that has fallen to the ground.  Another’s is to climb to the lower branches and pluck the ripe fruit she can reach.  Yet another has a long metal wire with a hook on the end, and her job is to reach high into the tree and get the fruit that is just about to drop.  One last job that goes to a bigger girl is to guard the tree and stop other children from running in from the path and grabbing fruit and running off with it.  Since my veranda faces the tree, it provides me with much entertainment whenever the mangoes are in season.   There is a path that runs by our house and separates our space from Bwana Jackson’s.  For most of the year, we watch the children on their way to and from school and others on their way to and from town.  We laugh and speak to the children who are always eager to try out what little English they have learned, so I hear lots of “Good Morning, Sir” and “How are you?” and an occasional “Good Bye.”  When the mangoes aren’t in season, the children and others almost always look our way and smile when we speak to them, but when the mangoes are ripe—no one looks to our side of the path.  Everyone is looking to see if there is a ripe mango laying on the ground that no one has noticed yet.  The game is to run in, grab the mango, and run back to the path laughing and usually with at least one bite already taken from the delicious fruit.  This is such a delicacy, that no one looks our way during mango season, but this isn’t the only entertainment the tree provides.  We love watching Bwana Jackson’s children preforming their mango tasks, gathering, climbing into the lower branches, and especially the girl with the long wire who is really good at reaching the high fruit and skillfully pulling the ripe ones loose.  They always smile, laugh and wave to us as we have watched them grow from infants over the last several years.  But every now and then, there is a special drama that is acted out.  Older people are held in high regard in this society and younger people are required to say “Shikamu” when they see someone who is older.  It is a way of saying, “I respect your age and wisdom.”  The older person is to reply, “Marhaba” and no one really knows what that means except that it is what you say in reply.  I tell you this so that you will know that there is at least one society where older folks are respected and admired—really.  But I also tell you this because every now and then as one of the children are about their mango tasks, an elderly woman or man will slowly walk by on the path.  These folks seldom turn to look either at the tree or at us but keep their eyes focused on the path so they don’t fall.  When it happens that an elderly woman is walking past and one or more of the children are attending to the mango tree, one will pick a ripe mango, walk up to the elderly person, say “Shikamu” and offer them the ripe mango.  When that happens, a transformation takes place and the elderly person seems to lose years off their age as they remember their youth and mangos, and a big smile appears on their face as they accept the tasty fruit offered as a gift.  It always makes me smile, too.  On one hand, it’s just a mango tree, but on the other hand, it’s a symbol of life here and a reminder of the kindness that Christ asks us to offer each other.  It’s also a reminder that a good tree will bear good fruit.  I want to be like that mango tree.  So should we all.
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