Who remembers going on school outings and having packed an extra snack or lunch, or even a game to share with a friend? Fast forward to university days (shout-out to my T-Hall friends), remember being part of a boat – a group of girls who cooked together so that when you went grocery-shopping, you shopped not only for yourself, but also for those on your boat? What about in former times when we could do excursions with friends and we would pack refreshments, not only for ourselves, but also for the group or persons we might meet at our destination?
Last week, in my piece entitled ‘What Am I Packing for My Journey’ , I described what I pack for the journey. As I worked my way through the week, the next stop along the way seemed obvious: sustenance. I thought I’d delve a little more into the concept of sustenance for trip.
At first thought, it’s easy to focus on what I need for the journey. After all, my journey in life is about me, is it not? It’s my journey, my decisions, my path, my destination, my accomplishments, my purpose, my, my, my….Oh my! Like the ‘I’ going to St Ives, at the end of the day, it was just that one person heading to St Ives, was it not? So, then, my journey is necessarily about sustenance for me, is it not?
But then, for those who remember the riddle, while it was only one person going to St Ives, there were many whom the traveller encountered along the way. And, while in the riddle, there wasn’t mention of help to be rendered to those other persons, is that what our sustenance is about?
We say that we’re all inter-connected and if that’s the case, isn’t my sustenance dependent on yours? The African philosophy of Ubuntu has gained much currency, especially in the midst of the pandemic where the security of the community is based on my decision to observe the protocols that have been put in place. Dipping a little into my bag for the journey, when we consider the concept of herd immunity, that can only happen if enough members of the herd have been vaccinated, right?
So, is my sustenance only about me?
Friends, I would perish if my sustenance were about me only. If I consider my sustenance only, my actions will be selfish in focus. If my actions are selfish in focus, I lose sight of the impact that my selfish actions have on another (as we saw in the early days of COVID-19 when persons took to hoarding). If I lose sight of the impact that my selfish actions have on another, then I have no right to expect that others will be mindful of their similarly selfish actions on me. And if the actions of all are selfish, well then, the sustenance of no one is guaranteed.
I conclude that included in my bag must be resources that I can share with my neighbour. Notwithstanding the storm from which I am emerging, having got into the boat to go over to the other side of the lake, what can I offer as sustenance to those I encounter along the way? A word of hope? A word of consolation? Time to listen? What have I to offer? And, you know what? Just the thought of how I might be of assistance, is sustenance enough for me, for now, I’m packing, not only for myself, but for my brother and sister whom I encounter along the way.
So, yes, it is I alone who am going to St Ives, for that’s my journey, but it doesn’t change the fact that I meet the man, his wives and their cats. So, as I encounter others along my journey, I’ll offer what I can to sustain, for in sustaining them, we sustain each other, and in sustaining each other, we sustain all.