By Dr Thecla Fitz Lewis
Feature address at the Babonneau constituency assembly (Saint Lucia) last month.
On discussing the theme ‘Shake off the dust: Unite for progress’ with my husband, he reminded of the farmer and the donkey.
One day a farmer’s donkey fell into an abandoned well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway; so, it just wasn’t worth it, to him, to try to retrieve the donkey.
He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him (unity. They each grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. Realizing what was happening, the donkey at first cried and wailed horribly. Then, a few shovelfuls later, he quieted down completely. The farmer peered down into the well and was astounded by what he saw. With every shovelful of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up on the new layer of dirt. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.
Pretty soon, the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off, to the shock and astonishment of all the neighbors.
In our walk on earth, you will at times find yourself in a well. Your well may be financial, it may be emotional, it may be illness, it maybe abuse of some kind, it may be family issues, it maybe disunity with your fellow constituency members. Whilst in that well, the people you have been there the most for, will be the first to decide to leave you there.
They will unite others, but not for your progress. They will do so for your demise. Not all unity is for progress. There is unity for coplo (conspiracy). There is unity to undermine. There is unity to malign your good name and there is also unity to get rid of the people who have our best interest at heart.
In the case of the farmer, he did not ask the neighbors to help him find a strategy to get the donkey out of the well. He did not say come help me remove the donkey. He asked them to assist him cover the donkey in the hole. Each grabbed a shovel. Why not a rope to see how they can haul the donkey out? Why not build a ladder to go down the whole to see if there is some way they can tie the donkey and haul- it-out. Oh no. Donkey already in the hole, regardless of all the good it may have done for the community, ek ou sav bouwik ca twavei’ the easier thing to do was to bury it. That’s what some of us go through sometimes in our very community where we give ourselves for service.
Exploring the strategy
You are a community activist. All you want is to better your family and the community, so you give yourself up for service because you want to make a difference. You sacrifice family, your reputation, and personal goals to be of service to others and what do you get?
Persons who cannot wait to bury you if you fall in some kinda well. They will not have a unity for progress meeting on your issue, they will quicker have a unity for complo. They will not remember the bouwik (Donkey) work. And you know in most organizations, associations, community group, there is always one or two bouwiks. Because they have a heart of passion and they cannot say no to things that must be done, they want to see things right; what do we do, we use and abuse them, and if you’re like me, who will stand up to hogwash when I see it, and speak against the things that’s not right, they quick to crucify you, give you names like rorotious, trouble maker, ou pa bon, ou movay. If your make a mistake, papa, Good Friday crucifixion.
Rather than exploring the strategy of getting them out of the hole when they fall, we shoveling dirt on them. Dirt can represent undermining their authority, looking for someway to get rid of them by spreading fake news, blocking opportunities where they can get assistance of some kind and turning others against them without cause.
The well represents financial constraints because of loss of job, loss of the bread winner, taken advantage of and / or abused, loss of an election, lack of cooperation with your fellow constituents; but the trick to getting out of the well is to not let your circumstances bury you, but to shake it off and take a step up.
We must always remember that each of our troubles is a stepping stone. Each difficulty you face in life was written, its just another chapter of your book of life. Don’t despair; We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, but by never giving up. Shake it off and take a step up. But, when you take that step up, you have to be that epitome of unity.
Unite for progress
How we do it? We align, shake off the dust and unite for progress with the story of the donkey. It was very easy for the donkey to start a rocuss. Well, different authors who rewrote the story of the donkey in the well had different endings. One author posited that the donkey gave the farmer who tried to bury it a good kicking, which brings us to another moral of the story, when you try to cover your ass, it always comes back and get you. Which is true, people try to do and say mean things to you to make themselves look good, but God does not like ugly, carma comes back to get you.
As a community, a country, we need to shake it off and unite for progress. Post emancipation, we have found our voices and places in multiple sectors such as sports, politics, education, the arts, to name a few. However, we still have a long way to go in supporting each other, being happy for each other, uplifting each other, contributing to the development of our community, our nation, with an equitable access which has been granted to women and men alike, young and old.
All of a sudden in our society we have a thing against the old. I heard a caller on a talk show saying our opposition leader is getting old, he should give a young man a chance and I was like “really”. As you go through your election today to choose the leaders in your constituency, remember that the older has experiences and lessons they can share with the young.
Its evitable that the young are the successors of the older persons in our society. Don’t shove them on a side and state that these old people should put themselves on a side. Embrace them, learn from them, so the younger ones can have a solid foundation to work on. For the older ones, don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with the younger persons. The greatest leader is one who takes others with him/her so if you are falling down, they are right behind you to catch you. Don’t climb the roof and kick the ladder off. Leave it for others to climb, so if you are in a crisis on the roof, someone can quickly climb to help you.
In part 2, the challenge for a better community and country.