A commitment to life

I was born in a very remote village in the central part of Burundi, in the central part of Africa. A village that moved to the rhythms of hardship and joy.  I particularly cherish the memory of women; mothers, grandmothers and sisters. They held the village together.  They worked hard in the fields, raised children, fetched water from distant wells and streams. When reality struck them down, they dusted themselves off and came back up to begin anew. Looking back at that stubbornness, I read an unwavering commitment to life. Life with all it has to offer. Life as it presents itself. They stayed in the game day in and day out. They knew it was the right thing to do. Their commitment to life was never just an acceptance of what they could not change but a commitment to do the right thing even when the right thing was the hard thing.

The current global pandemic has shown many growing edges that our societies need to reckon with. Huge levels of inequality, unacceptable levels of poverty, a persistent anti-black racism and many other forms of discrimination. 

As people of faith, we all wonder what more we can do. So many are stretched to the limits. They went to the demonstrations.  They sent letters to their representatives, they organized for elections and they do, every day, everything in their power to build a fair, equitable and just society. It is in the name of that commitment to life that they keep showing up in big and small ways.

Every time I am tempted to underestimate the value of showing up, I go back to my ancestors and get inspired by how they dealt with their own hard things. They dusted themselves off and kept going. Their commitment to life, to fairness, to justice and love kept them going and saw them through.  They passed that same spirit to the next generations, because they believed we are all connected in meaningful ways.

The Philosophy of Ubuntu that says, “I am because you are” teaches us that our lives and destinies are interconnected. Others make us who we are.  We all have the power to touch other people’s lives. The way we respond to other people’s actions or inactions make us who we become. This is even more true in times of crisis and uncertainty.

When we are beaten up by life events, we have choices; we can dust ourselves off and begin anew. We can choose to accept hands extended to us to help us get up. We can take the time we need to grieve, cry, plan and strategize.  When we are ready, our commitment to life invites us to go back to the arena, however our arena is defined.

As I write these lines, The United States of America is on edge over the election results. People are anxious and uncertain.  I offer my prayers and my best wishes to the resilient people of the USA. The USA has values to live up to. The USA is connected to the rest of the world.  As the Bible says, “to those to whom much is given, much is expected”.  May the USA heed the call!

May all be well.

Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana