In Africa, it is understood that children hold the knowledge and gifts that ensure the survival of the village and the tribe. In essence, the child is the king of the village. When a child walks into the middle of a crowd, all attention goes to him or her as if to applaud an arrival long awaited.
Children complete the community! Without children, the world is a dead end and communities would not exist. Children are the life-givers, the healers, the messengers of the ancestors. They bring out the spirit of the community -- they bring spirit home. Children are embraced, celebrated, and supported, for without them there would be emptiness in the hearts of all villagers.
Children Are Valuable and Irreplaceable
A child is valuable and irreplaceable, someone we cannot afford to lose. The world has embraced the truth that childhood shapes the women and men we are today. Because of this realization and deeper understanding, we have the ability to put a stop to destructive generational patterns and raise our sons and daughters with respect, self-esteem, and true commitment to their lives.
In the Dagara tribe, we know we cannot have community without children, we cannot have children without community, and neither would exist without spirit. It is one complete circle, each element completing the whole. We welcome our children and in so doing we welcome spirit.
A Voice and A Listening Ear
Children need a voice and a listening ear. In the village, because everyone is your father and your mother, you feel that you can count on all the villagers and that you can trust them. When many people are parents to a child, it makes it possible for the child to go to anybody and just sit and talk. Everybody in the village knows what is happening in all the children's lives -- there are no secrets. The village is there to be their ear, to hear their voice, and to encourage them to speak their truth.
If children don't have an outlet -- a chance to be heard -- they will keep their voice inside along with their gifts. If we don't encourage our children to talk and be open, they learn other ways to let their voice out, and this energy can become highly-destructive to them.
When children speak it liberates them. It lets the toxins out, and new energy can come through. But when they don't speak, their thoughts, emotions, and experiences stay inside and can eventually pollute their lives.
Saying Things Instead of Holding Them In
When I first came to the United States, I experienced this truth firsthand. I was used to saying things instead of holding them in. In my village, people are always receptive and available at all times. When I came to a foreign country and didn't have people around, and, worse, when I couldn't speak the language and had to rely on my husband for translation, I felt constrained and awful. Most of the time I had no choice but to hold it in, even though it was against my very nature.
Without even being aware of it at first, I was slowly dying a painful death. I noticed that simple things came blasting out of me, because they were jailed inside of me and were becoming toxic. With time I learned to find new and different ways of expressing myself, I found new people to talk with, and I discovered the great value of learning this new language.
I also learned how to create community wherever I went, and to sing as I used to in the village so my spirit did not die. Having a listening ear allows for an incredible peace to come in, for both the speaker and the one who listens.
How To Treat Our Children and Ourselves
We can do the same thing with our children that we need to do for ourselves -- we can learn to be patient, not judge their every word, encourage them to let go of negative things, and not turn their hearts and souls into storage places for junk. It is possible for children to find and keep their voice instead of having to seek it later in life after an emotional bomb has gone off for them.
Simple things such as singing, dancing, art, and music are great ways of liberating the child's spirit and voice. But the most important thing is to encourage your child to speak, and to listen.
©1999, published by New World Library,
Novato, CA 94949. http://www.nwlib.com
Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient African Teachings to Celebrate Children and Community
by Sobonfu Somé.
Using voices from ancient Africa, the author celebrates children and their place in community, arguing that ritual and spirit can enliven daily living. (paperback edition, 2009, different cover art than shown)
Click here for more info and/or to order this paperback book.
About the Author
Sobonfu Somé travels the world conducting seminars and workshops that offer her perspective on birth, pregnancy, community, healing, intimacy, rituals, and the sacredness of everyday life. She is the founder of Ancestors Wisdom Spring, and her previous book was The Spirit of Intimacy; Ancient Teachings in the Ways of Relationships. Her website is http://www.sobonfu.com