There is a book I’m currently reading called, “Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient African Teachings to Celebrate Children and Community” by Sobonfu Somé. It is a poignant, compelling read of the Dagara tribe and how children are considered the soul of every Dagara village. Somé outlines rituals that begin even before the child is born right up to the end of time.
Here is an excerpt of the book.
“There is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it. When the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts its knee, someone picks it up and sings its song to it. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song. In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them. The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another. In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when this child is lying in bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song, and they sing—for the last time—the song to that person.
Everything about this story strikes a chord in my heart. It is a depiction of how precious our children are. It is a reminder of how we need to simply come from a place of love when interacting with them. It is about celebrating every transition of their lives and showing them how they fit as part of the community and the world. It is about accepting them, not judging them. It is about having them live their own lives, warts and all.
It is also about being in tune with ourselves, recognizing our song and being true to it. I didn’t always appreciate how important this was. But it is vitally important. After being ravaged with cancer for two years, losing many of the things that made me who I am, I had to tune into ‘my song’ to hold onto the essence of me. And during the recovery process, I am learning to listen to my body, my heart and my spirit. When the three are in alignment, everything is better and I feel like a child of the universe.
We owe it to ourselves to check in once in a while and find our inner songs – especially when life takes us through unexpected twists and turns – to be kind to ourselves, and to live our lives in the most authentic way possible. It is this reminder of our identity and where we come from that is the best gift we can give to ourselves. It is the shield that will help us get through hardships; the light that will guide us through despair.