Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A Foot Has No Nose

I am in the midst of a terrible dilemma, one that I do not think I can come out other than feeling a loser. I had a friend, one I considered a very close friend and together with two other friends we had a great quartet who met regularly and laughed and socialised. One day there was a difference of opinion and he left, but not before he had caused a considerable amount of grief and trouble to my dear friends. I could hardly believe how vindictive a person could be. He got married and for sometime we heard nothing.

Now I have had a call from him. His wife has left him and he has had a leg amputated. He wants me to go and see him. I have thought and thought and am in the horns of a dilemma. I am sure that if I go and see him the knock on will be to make my already ill friend even more stressed and that in turn may exacerbate his illness.

This reminded me of the old African wisdom story, and I spent a lot of time yesterday going over and over the story seeking a way out of my dilemma. Let me share It with you, in the hope that you find it as interesting as I do. You may even find it a story to hold onto as helpful.

The story tells of an occasion where a mother sent her son to the main road, about twenty yards away from the homestead, to invite a passing group of seasonal work-seekers home for a meal. She instructed him to take a container along and collect dry cow dung for making a fire. He was then to prepare the meal for the group of work-seekers.

The thought of making an open fire outside at midday, cooking in a large three-legged pot in that intense heat, was sufficient to upset even an angel. The son did not manage to conceal his feelings from his mother and, after serving the group, she called him to the veranda where she usually sat sewing and knitting.

Looking straight into the eyes of her son she said "Tsholofelo, why did you sulk when I requested you to prepare a meal for those poor destitute people?"

Despite his attempt to deny her allegation, and using the heat of the fire and the sun as an excuse for his alleged behaviour,his mother, gave him a firm look, and said ""Lonao ga lo na nko" - "A foot has no nose". It means: you cannot detect what trouble may lie ahead of you.

Had he denied this group of people a meal, it may have happened that, in his future travels , he may have found himself at the mercy of those very individuals. As if that was not enough to shame him, his mother continued: "Motho ke motho ka motho yo mongwe". The literal meaning: "A person is a person because of another person".

We are all what we are and whom we are because of how we treat other people.

This blog is linked to my other.  The Conspiritors (11)


  1. So true Ralph; I cannot imagine and existence without 'others'. What a vacant space it would be.
    Your story reminds me of the dollar I daily gave to a woman begging outside the busiest bus depot in our largest city. Daily she stood ... rain, cold, snow. Daily I gave her a dollar as I passed. Someone advised she live in a wealthy part of town in a mansion and stood to beg only to meet people.
    I continued giving her the daily dollar and spoke a moment or two .... can you even imagine rambling around a mansion totally alone 'without others'!

  2. Our humanity is defined by others. Man is made for relationship. While your old friend cut himself off and damaged that relationship you now have an opportunity to restore what was broken. Go to him with a humble heart, care for him. I beleive that you both will be changed.

  3. From reading your dilemma, I would advise you to go to this past friend. Upon reading your story, I feel it's telling you the same thing. So explain again what your dilemma is?

  4. I guess a visit wouldn't be a terrible thing to do, would it? You can see if there is any change in your friends heart. This could be a life lesson for you or your friend. You'll never know unless you visit. If his life is always crashing around him because of his attitude, you are wise enough to know if this friendship can resume or not. You have a kind heart Ralph and people will always seek you out. :)

  5. I like your story. It is so true and worth remembering.

  6. Your quote 'We are all what we are and whom we are because of how we treat other people'
    I'm not a follower of Taoism but, I would think that if someone is reaching out, there would be no question as to what to do.

  7. I'm like Susan...I don't quite understand why you wouldn't go see him? Did I read right that you feel that he may get worse if you see him? I REALLY doubt THAT. If my wife left me and my leg was amputated what a joy it would be to see my old friend, Ralph!

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