They usually leave us with a pleasant after-taste. I want to share this buTonga and its wisdom with you. I have unearthed immense resources for my life from the sayings and the proverbs of baTonga. They have added value to my input in the life I share with people in my community. From the onset let’s not think of ‘visitors’ only as human beings. Visitors vary in number and nature. Rumi shares in his poem called This Being Human is a Guest House thus:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
Every morning comes with a new guest. My task is to exercise hospitality. This hospitality calls us to allow visitors within and without to come in freely and leave when they want. Spending too much time preventing visitors from coming in when they will come whether I like it or not is very stressful. I would do better to prepare well for their coming than to work at giving excuses for them not to come. How much stress would that cause me!
There are people that burst open my dam of pain. There are people I would rather not be with. It does not help me grow if I build a wall around me to protect myself from them. If I allow them to come to me, maybe they too might leave their own version of a blessing. The same goes with certain feelings in life. Just because I do not like them does not mean they will not visit me. In fact, my experience has taught me that the more I dislike them, the more they like to visit as they know they will get the attention they desire. The list of guests is longer than what Rumi gives when he says we could be visited by:
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Our responsibility is not to prevent them from coming. They will come anyway. Our responsibility is to:
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
Rumi encourages us that even when it is a “dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door, laughing, and invite them in.” Know that they are here for you. They will not leave you without a blessing. They have come like the Angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of Jesus, with good news. The good news might be disguised in the apparent negativity of the momentary emotions.
We keep asking why someone has come to visit! The question does not go even after the visitor has left. And as we question, we begin to find little answers. Would we not call these little answers a blessing! The answers may be as little as just coming to celebrate a birth in our family or to join in mourning the loss of a loved one. They may even have come to visit us for the mere pleasure of doing so. Would not these answers help us appreciate the beauty of friendship and relationships!
Growing up is hard work. Growing up is demanding. Growing up shakes our stability and our stagnation in life. When our lives seem to be sailing smoothly, we are visited by a little depression. When we think all is well, we are visited by meanness. When we think we are free from all forces of negativity, we are visited by fear.
“Care of the soul does not mean wallowing in the symptom but it does mean trying to learn from depression and what qualities the soul needs.” [Thomas Moore; 1992, 153]
We are called to be hospitable to all our visitors, those we like and those we do not like. The most beautiful people I have known are those that have been holistically hospitable to regular and periodical visitors. They have invited them in their lives. They have negotiated spaces for them. They have had conversations with them. The conversations have revealed to them the reasons for the visits. The conversations have shown the qualities the soul desires for its growth. The visitors depart leaving a blessing for the host. The host learns that hospitality breeds grace, genuineness, compassion, and the many other virtues. We learn that sooner or later we all shall be visited by pleasant and unpleasant visitors alike. We do not need to like them for them to visit. They will come to us anyway. When they come, shall we welcome them like others who have grown in wisdom have done? This kind of hospitality helps us to be less judgemental of others. We become tolerant of others who are entertaining rough and unfriendly guests.
It is no mistake that mweenzu usiya cisisi. We allow the visitors to come to us so they leave us their blessings when they depart. We do not resist their coming. We smile at them and are hospitable. We become aware that they are going. Rumi ends it well:
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Christian Brother Nsamu Moonga
Published November 2011