There was once a widow who had been mourning her late husband for ten years. Every morning, she would sit in front of her house, place her chin in her palm and moan about how things have not been the same since her husband died. All day, she would just sit there, complaining about how she was being neglected by her children, how her husband’s factory workers didn’t respect her, how food had lost its taste, the sun had lost its shine and life had lost its lustre. Everything that was ever said by anyone within her earshot was another opportunity to begin another “Since my dear Paul died” story.
After 10 years of this, everyone was tired of her. The whole village had moved on, but the widow was still grappling with the ten-year-old problem of her dear husband’s death.
One day, a wise traveller came through the village. He spent some time talking to the people and helping them solve all manner of dilemmas and problems. Someone remembered the widow and asked if the wise man would help her overcome her grief. He agreed and they led him to her hut. As usual, she was sitting at the entrance, head in hands. The wise man greeted her and then told her a joke.
It was a funny joke, and the widow couldn’t help bursting out laughing. The wise man waited until she had composed herself again, and then he told the very same joke again. This time, the widow laughed politely, but briefly. The wise man told the joke a third time. The widow simply cleared her throat awkwardly and remained quiet.
After a few more moments of uncomfortable silence, the wise man said, “So if you don’t keep laughing at the same joke, why do you keep crying over the same problem?”
Friends, is this you? I admit it’s me sometimes. I can obsess over what is not yet perfect to the point where I momentarily lose sight of all the beauty and hope and life around me in a single-minded quest to fix the imperfect. I find that I must physically remind myself to stop and smell the roses around me every now and then. Don’t get me wrong, we must keep seeking solutions to our problems, but what we mustn’t do more than necessary is cry over them.
Bad things happen. This is part of the balance of life, and we have no problem understanding this when it happens to others. The difficulty always is to find that perspective when YOU are the one the bad things are happening to. But you clearly wouldn’t find the same joke funny on its third, fourth, fifth, tenth telling, so why keep crying every single day over the same problem?
So your boss hates you, and work is miserable. You’ve moaned about it every morning for five years now. When will you stop moaning about it and either start figuring out how to manage him, or start looking for a new job? Traffic is always bad on your way to work? When will you start using other routes or leaving home earlier? Your Facebook page is peppered with your lamentations against societal ills, political problems, economic difficulties, and every day sees the uploading of yet another video to demonstrate how our society is sick. We’ve lamented enough. Let’s start fixing it. If it were funny, you wouldn’t laugh about it every day, so if it’s a problem, don’t cry about it every day.
Sometimes, we do have to cry though. Once or twice. The first reaction is a reflex, the second is routine, but after that, we now know what the problem is. Let’s stop moaning about it and start fixing it.
One of the scary things about COVID-19 is that it has exposed all our inadequacies as a nation. Our vulnerable healthcare system, our poor education system, our disorganised transport system, our weak economy… all of these have become the subjects of every conversation, as we struggle to cope with this new disease.
But we always knew about these things, didn’t we? Why are we still lamenting them? When will we stop crying over them and start fixing them? What are we waiting for? The next plague? We might not make it that far. It’s time we stopped moaning and started moving. It’s time we took advantage of this world-changing disease to change our world. In addition to all the short term solutions and temporary three-month transience, let’s build a long-term legacy of ten/twenty/thirty-year transformation so that our descendants will NEVER be caught with their pants down as we have.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and I’m done crying. Aren’t you?
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!
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