This article in the Christian Science Monitor brings back memories. The sight of a baby perched peacefully on its' mother's back is something you see ALL over Africa. In West Africa, the term used for this makeshift type snuggly is a Lapa...in South Africa, the term is a Kanga.
Just about every baby on the Continent has had it's share of "Back Time." I'm referring to a period which can encompass as little as 3-6 months or as long as 3 years. A time when mother and baby connect because they are together almost all the time. Safely snuggled against mom's back, the African baby observes the world shielded by the comfort of knowing that everything and everyone must come through Mom first!
Consequently, people have noted, African babies rarely cry. Why should they? Mom is never far away. They experience all sorts of exciting things from a "rare air" view...looking at life from a perspective which is usually unavailable to little people. African babies are lulled to sleep by the rhythmic movements of their mother's gait and learn to attune to her voice while listening to the music of her beating heart next to theirs.
This is one reason why being a young orphan in Africa is such a loss. Who will carry you next to their heart? Where is the wrapper to shield you from the harsh physical realities of life? Who will embrace your developing form within the warm confines of mom's cloth wrapped cocoon?
When it's time for a baby to be fed, the wrapper is simply untied and a sling is formed which allows mother and baby to nurse comfortably. For an orphan, the emotional loss of this type of security is enormous. You see on the African continent, it's one of life's meaningful dignities to be carried in the warmth of a Lapa, a rite of passage which provides a dimension of safety through the passage way of life.
It is this sort of dignity that Rocky Turner refers to in her mutahood blog post entitled Underwear for Africa ~How You Can Help. The story by Monstersandcritics.com tells about the sale of second hand underwear in Kenya where Rocky is going to help with the orphanage. It's a story about the loss of a basic dimension of human dignity because of poverty. A dignity which seems held at gunpoint by the cruel ravages of desperation fueled by the scarcity of life's most basic necessities. Something that most in western culture can not fully understood because the experience is so foreign and in some ways unthinkable.
It is in this pause, within this space suspended between disbelief and empathy that the decision is made. The choice to support the dignity of life or to deny it. It is what we do with the least of these that defines ultimately the fate we have chosen for ourselves...because like it or not, we are all connected.
So as the image of the African mother carrying her child continues to run through the slide-frames of my mind, I am reminded that we've all been carried at some time. At sometime, we have all needed care, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a hand up, or even hand me down. In other words, in one way or another, we've all ridden for FREE on someone's back and perhaps, now is a good time to return the favor.
Rocky is leaving for Kenya in a few days. We can't go with her physically, but we can support her efforts financially and through our prayers. Rocky is collecting funds for her trip and NEW underwear. You can send donations to her here and visit her blog:
Mothers Fighting For Others INC
Underwear For Africa
27943 Seco Canyon RD # 533
Santa Clarita CA 91350
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