Picturing Swahili proverbs, a reflection by Wilma Metcalf

“Being crippled is not a disease.” This was the proverb standard five students at Shalom Primary School were asked to create a story about through the use of LTP. From the outside looking in, you would ask why one of the pictures in their sequence was of a trial and someone being charged, but after probing further, you find the sweet beauty of this picture and why it is one of my favorites. Upon first seeing this proverb, we began to discuss possible meanings. I, the inexperienced and underestimating “teacher”, expected the first interpretation to be literal, like being crippled doesn’t handicap you from all activities. However, my incredible group immediately went the direction of, “being crippled is not contagious, so we should include them in society and give them their basic human rights.” Needless to say, I was speechless when this was not only the first interpretation brought up by the students, but the only interpretation with absolute and unanimous support. The group then decided on the story of a crippled man’s murder ending with the conviction of his killer.

I’m still struggling to understand exactly why I’m so full of wonderment at these students. Was it the sheer compassion of these young students in unfortunate circumstances or was it the wisdom far beyond their years that I heard in their words? The only thing I know for certain is that on this day, I realized there was something extremely special about the people of this unique country. We, as Americans, hear so many negative things about the people of other countries, yet we never hear of their compassion and generosity, which we have experienced tenfold during this month here. We hear of their poverty, but we never hear of their resiliency and drive to financially support themselves and their families through the largest variety of jobs imaginable. There is an image painted for us of poor, starving children and begging adults, while in reality the people of Tanzania work painstakingly long and arduous hours, some doing jobs 99% of Americans would never consider doing. Yes, the cultures of these two countries are very different, as are our ideas, but after this lesson with these standard five children and this stay in Tanzania, I will forever be much more apprehensive and defensive when negative statements are made against other countries. When thinking about the people of Tanzania, I am reminded of a poem I first heard in the movie “G.I. Jane.”

“Self Pity” by Walt Whitman
I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself
A small bird will fall frozen dead from a bough
Without ever having felt sorry for itself

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