This story is by Francis Kennedy Murote Chomba and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The Inner Person
The King was taking his annual countryside tour with his son. Many people gathered along their route to greet them and their entourage. As it was the custom of the Simba Kingdom, the King spent each evening in community meetings called ‘barazas’ to listen to community grieves, provide solutions, and promote unity among them. This was the first trip for the King’s son, and he was very keen to learn about the intricacies of his father’s Kingdom.
In the first baraza, a section of expatriates from Nyati Kingdom complained about racial discrimination against them by the villagers. Their skin was a shade or two lighter than the local people, and the locals nicknamed them ‘ghosts’ which was offensive to them.
In the next baraza, there were complaints about the visibility of people with disabilities. The chief asked the King to move all the people with disabilities to a remote village to improve the village’s image to tourists. He demanded the disabled village to be gated and the movement of the people with disabilities in and out of their village should be controlled using a village pass. The chief promised to supply two police officers to enforce the restriction.
In the third baraza, the mayor requested the removal of the homeless along the tourist beach centre. He said they were a disgrace to the community. He proposed to build a forty-story hotel on the homeless people’s camping site. Wanting to prove his point, he presented a business study that projected a five-billion-dollar revenue for the Kingdom in ten years.
The fourth baraza presented a case of religious discrimination in the land of many fortunes. The head chef, dressed in purple, lamented the turbans of ‘Watakatifu’ religion. He proposes introducing laws to barn turban at schools, government offices, hospitals and shopping centres. He demanded the barn of turbans so that all people could look the same.
At the end of the tour, the King’s son was very concerned about the grievances presented to his father. One day, filled with curiosity, he asked his father to tell him the solutions he provided to the villagers. His father told him to go and collect a water bottle from each of those villages and bring them to him.
One evening, he took his father to the shed and showed him the bottles he had collected from each village. They were bottles of many colours: red, white, green, purple, yellow and so on. The same bottles: some were big, others small, and all had different shapes.
The King was very impressed with his son and asked him where he generally found the bottles. He said that he collected some on the road, others in the bin, and the villagers gave him the others.
The King broke his silence and said, Well done, my son; these bottles are like our bodies, and their labels are like the human tags we give to ourselves to feel good or to make the other people feel bad about themselves. However, like these bottles, their significance lies in the water they contain; otherwise, they are thrown into the bin for recycling. Therefore, water is essential to them; without it, they are not ready for recycling.
Human life is the same; the inner person is the most essential part of humanity and never the containers that hold them. Some of us are in white containers, others in yellow containers, while others are in black containers, but our essence is the same. It does not have a colour like our skin.
The same way with people with or without disability, they are all the same. Our inner essence is always whole and never with disability. It is only the body that experiences disability.
In the same way are the human labels: rich, poor, male, female, president or even the queen. Our sense is one and is not subject to these labels. Human value is inherently sacred regardless of the human label. Our essence is neither male nor female, rich, poor, King or Queen. It is beyond these labels and deserves more tremendous respect.
Therefore, I encouraged them to look beyond the containers and their labels; humanity is more than the body and human-made labels because, after all, the body and the labels are temporal; they will end with death when the body is placed back in the ground and the label on the tombstone. However, our essence will live forever.