Once upon a time, in a remote African village, way before the automobile was invented, there lived a wealthy trader named Bamisa. Soon after reaching fifty years of age, Bamisa, a generous man who was known and well liked in his own village and in all the neighboring villages, decided it was time for him to discover the rest of the world. Who knows, there might be great opportunities out there, he thought. So early one morning, he started the journey, with no specific destination in mind. Just an exploration.
It was a bright sunny morning after a rainy day. The perfectly blue sky looked further away than usual. Bamisa decided to take the journey with one of his twenty children, 12-year-old Bullah, the oldest son of his youngest (and favorite) wife. The father and the son mounted one of the family’s donkeys, with Bamisa in front and Bullah at the back carrying on his back a small bag full of travel necessities.
The slow pace of the donkey allowed our new explorers to enjoy the scenery and the wildlife –birds flying over their heads or busy building their nests; little animals running from one side of the bush to another, sometimes crossing the trail the son and dad were traveling on.
After a while, our travelers found themselves in a village that looked very different from their own. Even the vegetation was thicker and greener, with more and taller trees. A few yards away, they saw a group of men, women and children carrying farm tools in their hands. “Hey, look at that! This man and his son have mounted a poor little donkey that is hurting to carry them. They will kill the poor little animal. How mean!” someone in the crowd shouted. The statement pierced Bamisa’s heart like a dagger. “This is no poor little donkey,” he reasoned with himself, knowing that the full-grown pachyderm was accustomed to carrying heavy loads. He dismounted anyway, leaving Bullah on the saddle and walked behind them.
Hours later, they reached another village, different from the previous one, a bustling marketplace where all sorts of goods were on display. “Look at that,” an old man in the marketplace shouted. “What a silly man. He’s walking behind a donkey carrying his son instead of the opposite so that his young one, by walking, would learn the hardship of life and grow into a wise man.” A confused Bamisa, who was too good a father to switch places with his son, asked Bullah to dismount, and both of them walked behind the pachyderm.
The sun was sinking in the west moving toward its next stop when our two explorers reached another village that looked like a hunters’ community, with various parts of smoked deer and other wild animals hanging up for sale. No sooner did the people in this village caught sight of Bamisa and Bullah walking behind the donkey than someone burst out laughing and said: “How stupid! Two people walking behind a donkey that could gladly carry them. What in the world!”
Bamisa pretended he did not hear, being more confused than ever. At that very moment, a bird flew over his head and sang a song he was familiar with. But not just any song; one that carried a message; for, in those days when people lived closer to Mother Nature, a line of communication existed between humans and animals.
The bird’s message to Bamisa was: “Whatever you do, someone will find faults with it. So stick to your ideas so long as you are on the path of righteousness.”
The father and son mounted their donkey and continued their journey.