If Only It Were This Easy

A truly compassionate world would have looked different from the one we have today. People hurt each other and don’t even care that they did. People have become egoistic creatures stepping on each other and only think of themselves. The world would be a better place if we developed empathy.

Empathy: the ability to comprehend another person’s emotions/feelings or problems without experiencing them at that particular moment. It’s to experience the world from another person’s view. To experience life from their living conditions and feeling what it feels like to be that person. It’s complicated at times to understand what someone is going through, if you haven’t been through it for yourself. But once you experience if for yourself, your point of view changes and how you feel about those facing similar situations.

An old lady in our umudugudu must receive insulin injections twice a day. She goes to the health center for the injection, but they refuse claiming that she doesn’t have her insurance (mutuelle de sante) card, even though she had the prescription. She forgot it at the hospital when she was diacharged. She walks back to the hospital and returns back to the health center for the injection. Another incident happened when she forgot her prescription at the health center (blame it on the old age). The following day they inform her that she couldn’t get the injection, on claims that she didn’t have the prescription, which is just crazy. She’s there every day and they know her. She tells them she forgot it there and asks them to check. They say they can’t find it, so she won’t get the injection unless she goes back to the hospital to get a new one. As she’s leaving, she meets this other nurse who agrees to inject her. And he finds it there on the table. This poor woman would have died. This whole thing could have been avoided if they simply treated her like a human being that is sick and needs medicine. If they were compassionate, they would know how it feels to be in that position and give her the injection, then straighten the issue out afterwards.

You pretend to offer someone something that you have no intention of actually offering. You make the other person think that they have a chance with you. You told them things that made it seem like you liked them. Everything was going great (at least the other person thought so). You knew how they felt about you but you used their feelings. You knew they considered you special and knew that you’d never feel the same but you manipulate them into a one-sided relationship. You knew how they felt, but you knowingly played with their feelings. Or someone who cheats on their long-term partner. They claim they weren’t getting enough attention. That their significant other was too busy when they needed them, so they turned their time to someone who gave them all the attention. They didn’t put themselves in the other’s position to imagine how they would feel if it were them being cheated on. There’s no way to sugar coat it, it’s disrespectful and mean. Making an active choice to mislead someone makes you just a user, a liar, a coward. Did you ever think about how that makes the other person feel? How would you feel if that happened to you? How would you react? It breaks their heart. It kills their self-esteem. It emotionally ruins them. You don’t use someone like that. They don’t deserve to be played. Odds are, they tried to be a good partner. They deserve better than being manipulated. If you’re not interested in someone, just grow a pair and tell them. It hurts but being played hurts even worse. The more people are played and hurt, the less likely they are to want to get serious with anyone else. The next time you hit on someone and they push you away, remember that it’s people like you who are killing real relationships. Don’t do it unless you’d be fine with it happening to you. If you were compassionate, you would know how it feels to be played/manipulated and hurt, and you would not do that to anyone.

I find it hard to believe that people don’t know when their actions are hurting another person. Deep down we always know right from wrong thing, but we ignore doing the right thing and we find reasons to excuse that. The I have to think of myself or else I might suffer kind of reasons.

Imagine that sick old woman is your loved one, your mother. Imagine the person being played, cheated on is your brother or your sister. Imagine they are the one going through that suffering. Imagine the suffering in as much detail as possible. Reflect on how much you would want that to end. Reflect on how happy you would be if another person acted upon it, and did something to help ease the suffering or end it completely. If it were you, what would you like someone to do to end that suffering?

We should recognize our commonalities and ignore the differences. We are all human beings. We need food, shelter and love. We all seek happiness. We all try to avoid suffering in our lives. We all seek to fill our needs. We have all known sadness, loneliness and hopelessness. We all feel the same thing. This realization allows us to feel compassion towards one another.

You walk by a stranger who gives you a dirty look. Try to imagine the mood that person is in. maybe they’re having a bad day. Or someone steps on you but instead of apologizing, yells at you to “watch where you put your feet”. It angers you. Try to imagine what that person is going through or what kind of bad things happened to that person. Maybe he just got fired from work and still has debts, or his business is falling. Maybe he’s going through a nasty divorce. Imagine the suffering he must have been going through to treat you that way. Understand that their action was not about you, but what they were going through. They hurt just like you. They feel joy just like you. They worry and feel scared sometimes just like you. They have bad days just like you and have amazing days just like you.

Do something to help end the suffering of others, even in a tiny way. Even a smile, or just talking about a problem with another person.
The golden rule being: treat others as you would want to be treated.
Get out of your own head/mind.
See with the eyes of another.
Hear with the ears of another.
Feel with the heart of another.

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Gone But Not Forgotten: Tribute To The Late Old Lady Who Didn’t Know Me

My memory of you is on your funeral. I saw a picture of you (well, Y has shown me many). The one they carried at your funeral. It sat proudly on the coffin. I remember you by that picture. And the stories that Y has told me about you. Lots of stories. You were the wisest woman Y told me. You were loving and very smart. You were strong and hardworking. You were kind and a woman of God. You were a mother figure to him. But you broke his heart by your passing. I can’t imagine any loss more crushing than yours.

The day you passed, I remember it vividly like it was yesterday. We were in Gisenyi (good old days) when P called Y and told him to come home. But Y being the stubborn guy he is, asked why he was being called home. Then P told him about your demise. And his world went dark. The hours that followed were filled with tears. Not knowing what to do (Do I hold him in my arms? Hug him? I gave him a tissue though), nor how to react to that (I’d never seen Y in such terrible pain) the one thing I could do was to make sure he got home safe as he might not have been thinking straight since he was grieving over your death.

Your home was filled with the anguish felt by your loved ones and whispers of your life and imminent death (because no matter how much preparation and how ready one thinks they are for the death of a loved one, it truly stings when they actually pass and you realize that you can never be ready for the blow). Your passing called attention to the fragility of life. It was another awakening that one could slip away in an instant. That the 3 minutes passed could be the last. That the next minute or hour or even tomorrow is not promised. That death could arrive this same morning which has every hour filled in advance. I may forget it on a regular basis but it slips into my mind at times, when I board a motorbike or while crossing a street or when someone passes away. I’m mindful of how quickly life can be taken away.

Your funeral services were heartbreaking but beautiful. The attendance spoke volumes about the impact you had on every one present. They all knew you in different ways and had their own special memories. Memories created that will last a lifetime. Several eulogies were given at your funeral. Beautifully written eulogies which gave us a wonderful image of a vibrant loving woman you were. A woman who fully lived her life. A lovely service it was.

I won’t say there is not a day that has passed without me thinking about you, that would be an overstatement. But there are times I find myself wondering what it would have been meeting you in-person. On those days, I see your picture. A picture of you that has stayed ingrained in my mind. That picture on which you’re smiling. A picture that portrays the happy woman you were. It feels like I’ve known you for ages. The people you never met (like me) know you through stories. Stories that your loved ones readily recount. So your legendary lives on. Whenever I think of you, it’s that picture that comes to my mind.

There were days I wished you were there, like when Y said he misses you. I thought about how unconditionally a grandma’s (read: your) love is and imagined how lucky he was to have you as his grandma. You’ve had a deep and lasting impact on his life. You’re such an integrated and ingrained part of his life. I can only hope that he’s reached an easier place now, one where he can smile as the memories of you arise in his mind. One where with each passing day he can carry your memory with a little more joy and a little less sorrow than the day before.

It’s been a year since your passing.
I am just a girl seated somewhere remembering you today. I’m just a girl who wished to have met you in person (had the circumstances allowed). I was not fortunate to know you before your passing, but I enjoyed the stories Y told me about you. And though you didn’t get to know me, know that we share something in common: we both love Y.

You’re deeply missed and always remembered.

Rest in peace.

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J & P

What do you do when one of your best girlfriends is getting married? I’m over the moon. I’m SOOO happy for her.
I’ve been sitting and thinking about how awesome our friendship is. I have found myself truly blessed. Through tears and smiles, laughter and heartache, she’s been a part of my life. We’ve laughed together at the silliest of things. Because of her, I have learned great lessons and hold many glorious memories (the 11 d’or party! Hehe). She taught me to always be truthful. She not only told me what I wanted to hear, but pushed me, repeating those affirmations that mean everything when someone who cares about you says them. I would fall apart if we ever stopped talking or if anything happened to our friendship.
She’s now on the other side of the world and as much as I wished to be at her wedding, I won’t *develops instant ulcer* (why can’t I teleport for just one day? Is that too much to ask?)

So, I’m writing this post about Rwandan weddings as a tribute to her. This post is also for those people who are curious about the Rwandan culture.

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In Rwanda, there are wedding rituals that our ancestors have invented and have observed for a very long time.
Rwandan wedding traditions have a strong significance because marriage joins not only two people but also both their families. In Rwanda, almost all the important wedding practices are the same, except for some (minor) that differ from place to place.
Rwandan weddings have three ceremonies: traditional, religious, and civil. Traditional wedding involves mutual introduction and dowry giving (gusaba no gukwa). The couple also gets the consent of parents to allow them to get married. The church or civil wedding, is when the bride and groom are officially united in matrimony.
Some of the practices have changed over time, however many remain the same.

When a girl or boy was of age to be married, his or her parents would start the preliminary search for a suitable partner for their child.

KURANGA/KURANGIRA: this was the search for a suitable partner for their child. The family chose umuranga who would point out a young lady/man as a potential bride/groom for their child (kuranga/kurangira). Umuranga did profound research on the lady/guy and their family (their manners, their family lineage, their conduct in society) and informed the other family. If the family approved, the next phase was gufata irembo.

Abaranga acted as middlemen for the man’s family and the family of the bride-to-be.
Today, both the man and lady meet and date, until their relationship culminates into marriage.

GUFATA IREMBO: The father of the potential groom, or a special envoy chosen by the family, visits the girl’s family to declare the intention of his son to marry their daughter. If the girl’s family approves, plans are made as to when the introduction ceremony (gusaba) would take place.

GUSABA: Both families are required to have a spokesman to represent them. The spokesman is a member of the family to speak on behalf of the family. They discuss why really their children should get married. They discuss until it’s decided that a young man on the groom’s side could marry a female from the other family.

GUKWA: Next, they decide the bride price to be offered as a dowry payment to the bride’s family (gukwa). Dowry was given in the form of a cow and the number of cows determined how much the bride was valued. Nowadays, some may give the dowry in terms of money but equivalent to the price of the cow(s) the groom gives to the bride’s parents. The dowry serves to recognise the bride’s family’s efforts in raising their daughter and preparing her for marriage. Bride price must be paid first in order for the couple to get permission to marry in the church or in other civil ceremonies, or the marriage is not considered valid by the bride’s family. Once the bride’s family finds the dowry acceptable, it’s finally agreed that the couple can marry.
Today, both the introduction and dowry giving are combined and take place successively. 

GUTEBUTSA: after the introduction and dowry giving, the man’s family went to ask the girl’s family when the wedding would take place. Both families would talk and fix a date for the wedding. Presently, the wedding plans are done between the bride, groom and their immediate families.

GUSHYINGIRA: this was the wedding day. The bride’s family chose some men, women and girls to accompany the bride to her husband’s family, to which she now belonged to. They were headed by umukwe mukuru and umushyingira (a woman who most of the times is the girl’s godmother). They all went at night. When they reached near the home, they put the bride in a traditional mat (ikirago) and two girls held the mat. For the rich, the bride was carried in ingobyi, which was a traditional mat with two long slender pieces of wood attached to both sides of the mat. Ingobyi had four handles which would be placed on the shoulders of four men and carry the bride.
As they entered, umukwe mukuru and some men entered first, followed by the bride surrounded by girls, and after them other men. They would then be guided inside, and ceremonies to honor the wedding would be held.

In modern times, the gushyingira is the big white wedding.
And after the church and civil wedding ceremonies, a reception to celebrate the marriage follows.

GUTWIKURURA: Gutwikurura literally means to unveil or uncover. Traditionally after marriage the newly wed wife would not be seen in public and would completely refrain from work (kwarama). She would remain indoors performing small chores like churning the milk. At the end of this period her family would visit her and bring her several items to help her settle in her home. During the ceremony, the groom’s mother and the groom help the bride prepare her first meal (gutekesha) and they all share the meal. Then the bride’s hair is trimmed off. Traditionally, girls had amasunzu (a kind of hairstyle). They trimmed off the amasunzu as a symbol that she’s now a married woman. Also, the bride and groom give milk to children (a boy and a girl) as a symbol to wish them to bear children of both sexes. These children also must have both parents alive, to symbolise that the new couple’s children will not become orphans. The bride is then allowed to come out (go in public) and to resume her work.

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So, here’s wishing you, J & P, a joy-filled marriage with memories galore!
God bless your marriage, always.

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