(These are words spoken, as our family gathered, with friends, at our little house, in the little Vilage of Da Gao She, on the outskirts of Beijing, China, on the Afternoon of August 30th 2016)
I am so happy that we can be together in this way, today.
In the North of this Beautiful Country, in Heilongjiang Province, in the City of Jiamusi, I learnt the tradition of making speeches at any and every occasion, especially when we share a meal.
I know, here in Beijing this tradition is not always followed, but it is my birthday and it is my desire to mark this occasion with words.
Words are our craft.
It is what we busy ourselves with, every day, as we teach others a new language.
I believe, words are seeds.
Seeds we sow, every day in the lives of the people we encounter.
And the seeds germinate.
And they grow.
And they make forests.
Forests in which we live.
You know this.
I’m not telling you something new.
The words our parents and grandparents and teachers spoke, when we were little, those words haunt us or empower us, as we grow up.
We believe them.
Sometimes we fight them, but still they hold on to us.
Maybe, as a child we were told our efforts aren’t good enough?
Today, as we try, we hear those words, without realizing it.
We feel them.
We feel, our efforts, aren’t good enough.
This is the first I would like to give to you on this occasion: remember that words are seeds, and as they’ve grown in your life, they will grow in the lives of your students and your friends and your lover, the lives of your children and in your own heart.
Speak kindness and encouragement to yourself.
Speak beautiful things to your students and the people with whom you share your days.
It will draw them closer.
It will germinate and grow and build something exquisite in you and around you.
This is my hope, today, as I speak these words.
That they will be seeds of beauty in your life.
In Africa we have given a name to Evil.
To the origin of trouble, hardship and unhappiness.
We call him ‘Tokolosh’.
Much like the Devil of Western Theology or the Dragon in the Mountains for whom we leave money in a red envelope, at Spring Time, so that our children will not be taken.
In our villages and homes the story is told of a family who was aflicted by ‘Tokolosh’.
Trouble haunted them.
Their crops failed.
Their goats’ milk dried up.
Their children fell ill.
And they argued fiercely, every day, fighting like people who never loved each other.
One day, the father of the family said: I know why we have so much trouble amd why the love is lost between us. It is ‘Tokolosh’. He has found our home and he is trying to destroy us.
They spoke about it and decided to move.
As far away as they can afford.
To get away from ‘Tokolosh’.
They spoke in whispers, so that ‘Tokolosh’ would not hear them.
They prepared secretely, so that he would not know of their plan.
And one morning, before sunrise, they loaded their wagon and whipped the Donkey, to get away.
As the sun rose over the hills, their home disappeared behind them in the distance and relief flooded them.
And as they enjoyed the moment of hope, the father heard a noise on the back of the wagon, under some furniture.
And he looked, and from a cupboard came a gruesome sight, a monster rising with the words:’Ah, we are moving. I wonder where we’ll live’.
The lesson our Ancestors want to teach us, with this story, is important.
‘We cannot move away from our troubles’.
‘Wherever we go, we’ll take our trouble with us’.
This is true of trouble.
And it is true of happiness.
Whatever is in our heart, goes with us, no matter where we go.
Our heart is the most important.
That which cannot be seen, but which determines all our actions and choices.
The second ‘word’ I would like to sow, is this reminder, fortified with an encouragement.
Do not neglect your heart.
Slay the dragons who haunt you.
Eradicate the fruit of bad seed which were sown into your being from when you were born.
Find your true self and nurture him.
Think about life.
Think about your being.
Think about what you value and what values energize your existence.
My friend, Shelley Walters, taught me:’Energy flows where attention goes’.
Let some of your energy flow to your inner.
To your being.
For it is from our heart that our actions and words are born.
And if our heart is allowed to flourish, no matter where we go, it will not be ‘Tokolosh’ who emerges from the cupboard, but happines, framed by love and peace.
Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve seen: dogs bark, birds fly and people want to be happy.
Nobody lives with the hope to be miserable.
Nobody falls in love or makes friends, in a desperate attempt to flush their life with joyless tedium.
All of us, no matter where we are from, we share this one hope, that we will be happy.
This is a good hope.
Happy people are kind.
Happy people bring energy with them.
Happy people are like the fragrance of flowers.
Where they are, life seems easier, simpler, better.
This is a hope, I believe, that was planted in us from before we were born.
In a sense, it is the reason for our being.
That is why the hope to be happy stays alive in us, despite the greatest disappointments and the worst adversities.
When you pursue this, remember the story of the African Family and ‘Tokolosh’.
Happiness isn’t found in a place.
It isn’t hidden in lots of money.
It does not come from getting married or having children.
Happiness is something we bring with us, wherever we go, like that family who brought ‘Tokolosh’ with them.
It is hidden in our hearts.
Patiently waiting, while we search for it in stuff.
It comes alive in us, when we see that we are precious.
That we are lovingly woven into this life, not by chance, or accident.
But by the love and kindness of our Origin.
When we see, that we are not alone.
We are not left to our own ingenuity.
But live, from the Source of Life from whom we all come.
This Source is not the powerless gods for whom so many wars were fought and so many people were killed.
This Source is not the demanding deities who might help us if we burn enough insence or say enough prayers or do enough good things.
This Source is Love itself.
This Source is Peace.
This Source is the One Who brought this reality into being.
The Universe and the multi-Verse.
And we have to do nothing and we have to be nothing, other than who we are, to live from our Origin.
This is my belief.
This is how I see life.
This is the seed, the Word, I’ve chosen to live from and it has brought a forest of happiness to life in me.
It is from this that I live a happy life.
Despite Loss & Gain and Loss Again.
In 45 years of living there is a lot of loss.
Don’t be fooled, no one lives without loss.
Loss & Gain & Loss Again is the rhythm to which life dances along from Summer to Winter, from Sunrise to Sunset, from Flood to Drought.
If you are happy, you will be resilient amidst loss.
And you will be humble in gain.
You will be able to see the gain, for which it creates new space and you will be able to enjoy life and bring something beautiful to wherever you are.
So this is my hope for you.
My only hope.
That you will be happy.
That happiness, framed by love & peace, will be the ‘Tokolosh’ who climbs from your cupboard wherever you may go.
I hope this for you, my son, as you head to South Africa.
I hope it for my daughters.
And I hope it for each one of you who are so kind to be here today.
Your presence is a gift.
May happiness infest your being.
May it drench your existence.