It’s inherent to human nature to belong. We are just wired that way. Us and animals too it seems. In our recent trip to the Masai Mara we watched in wonder a young lion cub who I’m sure had misbehaved and was consequently slumping on the naughty mound of ground for the day. He was all by himself, dark cub spots emphasized in the soft African early evening light. As the low slung clouds waited for their queue to explode, the air was peacefully still. Alongside us the cub stretched, smelled the air and started to walk slowly down the road keeping pace with our wheels. After some distance he took a right turn into the savannah grass and luckily as we were in a safari vehicle, we did too. Nonchalantly and totally oblivious to us, he just kept walking, every now and then lifting his head to catch a whiff of where he was going. We saw the rest of the pride long before he did. Lots of mommy lionesses and a few sets of cubs – some dozing, some playing and most preparing for the onslaught of an African thunderstorm. Suddenly, as if by a predetermined and synchronized signal, the entire pride turned in the direction of the wayward cub, lifted their necks to the wind and water and stopped in their tracks. The prodigal son had returned. Momma lioness set off eagerly to welcome her boy back. All was forgiven. Siblings followed in the now pouring rain, their bigger than needed feet flopping forward and back, forward and back. Momma and son started running at exactly the same time. What a sweet welcome home. Rebellion got the better of him though, and seconds before the meeting time, the cub dived into the ditch alongside the road and lay belly flat, hiding. As momma drew parallel, he pounced on her and they embraced, rubbed noses, smiled and he satisfied with the greeting and reconciliation, gambled off to pounce on his playmates. He was home where he very much belonged.
We belonged too and felt so at home for the four days in a small lodge called Kichwa Tembu, hidden from the herds in a mass of thorny acacia trees filled with birds and bees, nag-apies and monkeys. Overlooking the vast Masai Mara plains this beautiful tented camp had all the trimmings including a personal butler, dedicated guide, masseuse and far too much food. Our every whim and fancy was pandered to starting from early morning tea wake up calls, breakfasts in the bush, lunches on the verandah, afternoon teas under the trees and dinners round the boma. Staff appeared from nowhere to carry our bags, show us the way, scare the leopards off after dark, question our well being, bring us a drink or simply just to chat. They obviously wholeheartedly bought into the hospitality scheme of things, seemed genuinely thrilled that we were sharing space with them and at every opportunity made sure we felt totally at home and where we belonged. We quickly became family and as we celebrated both our 30th wedding anniversary and Carla’s 25th birthday during this time, festivities lingered with a special lunch in the lodge’s organic vegetable garden, rose petals on our bed, pink balloons for Carla, birthday and anniversary cakes and the resident band singing and bashing out, with pot lids, knives and forks, happy anthems on our behalf. Every time we returned from a game drive and were greeted with “Welcome Home” we knew we’d come home to where we belonged.
And so to December where the whole Buck clan gathered for Christmas the first time in forever years. It was the first at our new holiday home in the Eastern Cape. The old and young Buck brothers and all the others laughed and lived our way through two weeks of gorgeous days, tranquil nights, lots of walking on white beaches, body boarding, plenty of fishing, too much food (again) and much shell seeking for the upcoming beach wedding in March. A very happy time of Belonging Bucks.
That all seems many moons away. Life has resumed. Carla and Rory now live and work in Macedonia. Hopefully they will soon find a special community of people to which they can belong. Damon is back at his desk in the corner, designing and drawing all day and most of the nights. Lincoln continues his never ending task of trying to extract money out of the Dubai government for the very fancy and very profitable airport finished three years ago and I’m packed and ready to roll to Sri Lanka in the early hours of the morning. I go to train trainers who will in turn teach teenagers how to do life with purpose and passion. I pray that I will be allowed to clearly communicate to my students their worth and value so much so that they are able to see it in themselves and in turn pass it on to the teenagers they have the privilege of walking alongside. But mostly I pray that they feel that they belong – mostly to themselves, then to God, to their communities and to this world. I echo the words of George Bernard Shaw:
“This is the true joy of life:
Being used for a purpose – a mighty one!
My life belongs to the whole community.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die!
Life is a sort of splendid torch…I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
I hope that those that I have the honour of working with this week will take this motto away with them too. If they do – watch this space. I’ll be doing cartwheels and star jumps and will write across the skies…
Mission Accomplished – probablyinpurple!