|The moral dream of the First Lady|
|Saturday, 09 June 2012 12:00|
The philosopher Plato had a unique worldview. He argued that reality has its foundation in entities called forms or ideas. For him forms were the really existing entities. Material things, such as the Reserve Bank building in Harare, are a mere imitation of a real existing idea which was discovered by the architect and concretised by the builders.
These material structures, unfortunately, like those Twin Towers in New York City can collapse to nothing, but the forms or the real idea cannot be destroyed.
The forms of the Twin Towers are eternal, absolute and pure. So another brilliant architect will rediscover the original form, probably with new insights, and other builders will concretise the Twin Towers again.
The point of Plato’s worldview is in its value for the foundational significance of the idea or form.
Four hundred and fifty years latter the bible endorsed this view of reality by stating that even at the beginning of this universe in which we participate its form/idea was already in existence.
The idea was with God and out of that idea or form our material world came into being and the material universe, unlike the original form is not eternal, absolute and pure. The materiel world is always changing.
Therefore, what we all strive to achieve through our religious faith is the original goodness represented in the eternal, absolute and pure idea that God had at the beginning.
Plato honoured the forms/ideas because without them material things would not have existed.
He also admired architects for their capacity to use imagination to discover this aspect of reality and then being able to portray their mental discoveries through blueprints used by construction workers to concretise the ideas into material shelters that we all enjoy.
The apostle John was in fact a spiritual Platonist, was he not?! He said that in the beginning was the idea and the idea was with God, in fact the idea was God.
And The Old Testament says, out of this first idea, all men were made — in his form or image!
The point I am making is that ideas or forms are the foundation of our material reality. That is why institutions that are commissioned to pursue ideas, i.e. universities are held in high esteem by all communities in the world.
People who discover (not create) ideas, in whatever discipline, are honoured as doctors of philosophy.
The beauty of ideas/forms is that once discovered they last forever making material difference in our lives. Forms have neither beginnings nor ends: they just are. But they are the source of material entities.
1. In the beginning was the form/idea of penicillin. Now many of us enjoy the fruits of this mental discovery in form of good, but not perfect material medicines and good, but not absolute health.
2. In the beginning was the idea of airplane discovered by the imagination of Orville and Wilbur Wright, which, to most of us now makes the world a global village in which we are all neighbours.
3. In the beginning were what Mortimer Adler called six great ideas, namely goodness, truth, beauty, liberty, equality and justice. These ideas were discovered by penetrating minds of the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Michelangelo, Wilberforce, Marx, Jefferson, Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Nkrumah and Mugabe.
We now use these ideas to judge things and events we experience in the world. We use truth, goodness and beauty to judge things and events around us.
We use ideas like liberty, equality and justice to govern our social and ethical conduct. The ideas permeate the minutest tenets of our lives.
The families we are born in, the communities that mould our culture and where those who care for us come from.
These people exercise these values to bring the greatest good to the greatest numbers. Unfortunately, sometimes the numbers are so big that we are only equipped to deal with a few, but that beginning is extremely significant because those who care zero in on the smallest and most vulnerable person in our community.
They strive, through all gigantic obstacles to make the indelible marks that are associated with Plato, Jesus Christ and Wilberforce among others.
We continue in this day and age to get people like those we know only because we can remember.
This is what our First Lady, Mai Grace Mugabe has become after what she has done for the little ones in the Mazowe valley. We do not have to go to ancient Greece to see the ideas, or to the 19th century to see Wilberforce fighting in the British Parliament to make those people civilised as they would relinquish the barbaric acts of enslaving other human beings: We go to the Mazowe Valley to see Mai Mugabe concretise, liberate and benefit totally disadvantaged children of Zimbabwe.
Now, let me turn to Amai Grace Mugabe’s dream and see how she did it and why this is such an important development for mankind. Sometime in the 1990s our First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe discovered a great idea. She calls it “a dream”.
Troubled by the reports of dumped infants, she thought and discovered the idea of caring for these dumped children in a real home.
In 2010, following on ideas that she had developed, Amai Grace Mugabe visited Harare Hospital and another in Bulawayo to see children who had been dumped by their parents.
On these visits she was exposed to a phenomenon that would define her life and mission forever. She was shown tiny babies most of whom had been dumped by their mothers and her heart was moved with compassion.
Instead of just giving a donation to each hospital, she decided to take these children into her own life — to give them not just a shelter, but a home of their own with parental love and parental care, not just for a few days but, like her own natural children, until they are old enough to get into civil society or the world beyond the family, the world of employment and the world of marriage where they could build their own families.
At this juncture there are 24 children, 10 boys and 14 girls, in her children’s home in Mazowe. The ages of the current group range from two months to two years.
The remarkable thing about the Grace Mugabe Children’s Home is the quality of the houses they children live in.
The houses are designed along the lines of family homes as each is fitted with a kitchen, lounge, dining room, five bedrooms and five bathrooms, beautifully furnished and finished.
As mentioned above, the point is not just to provide a ‘desperate child’ with some form of shelter over his or her body, but to give the child a good life.
Each house is a community with a resident mother and two other aunts. The grounds are carefully maintained in fact the beauty inside the houses is equally matched by the beauty of the surrounding grounds.
Amai Mugabe loves her children. She knows each by name. When she enters each house she does really personal things typical of every caring mother attending to her children.
She sits on the mat with them. She has cheerful words for each and these are not just customer care tactics of showmanship.
I witnessed a mother who loves her children and a mother whose mind, heart and soul is absorbed by her love for them. Carrying any of the children on her back comes naturally and is not a big deal for Amai — all the way to view building projects the African mother is seen with a child on her back.
There is a beautifully designed and furnished nursery school among the houses and the children go there to learn.
The building project is of a primary school, which is being constructed for these children. The structure is now complete. Like their homes, this will be a world class primary school.
Amai knows every part of the structure. It’s not work that is done on her behalf after putting out money there! No she is one of the workers and she talks to the Chinese builders in their language. (Amai went to China and acquired the language which she speaks without an accent, but that is another story!) The school will be patronised by her children and children from the neighbouring farms.
She plans to expand her education plans into a secondary school, a university and a hospital — all these institutions in the same Mazowe neighborhood which I call “the valley of moral shelter and education.”
We can safely conclude that the values that guide her in all these stages, according to Amai’s dream are:
1. Concern for the life of these children i.e. moral concern,
2. Security for her children,
3. Beauty for the environment in which they are raised,
4. Development of desirable state of minds i.e. their education — what they become — she dreams of these children becoming scholars, artists, architects, builders, model parents — i.e. men and women with spiritual, practical, social, moral and intellectual skills.
5. Social beings. Although these children have a congenial environment with almost everything that they need and want, Amai Grace Mugabe has, in addition, created a free environment of mixing with other children who come from neighbouring farms and communities in the Mazowe Valley.
With this interface with the community, the children learn to live and work with the community, making it possible to be very sociable and develop a collaborative ethos with the community as a whole. Adjustment to being members of the community is taking place as they grow up.
This is the classical story of Moses being recaptured in our own nation. Moses, the child that was dumped in the reeds and waters of the Nile became a prince and a liberator of his people and became a founder of the foundational religion of monotheism i.e. Judaism and the father of the nation of Israel.
Few months ago some of these children could have died and most of us would not have noticed it, but if Amai’s idea is concretised a ‘Moses’ will rise among them and end up as a CEO of a big corporation or a political leader of national and international consequence. The children come from diverse backgrounds. Amai likes that. She does not care if the lineage is Shona, Ndebele, Tonga, Chewa or any other tribe.
If any of the children was white? Ndaimutora zvakanaka, she says. “I would lovingly embrace that child too.” The point is; when Amai saw dumped children, like Dr Martin Luther King’s Good Samaritan, she did not ask the question:
“What will happen to me and my natural family if I take them?” Instead, she reversed that question and asked: “What will happen to each of these tiny kids if I don’t take them as my own?” Like The Good Samaritan she was moved by universal altruism or concern for the children.
Whereever they came from was not the issue. All children are created equal they have the right to life, shelter, health, love and education.
You would think that Amai would say, “I have played my part. Now let the government institutions take care of them. They won’t die.”
But she does not stop there. Like The Good Samaritan she is driven by excessive altruism or concern that has no limit. The Good Samaritan did not just take the injured victim to an Inn and left him there.
He put him on his best vehicle (donkey) and paid the Inn keeper and promised to follow up with another payment if it was needed.
Amai built model homes for her children, but she did not stop there. She built a model kindergarten for them, but she did not stop there either.
She is building a unique primary school where they will get the best educational foundation, but she is not stopping there.
She has a dream of building a royal quality secondary school for them and she won’t stop there. As far as she is concerned these kids will go to universities or vocational colleges until their God given potential is realised.
In other words she will be a mother to these children until they leave home to get married and/or get jobs.
That is what excessive altruism is about — to continue continuing. One classical philosopher said that, ‘one swallow does not make a summer”.
Now culture is strange. It is assumed in culture that each person is a representative of his or her ancestors and family spirituality. Taking in these children as her own amounts to absorbing their ancestors into hers. (kukweva ngozi dzavamwe).
Her altruism or concern for the lives of these children gives her moral courage to keep on going on in spite of cultural views. Amai is a born again Christian and that is the worldview that inspires her.
Her faith equips her to face cultural hostilities humbly, but confidently. Dr King said that; “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
The true mother will risk her position, her prestige, even her life for the welfare of her children.
In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, she will lift some dumped sick child to a higher, nobler life.” Visit the Grace Mugabe Children’s Home in Mazowe and you will see what dangerous, excessive and universal love for others really means in concrete terms.
This indeed is what the bible refers to as true Godly love (Agape or unconditional love). Amai is not doing this to get anything in terms of material gain, but actually, her gain is to see a life empowered like every other child.
The Holy Scriptures in Matthew 5v16 say “Let your light so shine before all men that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.”
What Amai is doing in Mazowe is a true caption of this verse. We see her good works! The light of love is really shinning!
Another biblical chapter that clearly shows what Amai is doing is in 1 John 3v16-18, which says,
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need, but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.”
In adherence to John’s admonition above, Amai is not just speaking love; instead, she is living it out at the children’s home.
Without much said, Amai preaches love through this project. Let us not hesitate to support such a noble cause through donations and prayer.
Some call it an “orphanage” but she is not happy about that term because an orphan is a child without one or both parents due to death. These were dumped by living parents who just skip responsibility.