I sat outside the over cramped apartment I’d been sharing temporarily with three friends for most of the week. The oppressiveness of the heat had begun to bear a striking resemblance to that of diabolical forces; I refused to endure the torment any longer. There was no chair available so I made do with the overturned skeleton of an old square stove and gazed uninterestedly at the two ladies engrossed in a game of Ludo a few feet away. Every now and then my eyes would stray to a goat, chicken or tree before returning to them. After several minutes of such idleness, I thought to just get a book to read or something – as there seemed little else left to do that was useful.
Five minutes later I was still ‘thinking’ about getting a book (or something) when folk came by and engaged me in a conversation – effectively postponing my plans till further notice. As we chatted about this and that, my eyes strayed to the ladies again and I noticed a man approaching them. I could tell from his gaze that he was drawn by the game, one reason why his failure to respond to my greeting in the native dialect didn’t upset me in the least. Dirty and ruddy with a hoe on his shoulder, he stood there and watched them, a small smile curving dry lips. I shifted my focus back to my own discussion but some moments later, their female voices cut into my concentration and they didn’t sound very happy. I looked to them yet again. Apparently he had attempted to join in the game and the ladies weren’t having it. They were having a contest and had no intention of letting it get interrupted. Of course, thanks to the language barrier, they couldn’t really communicate this to him in a gentler or more gracious manner so the only options they were left with were head shakes and gentle pushes as the man tried to come closer.
I sat and watched. I voiced the question in my head: Couldn’t the contest get postponed? My gist partners had moved closer to where the three of them were and they observed as well. With every rebuttal, the man still had his small smile fixed firmly in place. His shoulders didn’t slump, his eyebrows didn’t furrow, and I don’t believe his eyes even dulled. I could promise you they did but…I get the feeling that would be me projecting my feelings of his treatment. He stayed and watched for a bit longer before finally taking his leave. I guess he too, like many of us, could tell where he wasn’t wanted.
The ladies were unperturbed…and I was strangely hurt.
Really though, why couldn’t the contest be postponed? This was a game they had access to 24/7 – and played often enough for it to be considered an addiction. What would it take to postpone the little contest, smile at a man who’d probably spent most of his day stuck on a farm underneath the unblinking gaze of a vengeful sun, offer him a seat and just let him roll the di a few times? I understand how sometimes we can get so into a game or an activity and it can be a tad inconvenient when we’re interrupted but…
It’s just inconvenience.
I know not everyone thinks alike. I know I sometimes overthink things. But I also know that time without number we humans allow our narcissism clog up all the room in the space we call existence, till our consideration, empathy or kindness gets strangled to insignificance. He didn’t ask for food (though he was most likely hungry), nor did he ask for drink (ditto for thirst too); he just wanted to play. If the contest was so intensely important, a little care and sprinkles of imagination could bring useful alternatives to mind. He could have been told to wait a bit while both ladies set about tripling the game’s speed in a record-breaking style, or one of them could have just gone to get another board from a nearby block and let him have at it (I’d probably have played with him if it got to that). There’s even a way that he could have been denied the joy of physical participation without having to feel left out. If they explained nifty moves and tricks in the game as they made them, infusing enough liveliness and drama into the activity, I’d bet he’d have been delighted with that too!
Some folks might be rolling their eyes at all this ‘fuss’ I seem to be making…it’s nice to know their sockets are so healthy. J My issue here isn’t necessarily that a man didn’t play Ludo on the 29th of April. The game is not likely to add an iota of value to his life. My issue is that many of us are often too quick to be hostile, to be impatient, to be uncaring and unfeeling. It’s that we seem to have taken as a norm, this utter lack of interest in seeking out avenues to be unnecessarily hospitable, generous with our kindness and lavish in our affections – to all people.
It’s not compulsory, but it is good to let our considerations span matters beyond our personal needs. We might never know how fulfilling it is to be a blessing, or part of the reason behind someone’s smile, if all we ever do is chant: “Me, myself and I.”
So if next time the dude with the hoe heads your way, please don’t get your frightening poker face ready. Please.
Just let him play.