“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ―
An Abundance Of Things
My tiny District of Gibraltar, St. Ann is barely a dot on the map of Jamaica. Yet it was here, in the deep rural parts, that my five siblings and I spent our formative years. These years paved our way to the highways and byways of opportunity and prepared us all for the sometimes uncharted terrains. We were pioneers in many ways. This is unlike our older cousins, who represented success to our young and impressionable minds. However, they did not travel the courses we took.
We did not have much in terms of ‘things’. We had enough – by our standard. Down the road from our three-bedroom house and hall was a different story. There lived Miss Daisy and Maas Joe. At 6′ tall, Maas Joe was not only perceived to ‘run his house’ but was the most successful farmer and the modern-day equivalent of an “entrepreneur.”
Is This Success?
Maas Joe was successful and, incidentally, he was a distant cousin of my mother. He and his household had “THINGS,” including a car and a massive house that was located right in the district’s square. The downstairs of the house was a huge, in my youthful eyes, grocery shop and upstairs was the living quarters. Maas Joe owned most of the lands in the area, perhaps hundreds of acres, and boy did he work them!
Whenever he was working on the farm, Maas Joe would load the only Land Rover pick-up in the area with labourers of all ages. He owned many herds of cattle that grazed on the fodder next to the Primary School that I attended. Maas Joe had “THINGS.”
Incidentally, this is the School that Daughters of Sheba Foundation has selected for its Student Data Grant Initiative – please donate.
Perhaps they were fleeting moments of ‘need’ but sometimes I wished Maas Joe was my father.
It Is Never About Things
Our house was situated close to the Baptist Church. The cellar below was the storage for the slippers and walking shoes of the women who travelled miles to attend church. Our ‘facilities’ provided relief for them in preparation for the 3-hour long service. We were awakened every Sunday by 5:30 a.m. to clean said ‘facilities’. The early wake up was to make sure it was presentable for the first ‘stranger’ who came by. “Stranger” for us simply meant someone who did not live in our household.
My dearly departed Mother was an upstanding “Market Woman” with an extremely loyal clientele. She sold at the Falmouth Market in Trelawny that is the parish bordering St. Ann. Growing up, my elder brothers and sisters took turns to sell in the market. They either went with my mother or on their own when she was ill. I, Miss Coolie’s ‘wash-belly’, was never taken to the market.
My Mother’s Success
I often tell my only child, Jared, about my astute mother’s juggling act. There was a point when three of us were attending Primary School at the same time. Unable to afford more, the single pencil my mother bought would be ‘cut’ in three pieces. We each took turns with the bit that had the eraser. Through this experience, we learned the value of caring for our ‘things’. We were forbidden from borrowing so we each kept our third of a pencil in a safe place until Friday. I really looked forward to my Monday morning treat when it was my turn to get the bit of the pencil with the eraser. To me, that was success on those days.
Excellence Of Spirit
Our household was infused with a drive, energy and compelling desire to excel.
Excelling did not mean having cars, a huge house, acres of land as Maas Joe and Miss Daisy. To us, ‘things’ meant enough to provide fuel for the journey along the road to the achievement of our life-long ambitions. Our mother never put us under any pressure to do our school work. Her repeated chant was instead, “Pickney, work hard because mi nuh have no legacy fi lef give oonu.” (Translation: Child, work hard as I have no legacy to leave for you.) Another perspective on ‘things’. We learned from an early age that we can only count the cows in our backyard, not anybody else’s. As Theodore Roosevelt so aptly stated:
For better is it to dare mighty ‘things’ to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure – than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that know not victory nor defeat.
The Most Significant Stuff This 2020
A few years ago there was a Facebook post, asking those born in the 1960’s what was their favourite cartoon. I could not take part in this exercise because:
- There was no TV in Gibraltar in my childhood and the radio station signed off at 8:00 p.m. due to poor transmission.
- There was no electricity in my district until the late 1970’s.
Success In These Times
What I have said so far should have clued you in that my beginnings were humble. I must admit that I have been railroaded into indulging, bitten by the ‘material bug’. The challenge we live with today is not trying to provide enough for our children but convincing them that what they have is enough. Things change and not always for the better. This COVID-19 pandemic has certainly reconfirmed that.
There was a sense of beauty, simplicity and wonderment to my childhood and Gibraltar. It was one more about dreams and imagination than of material expectations. Cable, TV and video games did not yet exist. We did not have that luxury, so we visited and played in our “pretend world” created in our backyards or the not too busy streets. It seems we valued things more because there was not a lot but we DID have enough.
Truly, There Is Enough
Materialism is now the way of being. We venerate conspicuous displays of wealth. As a people, we need to revisit the fundamental yet ever-so wise truth that there is enough. More importantly, our children need to be inculcated with a sense of “enoughness” and not such a sharp focus on accumulating.
It will be here soon, albeit looking quite different. Maybe this is a great time to think about the ‘things’, the gifts that you will be giving your children this Christmas?
Daughters of Sheba Foundation will be doing its part helping others while helping you develop a different type of Christmas list this year. We will be having our inaugural Christmas Auction with handmade items or those from women-run businesses. Check out the details here and mark the date that the auction opens – November 1, 2020.