Every night before we went to bed, we would gather in the kitchen around the fire and mother would narrate to us a story as she cleared up. My siblings and I would stare wide-eyed at her, waiting in anticipation. She would walk around for a few minutes, evidently enjoying the attention, before she began her story.
She mostly narrated to us stories she felt would teach us valuable lessons. However, on some days she would ask which story we would like to hear at which we would quickly request our favourite stories and she would narrate the most popular request. Today was one of those days.
“Which story would you like to hear today my children?” Mother asked.
‘The fox and the tortoise mama!’
‘No mama, the sun and the wind!’
‘Mama, tell us about the legend Luanda Magere!’
I sat in silence listening to my older siblings shouting their requests, trying to guess which story would be picked. Being the youngest of nine, it was pointless to even try to say what I wanted to hear, the older ones mostly got their say. So I sat and waited. Mama told all the stories wonderfully anyway, I would not mind listening to any.
“Shisya, I have not heard you speak. Which story would you like to hear?’
My siblings groaned in disappointment, mama had chosen me. I would pick the story. Like the rest, I too had my favourite story and I did not need to think twice before making my request.
‘I would like you to tell us the myth of the honest men mama.’
All around the room I could hear my siblings mummer their approvals to my request. The room fell into complete silence once more as we all waited for mama to begin. Her voice filled the room loud and captivating as she narrated.
“My children, many a story were created by our fore fathers as a means to educate the young. Most are just myths, stories that are not true, although they do contain a lot of wisdom. The story I am about to narrate may not be true, but it does contain lessons that are good and true .Lessons I hope you always carry with you. So heed my words and heed them well, listen to what I have to tell. Are you ready then?”
‘Yes mama! We all cried in eager unison.’
Once upon a time, not too long ago, there lived a certain tribe that possessed a treasure that was one of a kind, one that was so good and true. This treasure was not one you could buy with gold or bribe the witchdoctors to possess. It was a treasure that came only from within and this treasure was known as honesty.
Now in this tribe, when children were born they were constantly taught that lying was wrong. Honesty was their only song.
Speak the truth even when it is hard,
Speak the truth for lying is bad,
Lies are poison even those of the smallest measure
Honesty is the one true treasure.
The people of this tribe lived by this song. They always spoke the truth and for this reason their community was always very peaceful, loving and successful beyond measure.
The success, peace and love of the tribe of honest men was talked about far and wide and so, many a tribe would send a man or two to this land to try and learn their secret. However, each and everyone would fail. The tribe of Pride was the first to send their men.
‘We have come from far to seek the treasure you possess.’ Said the men from the tribe of pride to the chief of the
tribe of honest men. ‘Your success is sang of far and wide please tell us your secret for we too seek this success.’
‘Welcome my friends, I hope you travelled well.’ Said the chief of the honest men. ‘You will be pleased to know that your journey has not been done in vain for I have a simple solution to help you gain your success. Your tribe is one of hardworking men and that I do admire. You work well with a fierceness that success does require. What you lack is honesty. Openness and truth, most especially when you go wrong. This will help your tribe become even more successful and strong.’
The men from the tribe of pride looked at each other with great worry. Finally one of them spoke up, ‘Great chief, what if the honesty threatens to tarnish one’s good image?’
‘Dear friends, honesty may tarnish your image but only for a while. The fact that you were truthful is what will last a lifetime.’
The men from the tribe of pride could not understand this. Sacrificing one’s good image? How can one lower themselves to such a level? They simply could not understand it and so unable to follow this advice, they thanked the chief and left to seek answers elsewhere.
The men from the tribe of excuses came to seek advice as well but just like the men from the tribe of pride they walked away disappointed. The men from this tribe were firm in their belief that one could be dishonest if they had good reason to.
‘What if being honest will hurt a loved one? Should one go ahead and be honest anyway?’
The chief of the honest men tried to make them see reason.
‘Your honesty may hurt their ego but only for a while. You will then see that in the long run, they will appreciate your truthfulness and they will always treasure your opinion.’
And so the men from the tribe of excuses unable to see how they could follow this advice left to look for advice elsewhere.
Finally came the men from the tribe of cowardice. They came to seek advice just like the other two tribes but just like the two tribes they could not understand how one is expected to be honest at all times.
So they asked. ‘What if one is afraid of the cost that comes with honesty? Is that not more than enough reason to be dishonest?’
The chief of the honest men, again tried to make this tribe see reason.
‘My friends, the treasures one gets from being honest, the joy, the pride, this is worth beating any fear you have of speaking the truth.’
The men from the tribe of cowardice unable to carry out this advice decided to seek advice elsewhere as well.
So the men from the tribes of pride, excuses and cowardice went their own way. One tribe too proud to speak the truth, another constantly finding reasons to lie and yet another too cowardly to speak the truth. Despite seeking alternative methods far and wide, never did these tribes manage to gain as much peace, love and success as the tribe of the honest men.
“My children, pride, excuses and cowardice will be your downfall. Contrary to what many people say today, one does not have to be dishonest. It is a choice you make. You always have the option of being brave and humble, the option to choose honesty. Heed my words and heed them well children, follow this lesson and you will live well.”