Thanks to my friend, Libby, for passing along this story in its entirety. Years ago, and in a very special place, I had heard a segment of it and was moved even by that. It’s so nice to have friends who help you put the pieces of the puzzle together –
When a woman in one African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends, and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the unborn child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else.
And when children are born into the village, the community gathers and sings their song, one unique melody for each unique child. Later, when children begin their education, the village gathers and chants each child’s song. They sing again when each child passes into the initiation of adulthood, and at the time of marriage. Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the bedside, as they did at birth, and they sing the person to the next life.
In this African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during a person’s life, he or she commits a crime or aberrant social act, that individual is called to stand in the center of a circle formed by all members of the tribe. And once again the villagers chant the child’s song. The tribe recognizes that the proper correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment, but love and the remembrance of true identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you if you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by the mistakes you have made or the dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.
May we all be blessed to have others to help us remember our own songs, and may we help others remember theirs.