Monday, September 28, 2009

tears of the giraffe

in botswana children learn the lesson of the tears of the giraffe. the story goes that there are women who sit, weaving their baskets, and the giraffe wants to give them something to help, but has nothing to give, and so she gives her tears for them to daub on their baskets. the lesson is that everyone has something to give, even if it is only their tears, their compassion.

alexander mccall smith taught me this story in his series on botswana's finest lady detective. this month has been full of grief for so many people--the loss of friends, family, beloved pets, and some long and tiring days. i wonder that we can bear it all. but i see now that the heart has room to take all of the grief in the world and give it back into something good: an embrace, a listening ear, tears to daub on baskets.

"i suppose that it means that we can all give something," she said. "a giraffe has nothing else to give–only tears." did it mean that? she wondered. and for a moment she imagined that she saw a giraffe peering down through the trees, its strange, stilt-borne body camouflaged among the leaves; and its moist velvet cheeks and liquid eyes; and she thought of all the beauty that there was in africa, and of the laughter, and the love.

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it's not just for the classroom!