“You cannot harvest where you did not plough”

“You cannot harvest where you did not plough” or “you cannot harvest tomatoes where you planted onions”. Many of us were taught this growing up. It seemed as though the elders were speaking in riddles, because we could not understand. Some of us took it literally to mean if you do not take part in planting, then you cannot harvest. Indeed this is the first meaning.

There is, however, a deeper meaning. Traditionally it would have meant that what you teach a child today is what that child will become tomorrow. So where am I going with this? Our children are growing up in a very violent society where they witness gang shootings, domestic violence, hate, corruption and are even, at times, victims of these crimes. They are exposed to graphic scenes of violence on television, in movies and in the online games they play.

What kind of leaders are we shaping these young minds to be? Do we want to raise children to become adults who hate people of a different race or nationality; who abuse, rape and murder women and children; who rob people of their hard-earned money or steal from the state? The time has come for us to stop only making statements of condemnation. We have been doing that long enough. It has not brought forth any fruits. The ball is in our court now, what we teach in our homes impacts our society. When Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34), there were no conditions, restrictions, or limitations as to race, or gender.

What have we learned from our history? If we do not like seeing this brokenness in our society, what can we do to create change, starting with ourselves and our families, especially the way we raise our children. Children learn far more from the way they see us interact and treat others than from what we say. How do we live in such a way that they ‘catch’ a message of deep respect for human dignity from what they observe? What messages do they pick up when they overhear our conversations at the dinner table, when they hear how men in the family speak about women or how we talk about others of different races? Children treated with love and dignity, learn to treat others in the same way.

Robert H. Schuller, in his book Turning Hurts Into Halos and Scars into Stars, quotes Mother Teresa “There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, and too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”

If we begin to live intentionally with the awareness that to change our society, we need to change the way we are raising the children of the next generation, perhaps the light will prevail.

Ms Nonto Thulile Mhlongo

Nonto Mhlongo works at the St Lucia Retreat and Training Centre giving retreats. She has completed the spiritual direction training programme with the Jesuit Institute.

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