It’s No Good Just Playing All the Time

Here is a story:

There once was a great village, and in this village there was a man who had a staggering number of sons and daughters. One day, he told his grown sons: Go and pick some bark so we may build a grain bin. They went to the bush and found a tree from which they could pick the bark. When they were about to cut the tree, they saw a huge Mushroom growing beside the tree. They heard it singing:

It says: ndetu, It says: ndetu, It says: ndetu.

The boys said: Our father has sent us here to strip some bark rope. Then the Mushroom continued to sing. Back in the village, the father began to think the children were late coming back from where they had gone to pick the bark. So he told his other children: Go and follow your elder brothers because they are long overdue. Find out where they are.

They went to the same place as their elder brothers and heard them singing. They stopped and said: Let’s see what they are doing. They saw that the elder brothers were singing and dancing in a circle. So when they arrived there, they noticed how nice the singing and dancing was and they started singing too, saying:

Our father has sent us here to strip some bark rope.

The Mushroom repeated:

It says: ndetu, It says: ndetu, It says: ndetu.

The Father got alarmed and thought: Something has eaten my kids! So he followed them where they had gone. He, also, went down the same path as the kids. When he came to the spot where they had arrived, he heard them singing as follows:

It says: ndetu It says: ndetu It says: ndetu…

When the father reached the place, he didn’t say a word but just joined in. There was even more singing and dancing. The work on the grain bin was put off until another time.

And that is the end of our story.

The moral of the story: work comes before play. It is important not to get distracted away from our duties, however luring the temptation. The comforts of life should not make one forget one’s duties.

The Mambwe proverbs say: Take care of your neck, there are plenty of beads (Sungi nsingo, ukasi utaula); Make repeated visits to (the road which leads to) your garden and the road to the mula tree will disappear (Sunti ya kapya, ya mula ilavuma); The (cosy) hearth made the wife of the one who went to work forget to go to work (Moto, wilizye muka kuomba). English equivalent: First things first; Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.

Subjects: comforts of life – dangers – duties – distractions – priorities – pleasure


Written by Pascal Ntenga, 07th of September 1994.