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Father Fred Jenga, C.S.C., shares a lesson he learned as he walked alongside his mother as a child.

Growing up as a kid in Uganda, I enjoyed a close relationship with my mom, Esther Wangui. She is long gone to be with the Lord, but I carry fond memories of her. Although she had a grade-school education and could barely read or write, her lessons to me and my siblings about life keep coming up every now and then as I journey through life.

My mother was a typical African woman, who like a lot of women in traditional societies did a lot of the manual work to sustain our family on a day-to-day basis. We kids helped when back from school or over the weekends. Our mother took care of the gardens, collected the firewood, cooked the food, attended the school meetings, and ensured we prayed, learned proper social manners, and participated in house chores.

There are different lessons I learned from her but in this short article I highlight one specific lesson about carrying loads atop her head. The Basoga people (my ethnic community), carry their loads such as garden produce, waterpots, or firewood atop their heads. Since women do much of the manual work in the families, they tend to learn the art of carrying the loads atop their heads early in life. My mother was a master of the art.

At the end of her day in the garden, our mom put her long stack of firewood atop her head (this always looked like one of those long hats worn by pirates in movies!), then put her farm produce atop the stack of firewood, and then balancing the load atop her head, she used her two hands to hold one of my young sisters on her back. Walking behind her with the hoes on my shoulder, I set off with her for home after a long day.




As a kid I always marveled at how she balanced the big load atop her head, while her two arms firmly held one of my young sisters on her back. The load sat delicately atop her head and gently swung left and left as she walked along the village paths. I was always afraid the load atop her head would fall off! Never once did I see the load fall off.

My mother was an expert at balancing the heavy load atop her head. She could even gently turn her head sideways to say hello to people along the way or stand still to hold brief conversations with someone along the way. I wondered how she did it.

Down the road, I came to learn that she had mastered the art of balance. She knew how to steady her head, her neck, her shoulders, her back, and her feet, so that whatever weight she carried, she was in control. She was able to walk, stop, greet, issue instructions, and continue her journey without allowing the weight she carried atop her head to take control over her.


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Balance can provide relief, hope, and strength as one journeys on under challenging circumstances. #CatholicMom

Reflecting on her experience, I think there is metaphorical meaning in her experience. Don’t we all carry loads, weights, or burdens of some kind in our lives? We know of people carrying emotional, relational, health, or economic burdens. They carry different burdens in their heads, in their hearts, in their bodies, or in their souls. Learning the art of balance can be helpful under such circumstances.

Balance can provide relief, hope, and strength as one journeys on under such challenging circumstances. A little personal prayer time, a visit with friends, some reading, attending a prayer group, some garden work, or a little walk outdoors, can distribute our burdens and give us the needed balance so that whatever weighs us down does not take over our lives.



Copyright 2023 Father Fred Jenga, C.S.C.
Images: Canva