Red, orange, and yellow danced. The fire burned brightly, spitting out occasional fragments of wood which my owner pushed back in so no -one stood on them. He talked with his family about their day as they ate their dinner, and I listened happily. Warm and content, I dozed off, woken intermittently by laughter or the sound of another log being thrown on the fire.
Hours passed and the logs burnt down. My owner and his family were ready to sleep, and as they slipped away to their house, I found myself alone beneath the wide African sky with its sparkling stars and bright full moon. I wasn’t tired anymore and for a while I simply listened to the call of a distant owl. My mind began to wander, and I found myself thinking of mum and some of the lessons she had taught me. She always said that in life we never stop learning, and that mistakes are an opportunity to discover something new, even if it’s simply how not to do something!
I began to reflect on my adventures, and what I had learnt from them. I remembered the men who had taken me and mum from my owner, and it occurred to me that what they had really needed was help. They didn’t know any better. They couldn’t see when we were sore. In fact, many humans can’t see what we are really going through. They don’t see the stones in our hooves or realise the pain a whip can inflict.
That some days we don’t feel well yet are made to work and pull a weight far bigger than we are. Made to run without stopping for a drink. They do not see how the wire that holds the heavy wooden shaft pulls unevenly on our skin, at times cutting into our flesh which, if left untreated, festers and rots. How we often travel far for food at night after a full day’s work, rarely finding more than a seed pod and some muddy old water.
But I remember mum would say that not all humans have no understanding. That
there are some who really love us donkeys and understand we try our very best to help them.
These are the ones who appreciate how we help them carry water and firewood. Take the old or sick to the clinic so they can get better.
Yet there are those that go down to the bar at least once a week and expect us to stand outside they get drunk, only to race us home late at night. It’s as well we know our way home because on these nights, we have to gallop so fast even their whips do not hit their mark the people are so drunk.
Mum was a wise donkey, and I wonder what life would have been like for me had she not taught me so much?
I am lucky for many reasons. I have such a caring and understanding owner. My mum lived long enough to be able to teach me so that I can be a better donkey. Not all donkeys have that – some grow up without parents.
I am lucky there are kind people like those that found me when I fell into that water drum and helped me to get out and recover.
But most of all I am lucky to have a chance to tell my stories and that someone will listen.