Thomas Awiapo: Monkeys play by sizes – An African proverb

In Africa, monkeys are common. Traveling through the dirt roads and bushes you can very easily spot monkeys playing with each other. When monkeys play, they follow a strict rule; they play by sizes and no monkey breaks that rule…hence the African proverb: “Monkeys play by sizes.”

My experiences in school and in the corporate world have taught me that the proverb is equally applicable among human beings. Throughout my educational experience, it was interesting to realize that, rich students befriended only rich students; brilliant students befriended only brilliant students, while poor students befriended each other and less intelligent students also stuck to each other as friends.

Most of my friends were either as poor as or poorer than me and so you could easily tell to what category of human beings I belonged. I loved my fellow poor friends and we certainly had the best time together trying to cope with life’s struggles. However, as an orphan who never had enough of anything there were certain times I wished I had a friend who was materially much better than me so that he/she could be of help to me in times of need. I wasn’t that lucky. Nobody like that ever wanted to be my friend. Tough luck!

In the corporate world, the proverb still seems to be the norm. The rich people continue to befriend only the rich while the poor befriend the poor. The economically and politically most powerful nations stick together as friends and allies while the economically and politically disadvantaged hang together as friends.

There seems to be a natural tendency for like things to attract and opposites to repel. Every single one of us, nations and governments are caught in the web of this African proverb. The logic is that people of the same social and economic status will have the same worldview, speak the same language and have similar ambitions to aspire to.

As much as the above proverb makes perfect sense, I am seriously concerned about how it distorts our common humanity. It makes us relate and interact not as human beings but according to classes. Our relationships are built not on the basis of who we are but what we are. It is important to realize that our greatest commonality is our humanity and nothing should separate us from that.

As I write this reflection, my prayer and hope is that we can follow the great example of Jesus Christ who was God and yet took upon himself our humanity and stooped so low to become our best friend in order to save us. His most cherished friends were the poor and the most vulnerable in society. He befriended them in order to lift them up from their various situations of need and this earned Him the Crown of Glory at the right hand of God.

My brothers and sisters, dear fellow lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to befriend those who are less fortunate than us in order to lift them up because they are the ones who need us the most. We are called to love one another, both rich and poor, unconditionally, irrespective of our economic and social status or class. A world in which everybody is rich is not possible and I have never prayed for it because such a world will be boring. A world in which everybody is poor is not also possible and I have never prayed for it because such a world will be miserable. What I have always prayed for is a world in which both the rich and the poor can live together in harmony and peace sharing our humanity and blessings.

– Thomas Awiapo
As a child in Ghana, Thomas Awiapo was a beneficiary of CRS school feeding programs. Now, as an adult, he works for CRS Ghana and travels to the U.S. annually to tell his inspiring story to American Catholics at schools, parishes and communities. Thomas will be a featured guest blogger and will be reporting from Ghana about the issues he witnesses firsthand.

Watch the video: Empowered for Life: The Thomas Awiapo Story.

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One Response to “Thomas Awiapo: Monkeys play by sizes – An African proverb”

  1. Erika compliment Says:

    So amazing!

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