12 Days of Kindness
“Hakuna Matata…It’s a wonderful phrase! Hakuna Matata; ain’t a passing craze!” If you have ever seen the movie “The Lion King”, just hearing those opening lines of one of the more popular songs has you already singing the rest of it. “It means no worries for the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy…” The 1994 movie was not the first time the Swahili phrase was used in a song, however.
A Kenyan band used the phrase in the chorus of their hit “Jambo Bwana” and several years later a German band released an English-language song entitled “Jambo – Hakuna Matata”. It was “The Lion King” that made it a household familiar saying which is really quite interesting since it is seldom used by native speakers of Swahili. They prefer to either say “hamna shida” or “hamna tabu”. The song from “The Lion King” is so popular that a Hebrew version exists online. Everyone likes the thought of “no worries” as a way to live, it would seem.
Considered an unofficial motto of the country of Australia, “no worries” is a phrase that seems to speak to the supposedly relaxed nature of Australians. Usage of the phrase goes back only about fifty years but the relaxed carefree and easy going, quick to forgive Aussie reputation dates to much earlier times. Many feel it also characterizes the casual optimism which seems to permeate the Australian culture.
Dr Richard M. Jacobs of Villanova University feels there is quite a bit of difference between a sermon and a homily. The sermon, he writes, is in “the form of a lecture or discourse given for the purpose of providing religious instruction or inculcating moral behavior.” One would seldom expect to hear the phrase “no worries” or “hakuna matata” in a sermon.
Dr. Jacobs characterizes a homily very differently. “In general, a homily is a scripturally-based reflection [which] provides food for thought about the challenges of living in today’s busy and hectic world. Ideally, the material conveyed by a Sunday homily addresses the real daily lives of ordinary people.” While a homily might mention “no worries”, it is also doubtful that “hakuna matata” would be encouraged. The homily is designed to be a shorter format than a sermon and was made popular by St Peter Chrysologus, a bishop appointed in 433 ACE. Known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for his short but inspired talks, he supposedly feared boring his audience. His piety and zeal won universal admiration.
This leads us to an interesting point and our word and gift for this, the fourth day of our twelve days of kindness. Today’s gift is clemency, a word which has all but become forgotten in everyday living. Nowadays, it is used only in the judicial system. Originally, the word “clemency” was derived from the Latin “clementia” which meant gentleness, calmness, or mildness. It goes even further back as a compound word made from the “Latin “clemens” which translates as calm or mild and “clinare” which translates as to lean.
How often do we hear the phrase clemency is our daily instructions and spiritual teachings? While most of us would admit to wanting an overall life philosophy of “no worries” and the ability to live “hakuna matata”, few would be able to cite examples of it in their beliefs.
Mercy is what most deities offer their believers. It is what most believers are encouraged to share with others. We are not created to be judge and jury for each person we encounter. We are told to love and show mercy, to offer clemency to those who offend us.
My challenge to you today, on this the fourth day, is to show someone “hakuna matata”. Perhaps it will be that person who cuts you off in traffic. Instead of shaking your fist at them, wish them well. That person who hurriedly sneaks in front of you in the line at the coffee shop or marketplace…smile and give them a “No worries” response.
It is not always easy. As I write this I realize I need to let go of some anger and hurt caused by the words of another just the other day. I need to simply say “hakuna matata” and move on with my living. After all, hanging on to negative emotions doesn’t accomplish anything. It doesn’t burn calories; it just deprives us of feeling good ourselves.
So live a casual optimism and focus on the positive. Enjoy a carefree day with a problem-free philosophy. As with other things, giving clemency to another will build our own character. Gandhi described prayer as “a potent instrument of action”. I think he would agree showing mercy and offering clemency is as well. Lewis Carroll wrote: “One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” Sharing clemency helps both others and ourselves. “No worries, mate! G’day!”