Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Climbing down from the high horse

The higher the horse, the hotter the drop. (Jamaica)

Dear Zayda,

One of the important lessons I learned from Dame Nita Barrow was that very important people can still be humble. Dame Nita Barrow became the Governor-General of Barbados, but she never lost touch with people. I knew her for most of my life, when she was a hospital matron and when she was an international celebrity, and never saw her on any high horse.

She made marble cakes for me on my birthdays, and she made my wedding cake. Decades later, I came across someone who said Nita made her wedding cake as well. At that time, Nita headed an international agency in Geneva. Later, when she was Governor-General, she was still in her kitchen baking cakes.

She loved children, and any Barbadian child could go to visit her in the mansion where she lived as Governor-General. Whenever she visited Jamaica, no matter what the office she was holding at the time, she always took time to find out how I and my children were doing. She talked about herself if I asked her. She never boasted, even if she had a lot to boast about.

Hers is an example that other leaders could do well to follow. For nine months, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding rode a very high horse. He protected Christopher Coke, a man charged in the United States dealing in guns and drugs. When the public pressured him and demanded that he resign, Golding changed his mind. He said he was sorry for protecting Coke, and a warrant was sent out for Coke’s arrest. As a result of his actions, there was burning and shooting that led to a State of Emergency. Police and soldiers also entered Tivoli Gardens, an area where people set up barricades apparently to protect Coke. As a result of the action by police and soldiers, about 80 persons in Tivoli Gardens lost their lives.

Now, Zayda, you might Golding would have climbed off his high horse by this. But no. Just yesterday he was cussing out the media and any others who criticize him. He said that many of those who want him to resign don’t have any following. He said that membership of their organizations wouldn’t even fill a page in an exercise book.

So rather than climb down off the high horse, he seemed to look for an even higher horse. According to the Jamaican proverb, this higher horse is likely to give an even hotter drop. Time will tell.

You can choose which of these two leaders you would rather be like. Remember that if the ground is your friend, you won’t have to fear a fall. You will be free to ride the highest horse or walk on the ground, and still be true to yourself. You will be secure enough to listen to those on the ground, so they will be there to guide you when you need to climb off the high horse.

We can walk, ride, fly, my grandniece, but we need never forget that our origin is the ground.


Your shangazi


Hilaire Sobers said...

I never tire to hear of stories about Dame Nita! Seriously is Golding losing it entirely?? Great lesson for grandniece Zayda...

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

Dame Nita is definitely my role model for leadership. She showed that she could lead and be herself - female, warm, caring, focused, and firm.

Bruce Golding needs help, or he needs to relieve himself of the burden of leadership.


When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at