2013 and the Letter of the Year: Part Three

In Ogbe Otura Olófin had to cure the sickness of the earth; it was rotting, full of decay, and he had to cleanse it and restore its health. History is repeating itself. We know our earth is sick. We have global warming. Weather patterns are severe and unpredictable. Water mining is causing huge regions of the Midwest to shrink, to shrivel and crumble before our eyes – yes, the land is sinking as aquifers and water tables are drained. The once powerful Mississippi river is shrinking, its meandering waters drying up faster than the rains can replenish it. Of all the rivers in our country, the Mississippi is the largest, the most formidable, and its struggles remind me of the patakí in this odu where Oshún cursed Orúnmila for all the bad he did to her.

The land beneath our feet rumbles and shifts as earthquakes travel the globe; and this odu, Ogbe Otura, says that the ocean’s floor will quake and tremble as well. Olokun is angry; he moves; he stirs; he strains against the chains that hold him at the bottom of the sea. The food we eat is filled with poisons we ourselves have put into the earth, our bodies as toxic as the land we walk on. We come from the earth; our ashé rises from the earth; why did we think we could poison the land and not suffer ourselves? Our vision is limited.

Poverty, hunger, homelessness, corruption, and drought: these respect no one, and the olodu Unle tells us that when one part of the body suffers, the entire body suffers. Stub your toe and the entire body reacts; break your leg, and you can’t walk anywhere. Globally we are one body; and suffrage in one region affects the globe.

The earth is sick; but I have faith – faith that Olófin can cleanse it; faith that Olófin can heal it. But faith alone is not enough. Ogbe Otura fell to speak globally; and we must act collectively if we are to assist Olófin with the healing process. But how? Telling us the world is in danger is not enough. Relying on Olófin is not enough, for Olófin is a manifestation of natural laws – and the laws that control the cleansing process are not always conducive to human life. The global disasters we face now are a part of the cleansing process; and if Olófin steps up his game, we’ll suffer the consequences. Fortunately, the odu Ogbe Otura tells us how we must act to assist Olófin through this healing process; it tells us how we are to survive globally as nature reacts to what we’ve done.

The key is in the proverb: Serve others before you serve yourself.

Everything we need to know is contained in that sentence.


Serve others before you serve yourself.

It’s a simple mantra to recite, six words that roll off the tongue effortlessly. Everything we need to know about our personal actions for the coming year are summed up there. Serve another person before you serve yourself. How can we put that into action? How can it save the world?

Its simplest expression is found in good manners: Men, open the door and let the ladies walk through first; children, respect your elders and let them take their seats first before you take your own. Everyone, on a bus or a train, make sure the elderly are comfortably seated first, and then those with obvious handicaps, and, yes, pregnant women before you seat your young, healthy, capable selves. Make sure that the sick have their medicine; make sure that your children eat first; make sure that your elderly parents are safe. Let someone else go first instead of rushing to get to the head of the line; and, stop to look for pedestrians crossing the street. When in doubt, realize that selfishness is the quality to be discouraged, and selflessness is to be encouraged. Good manners require that you think about someone else before you think of yourself.

Serve others before you serve yourself.

Abure, in this country alone, if I were to say we have one million adherents, that number is probably too conservative; still, it gives us a number to work with. Imagine the blessings we could create in our world if each of us thought selflessly and served others before we served ourselves. Imagine this: one million people in the Lucumí faith following the odu’s proclamation that we need to serve others before we serve ourselves; and imagine that each olorisha became involved in his or her community. If one million people volunteered just four hours each month for the next year to a charitable cause, each month we would create four million hours of volunteer, community service in this country. In one year, forty eight million hours of community service would flood our charitable organizations: soup kitchens, homeless shelters, environmental organizations, literacy outreaches, libraries, hospitals, blood banks, and nursing homes – what are the possibilities in this country alone, what are the potentials that would arise in this world if forty eight million hours of free, community service flooded this country?

Imagine serving others first before serving yourself when . . . grocery shopping. Almost all grocery stores offer the opportunity to make small donations to local food banks when paying your grocery bill at checkout. Realizing that times are tough, imagine if those same one million people chose to donate just $2.00 to the local food bank every time they bought groceries. Most go shopping twice a month; suddenly, four million dollars in donations floods local community food banks. Again, that’s forty eight million dollars each year. Government subsidies match individual contributions or provide ways for food banks to purchase food at wholesale cost – so that money goes even farther. How much hunger could be abated in this country with that much private money flooding the world?

The proverb, “Serve others before you serve yourself,” does not insist that we burden ourselves with the problems of others; however, it does ask that we do small things collectively to support the world around us. When a large group (such as us) begins making this a regular part of our thinking and serves the world around us in small ways, huge miracles occur in the world. Resources are spread: hunger is abated, poverty lifts, needs are sated, and the world around us shifts just a little bit. Things become better.

To be continued


4 thoughts on “2013 and the Letter of the Year: Part Three

  1. Pingback: 2013 and the Letter of the Year: Part Two « Ócháni Lele

  2. My mother used to tell me that Charity begins at home. Serve yourself means you first, then like ripples when a stone that is thrown into the water, you go to immediate family members ( cousins, etc.) then friends, then people whom you work with together, then those you do not know. Giving has been the hardest lesson for me but when I do on a regular basis like O do now, I am blessed and I have “enough”.

    1. Your mother was a very wise woman; however, this year the odu of the year from the Organizing Commission, which is Ogbe Otura in osogbo, advises differently. The proverb associated with this odu is: Serve others before you serve yourself. It’s very specific and does go against what your mother told you, I’ll agree. I’d never try to supercede the wisom of your mother, but I will err on the side of caution and side with this odu.

      The service neither has to be deep nor severe; however, you need to do something for another person, even a small thing, before you serve yourself.

      Often odu seems to supercede common sense and conventional wisdom; and when it does, there is a reason for it. The reason is simple: the world is in a very sad state of affairs. Ogbe has been a prevaling theme for well over a decade and we have yet to learn its lesson, so we are caught up in its pattern yet another time. Ogbe Otura asks for . . . no . . . demands selflessness. We’re in this together, and either we work through this together or, together, we’ll fall apart.

      Again — I can’t tell you to go against your mother’s family-wisdom. I have neither the right nor the authority to tell you that you are wrong. But I know odu — and this year, just to make sure I continue to walk with blessings, whenever I serve myself I’ll make sure I do something small to serve someone else. And, yes, serving a family member BEFORE yourself does satisfy the mandates of this odu!

      As a side-note: starting February I’ll be doing community service (volunteer work) with a local homeless shelter. It took six months for my national background check to go through, and now that they’ve discovered I’m clean of all misdemeanors and felonies on both local and national levels, I have orientation on February 9th. I’m hoping to donate at least one day a week (an 8 hour shift) doing something behind the scenes — even if it means washing dishes or scrubbing floors. I take the spirit of our yearly reading that seriously.

      Be blessed!

  3. PS: Even though your mother said serve yourself first, I’m betting that how you put this into practice on personal levels is already in tune with the odu of the year — you just don’t realize it. If by serving yourself first you are taking care of your family first, before yourself, then you are in tune with the spirit of the odu.

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