By Gideon Nma Scott, Jr.
The story is told of an old man known for his wisdom who lived high in the Himalayan mountains. Occasionally, he ventured down into the local village and amazed villagers with his knowledge and insight.
He knew when it would rain, and thus when the village should plant crops. He could predict the frost, and thus when crops should be harvested. He knew how to treat illness and prevent impending illness. Being so well respected, people would flock to him to seek his advice and counsel. They would bring questions and the wise man provided answers.
One day, a young lad, wise in his own eyes, devised a plan to trick the old man into a wrong answer. He would catch a bird and ask, “What’s in my hand?” When the old man said, “a bird,” then he would ask, “Is it dead or alive?” If the old man said, “dead,” the boy would open his hands and let the bird fly away. If the old man said, “alive,” he would crush it in his hands and let it fall to ground dead.
The following week, the wise old man came down from the mountain into the village. The boy quickly caught a bird, and, cupping it out of sight in his hands, walked up to the wise old man and asked, “Old man, what is it that I have in my hands?”
The wise old man said, “You have a bird, my son.”
The boy then asked, “Old man, tell me: Is the bird alive or is it dead?”
The wise old man looked at the boy, thought for a moment, and said, “Son, the answer lies in your hands.”
This is to say, whether the bird lives or dies, its life was in the hands of the boy.
This old story reminds us of a never changing and always relevant truth, that we hold in our hands the freedom of choice, to choose whatever destiny we want for ourselves and children as a nation. Psychologist and author, Dr. J. Martin Kohe, said, “The greatest power a person possesses is his power to choose.” We have the ability to choose right or wrong, good or evil, God or the Devil.
This is the decision that we, Liberians, will be confronting tomorrow as we cast our votes, either for Amb. Joseph Boakai of the opposition Unity Party (UP), or for President George Weah of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in the run-off.
In Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses, in his final days before handing over the mantle of leadership to Joshua, offered a stirring challenge to Israel before they entered the promised land. “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you, life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
In a similar way, Joshua called the nation together in his days with this rousing exhortation: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh 24:15)
Like the children of Israel in the days of Moses and Joshua, we have the power to choose and institute governments that will democratically respond to our wishes, happiness, and security, or impoverish us by looting our resources for its own benefit. This is the choice that should not be taken lightly, because if this nation lives or dies, its life is in our hands.
William Jennings Bryant was right when he observed, “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
The entire world is watching to see how we harness the power of choice and the freedom of expression for good or for worse.
I call on all of us to think about our country and ourselves; our children and their future; our institutions and infrastructures; and moreover, the government we are about to choose. If we believe that things have been okay for all of us as a people for the last six years, the power to choose is in our hands; if we believe that there are challenges that we must correct as a people, the power to choose is in our hands.
The choice we make tomorrow carries with it glory or shame to our name; for it will be filled with goodness or wasted with impishness. Our votes on tomorrow may be investments that are expected to bring bonuses, or they may be frivolous, leaving us economically, socially, or even spiritually bankrupt.
Tomorrow, November 14, 2023, may be a day that will leave us with good memories, or end in bitter regrets.
Let us all know that “if this country lives or dies, it is in our hands.”
*The thought of the son of a professional Kru woman.