Woman, the Edna Joy Lowe way

Dear Mambo,

On the 20th of March, your great- grandmother turned 88. I continue to speak about all your angels in the present tense because I believe that they are around watching over us, I keep saying, I know who my angels are. So here is a short story about one of them, my grandmother, Edna Joy Lowe. A strong, passionate woman, who woman’ed her own way.

Your great grandmother is one of the most fierce women I know, there was nothing that she could not do. If she decided to do it, she would. I know- sounds like Nanny and Granny Colleen right? Well, it also sounds very much like most of us. You will hear a lot of reference to the ‘Lowe gene’ in your life, especially when someone is particularly headstrong- we are just passionate people. Lesson one- don’t talk about it. Do it.

My grandmother was the first woman to graduate from the University of Natal with a degree in Mathematics, you will not read about it in the papers and to be honest, a track record like that is quite unique- I am not sure what I will be the first woman to do, and I believe those lists are getting shorter and shorter. There is no pressure, at all. I feel very proud of her achievements. Lesson two- Put your mind to it. Execute.

My granny and grandpa were the first humanitarians I knew. They had hearts of gold and no one was ever too far out of reach of their helping hand. We usually drove to churches with a car full of people, there was always enough space for one more. And if we ever drove in an empty car, they would literally stop on the road for every single person they met along the way. Lesson three- Always help. It takes nothing from you, and gives a whole lot to someone in need.

‘Goody goody gumdrops!’, I really miss that phrase, no one ever said it like she did. It was the signal- she was proud. I remember inviting her and grandpa to my Scripture Union group when I was in grade 2. It’s long story, but eventually when she got there, she got to know the group and what they do, said ‘Goody goody gumdrops!’, and proceeded to bring the whole group of students into the most upbeat rendition of “I’ve got Joy in my heart” that I have ever heard, to this day. Her name was Joy she told them, before all the singing and dancing. I literally remember it in slow motion right now, granny leading a group of about 10 children around the room, singing and dancing. Grandpa in the corner, voice booming with his signature bass. Lesson four- Be genuine.

Granny Joy was a teacher by the time I met her. She taught me many things, like how to pronounce ‘comfortable’ and ‘often’. Above all that though, she taught me to plan. She always had a plan to mobilize, to educate, to elevate, to pray, to go camping, to take care of 6 grandchildren every school holiday that she could. I had a chuckle with Aunty Michelle one weekend while we were planning JET, when I reminded her that ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ and ‘Don’t leave till tomorrow what you can do today’- let that be a lesson to you. Also no surprise, the family is full of meticulous planners. Lesson five- Plan meticulously. Plan always. Just plan.

More than being a teacher though, what granny really loved and what I learnt the most about was ‘mushandira pamwe’, and to this day I remain a strong advocate of collaboration. She knew how to rally community members to do something for good and it usually began in the church, or in the school. There was a certain pride I felt every time I went to church and everyone knew I was a Lowe grandchild. I am sad as I write this because Chimanimani and the surrounding villages are recovering from natural disaster, and I was unable to go and partake in the ‘mushandira pamwe’ when it was needed. I did what I could from here. And it’s never enough. I will write about Chimanimani when I am less emotional, right now my heart is breaking and it is as important for you to know why- my whole connection to Chimanimani is through my granny and grandpa.

What is mushandira pamwe? Mushandira pamwe, working together, is the understanding that nothing happens when you are a single person, when we put our minds, hearts and hands together, we can do much more than just one person. Granny knew how to get the women in the church, the kids in the secondary school, the teachers at the primary school, the mens group, the deacons at church- to do things. Anything. To do good. She built communities around her, using groupings where people would feel a part of the same thing, of a whole, of one action that would inevitably improve their lives. I am in a world now where we speak of innovation and pushing boundaries, and she did that by simply reminding people that they were part of a community and if we did not start with our own community, we would not be able to enable mass actions.

I know this sounds terribly romanticised, my granny is far from perfect, I have not told you of all the blood sweat and tears is took for the community to become a community. I have not even scratched the surface of who she really was because, well, I only have limited words per post here. I have not told of how we all complained when she and her husband were helping the whole world and their mothers and thinking they forgot to be our grandparents. I am amused at how little we knew, that they were teaching us to be global citizens- before the buzz- word concerts began. Never mind all that, your lesson and focus as you finish reading this post should be- when we stand alone to complete a task for good, it is noble, and well, we may succeed, but that does not build community. When our hearts, minds and hands come together for good, that is a movement, that is where change on many different levels occurs, in us standing together, in us being a community. That is mushandira pamwe. Community.

I love you,

MamaMambo

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