I stood on the upstairs veranda of the mission residence overlooking a large wooden cage that housed the neighbor's chimpanzee. The chimp was in good form. Chattering and grimacing, the imprisoned animal rattled the slats and sent a toothy smile in my direction. I smiled back. He was funny!
Then I got to wondering. Why was he grinning at me? What did he find so amusing about a field director in the heart of Africa? Was there something he knew that I didn't?
Then it hit me! From his vantage point, I was a fellow prisoner!
I was looking at him through the burglar bars that cover every opening in that mission mansion. In fact, every door in my cage had huge locks and sliding bolts. High walls surrounded my fortress. Dogs alerted inmates when strangers approached. "Sentinels" guarded my compound night and day.
I hated to admit it, but I was a PRISONER OF POSSESSIONS! No wonder the silly chimp was laughing. He had reason to laugh because, while he had no power to change his predicament, I could change mine any time I willed to do it.
You see, if I had nothing to lose, the locks wouldn't be necessary. The walls could be done away with ... and the ugly burglar bars could be used for monkey cages. But the house was full of valuables ... furniture, electronic equipment, ivory paintings, carvings, money, musical instruments, tools, books, rugs, clothing, jewels, food, and fixtures ... all of which must be "protected." A PRISONER OF POSSESSIONS ... that's what I was!
So, I grabbed the burglar bars in front of me and rattled my cage so that the chimp could see that I appreciated his humor.
We both felt better after that. I understood his problem, and he understood mine. Identification! A mutual understanding between fellow prisoners!