Friday, September 6, 2013
When I made my first trip to Jinja, Uganda in January of 2011, one of the biggest highlights from that trip was getting to spend a day on the Nile River in the company of this wonderful human being.
It was a “slow” day on the river. Usually, there are several rafts of adventure-goers, accompanied by a team of kayakers and a support raft. But since I was there on a Tuesday in January, ours was the only boat. We were an eclectic group: a couple from Poland, two girls from the north of England, a guy from Turkey, and me. Our river guide was the man pictured above: Thabani from Zimbabwe.
My original plan was to only raft for the first half of the day. It was my last full day in Jinja, and I had tentative plans for the afternoon. Not the least of which was to give one more violin lesson to my favorite 9-year-old missionary kid before going home the next day.
But then the rafting started, and I quickly discovered a kindred spirit in our river guide. We had an instant rapport. His deep belly laughter was soundtrack against which we braved each rapid, and I found myself joining in with equal parts laughter and screams of terror/delight.
Truth be told, the first part of the day was a little rough. The Nile River is no joke, and we were dealing with class 5 and 6 rapids. One of them, called “Silverback,” overturns almost everyone who rafts it. Our rag tag crew made it almost to the end, but then the inevitable happened. Most of us were thrown upriver, but somehow I got thrown downriver…and that started the scariest minute of my life.
But that’s a post for a different day.
We were all successfully retrieved by the amazing kayakers, but we were all a bit rattled. One of the English girls adamantly declared that she was finished with the adventure and wanted to get off at the lunch-checkpoint.
She wasn’t the only one. Her friend, and the girl from Poland were done too.
Thabani and I caught each other’s eye and I felt him ask the crucial question: Still just a half day? Or are you in?
I knew this was a critical juncture. If I left too, that would just leave the two guys in the raft. While I’m sure he didn’t want to admit it, if I left, they might not be able to continue. There was still a half day’s worth of rapids to go…including a waterfall! How could I miss that, or deprive the guys of the fun?
So with a shrug and a grin, I heard myself say: “I’ll stay.”
And with that, everything changed.
For one thing, the Polish girl decided to stay. But far beyond that, the second half of the day we were a completely different raft. We were all committed, and instead of pulling back from the intensity of each rapid, we leaned in and embraced the challenge. And wouldn’t you know it, we didn’t overturn once. Not even on the waterfall!
That day showed me the power of a positive attitude, and the magic of a kindred spirit. Thabani is one of those people who is simply infused with joy, and you can’t help but be uplifted simply by being in his presence.
At the end of the day, when we were relaxing from a rewarding day and eating dinner back at the lodge, Thabani pulled me aside and said, “I want you to know you made a big difference on the river. When you decided to stay, it changed everything.”
That meant so much to me to know it went both ways.
I’ll never forget that day, or the kindred spirit I met while rafting on the Nile River. His laughter will forever echo in my adventurous heart.
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung
This post was inspired by Five Minute Friday and this week's word -- red.