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Sheer Determination

October 09, 2016

Last week I had an encounter I had not expected or even imagined happening. It was an encounter that left me incapacitated for the whole week and actually, even as I write this article, I’m still feeling the effects of that encounter. Wait, I think the encounter must have happened a few weeks before last week, but it is only the effects of the encounter that were manifested this last week. Actually, now that I think about it, I remember reading somewhere that it takes between 9 – 40 days before malaria symptoms finally start showing in a victim’s body. 

I guess my day 38 was last week on Sunday because by Monday afternoon, I was feeling quite tired and lethargic. I thought it was just fatigue but by Tuesday mid-afternoon, I knew it was more than fatigue. I mean, how do you start shivering in the middle of the afternoon in Dar Es Salaam when temperatures are 32 degrees Centigrade? That does not happen unless there is some virus controlling your body. Day 40 was definitely here with me. And so I went to check and found out I had quite a few plasmodia in my system. From the lab report, seems like it was mating season for those things and they had used my body as their guest house and left all manner of offspring (parasites) in my body. That is how I ended up being grounded at home for the whole week. The furthest I have been is to the kitchen to look for lemon, to try and stop that bitter taste I have been having in my mouth since this whole ordeal started. And what caused all this? A feeble looking weightless mosquito that could otherwise go unnoticed if it was not for the buzzing noise it makes whenever it comes anywhere near you.

Imagine that small thing, something that does not even weigh half a gram, such a tiny thing that always seems to be floating in the air, that thing having the ability to incapacitate a whole human being! Can you imagine that? You might blame it on the malaria but these are some of the thoughts that were going through my mind when I was lying there in my bed or on the floor trying to find the most comfortable position for my aching joints. It has been a while since I have been that sick but in the midst of all my pain, something beautiful came out of it. That mosquito did not just give me malaria, but it gave me an opportunity to just do nothing but think about life from very many angles. And it is during this time that I got a very interesting analogy of this whole thing, This analogy forms the basis of my message today.

I have learned that no matter what you are going through in your life, there is always a lesson to be learned from every single experience. I no longer look at negative situations as challenges or problems but I always look at them as an opportunity to learn something new. So it is with this mindset that I started thinking about mosquitoes in general and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at what my mind came up with. There is this proverb that says, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”. I think whoever said it must have had an encounter with those little annoying things himself hence his profound wisdom.  Though it is small, it can torment even the biggest among us because when it does its job, it does it with precision and accuracy. Of course it does all this at the risk of being swatted or sprayed with Rungu or zapped with a zapper. But does it stop mosquitoes from biting humans and spreading malaria in the process? Well, going by the number of patients suffering malaria as you read this post, I guess that is a risk they are always ready to take. So lesson number one to learn from mosquitoes is that they are risk takers. The higher the risk, the higher the treat.

Do you think mosquitoes choose their victims? Do you think they decide who to bite based on ranks or the social classes we have divided for ourselves in society? I don’t think so. When a mosquito lands on a human it does not matter whether you are the president or the pope or the most wanted thug in the world. As long as you have a body with warm blood in you, it will suck it out of you and live a few viruses in your body as a gift. They are bold. They are not afraid of titles (they don’t even know what these are). They are not racist or tribal. A mosquito will suck blood from the whitest man on earth and a few minutes later go suck blood from the blackest man in the world.

Those barriers we have put for ourselves as human beings do not exist in the mind of a mosquito. So if a tiny little thing like a mosquito has the common sense to see one human being as the other regardless of status, race, tribe, social class, level of education, etc, why can we not apply the same wisdom to ourselves? Why do we let ourselves be divided by politics, by religion, by race, by color, by social status, by education, by the size of our bodies? Can you imagine how much more we would achieve if we did not have these divisions/barriers? Can you imagine how many limitations we have placed on ourselves just because of these barriers we live with? Lesson number two from a mosquito is simple; treat everyone the same way. Do not treat certain people with more respect or attention than others based on who they are or where they come from or the color of their skin. The moment you do that, you stand to lose many opportunities. If you are a waiter or waitress working in a big restaurant somewhere, accord the same courtesy to all your guests, without treating some like they are more human than others just because they give you higher tips. Remember, we are all human beings.

If you do recall, at the beginning of this article I did mention that even though I became sick this last week, it is very possible that the mosquito that subjected me to this pain may have bitten me over a month ago. However, it took time for the symptoms to manifest but eventually they did. The same case applies to many other situations in our lives. There are times when you will do something and the results are instantaneous, but there are other times when it will take time for the results of your actions to be seen. Just like pregnancy for instance, the tummy does not bulge immediately sex takes place. No. Depending on the body of the woman, it may take 3 – 5 months for the tummy to start showing. So if you have been doing things and you are not seeing immediate results, hang in there and give yourself time. If everything was done correctly, you will see the results in due course. So lesson number three we learn from the mosquito is that things take time to happen. It may have deposited the viruses in you on the very first day it bit you but the incubation period had to take place before you can really start feeling malaria-ish. So remember, it takes time for your dream to be realized.

Like I did mention earlier, a mosquito is a very tiny thing but it has the ability to incapacitate a very huge person. I would like to believe that the lesson from this fact is very straightforward in the sense that it does not matter what your size is, or who you are. What matters is what you are carrying inside of you. Remember this, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”. This little thing will pull its weight and buzz around you till you can’t sleep unless you swat it. Imagine what this world would be like if we all took our place in society and disregarded our sizes, our situations, our classes, etc, and we just went out and did what we know we were called to do, and do it with determination like a mosquito? Can you imagine what this world would be like? Can you imagine the opportunities that we would have in the world? Never underestimate your ability just because you think you are small. Go out and do what you know you should do and wait for the results.

Now that I have shared with you wisdom from a mosquito’s perspective, I believe you will no longer be looking down on those tiny insects. Learn from them and allow yourself to unleash the potential you have in you. In the meantime though, remember they are not your pets but pests. Stay away from them and prevent malaria at all costs.

PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 9th of October, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".

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