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The Red Boat

December 17, 2017

Anyone encountered the traffic cops in Dar lately? Let me put it this way; assume your car is an essay, and you need to get the highest marks possible from your teacher. What would you have to do to make sure you do? For starters, you’d have to make sure your essay is within the topic given to you by your teacher, then make sure you adhere to all the other requirements given, and of course make sure your grammar is correct. In short, you need to make sure all your T’s are crossed and all your I’s dotted.

Now, apply this analogy to driving a car in Dar Es Salaam. Let’s just say for those cops to let you go after they’ve flagged you down, you need divine intervention to leave without a fine. If no divine intervention comes your way, then you can rest assured you will get a fine of not less than Tshs. 30,000 for anything from not having water in your wiper tank, to having a slightly damaged mud-guard (thanks to the not so good inroads). So to all car owners out there in Dar, don’t say I didn’t tell you.

So it was that I got flagged down by a cop because of a damaged mud-guard. The sad thing is, I am not the one who had messed that part of the car but someone else who never saw the need to have it repaired when it happened. I had done some patch-up work earlier on but due to the unfriendly inroads I’d been using this past week, the patchwork didn’t work for long. When the cop flagged me down I didn’t know why he did so but as soon as I opened the window he just asked me one question in Kiswahili, “have you seen the underside of your car?”

Oh boy! As soon as he said that I knew I was in serious trouble. Luckily, I was not alone in the car and the person I was with managed to convince the cop to let me go. He looked like a very mean cop but somehow he mellowed and just told me to go get that problem sorted out. As tired as I was, and even though I was rushing  home so I could shower and change for a business dinner I had that evening, I did not want to waste the divine chance I had been given to get the car sorted out. I didn’t want to risk being stopped by another cop and so I went straight to the petrol station I usually take the car to for its normal service.

Before I even explained what I needed, the guy who usually deals with the car saw the underside and immediately told me to go to the service bay to have it sorted out before I could do anything else. When I told him that’s what had taken me there in the first place, he just laughed and told me I must be a very lucky person to have been driving the car like that and not be stopped by cops. At that point I narrated to him what had happened and he repeated again that I was very lucky to have driven off without a fine. In my heart I knew it was not luck but God’s favor on my life.

While he was sorting out the car I was busy on my phone responding to emails and important messages that had been sent to me but I hadn’t been able to respond to earlier due to the tight schedule I had that day. Because I was so engrossed on what I was doing, I wasn’t looking at what the guy was doing. Several minutes later, probably half and hour later, he came to the driver’s side and asked me to open the bonnet. I absent mindedly opened it and in my mind I concluded that things must have really been bad on the under-side. After a few minutes he told me he was done and that I could leave.

I asked him to check the tyres for pressure and he said he had already sorted that out – I didn’t see as I was on my phone the whole time. He also told me he had checked all the fluids under the hood and saw they were ok, except for the wiper-tank which he had just refilled with more water. I was very grateful to him for going the extra mile to ensure the car was ok in all other aspects even though I had not asked him to do that. I asked him how much I was supposed to pay him but he said I didn’t have to pay him anything since I was his regular customer and what he did was a small job compared to what I always pay for. I just gave him a token of appreciation and drove off.

As I was driving off I couldn’t help but realize how lucky I’d been that day to have escaped the traffic fine(s). Now, thanks to the mechanic, I know for sure it will take a while for that problem to reoccur because this guy did a very good job of fixing the underside of my car, plus a few other areas I discovered later on as I was driving.

His gesture of going the extra mile reminded me of a story that has been making rounds on the internet about a man who was given the task of painting a boat. Read the story below...

One day a man was asked to paint a boat by an owner of a boat. He brought with him paint and brushes and began to paint the boat a bright red, as the owner asked him.

While painting, he realized there was a hole in the hull and decided to repair it. When he finished painting, he received his money and left.

The next day, the owner of the boat came to the painter and presented him with a nice check, much higher than the payment for painting.

The painter was surprised and said, “You've already paid me for painting the boat!”

The boat owner confused him more when he said, “But this is not for the paint job. It is for having repaired the hole in the boat”.

“Ah! But it was such a small service ... certainly it's not worth paying me such a high amount for something so insignificant!” said the man.

To which the boat owner said, “My dear friend, you do not understand. Let me tell you what happened.

When I asked you to paint the boat, I forgot to mention about the hole.

When the boat dried, my kids took the boat and went on a fishing trip.

They did not know that there was a hole. I was not at home at that time. When I returned and noticed they had taken the boat, I was desperate because I remembered that the boat had a hole.

Imagine my relief and joy when I saw them returning from fishing.

Then, I examined the boat and found that you had repaired the hole! You see, now, what you did? You saved the life of my children! I do not have enough money to pay your "small" good deed”.

What is the moral of the story?

You reap what you sow. If you sow evil you will indeed reap evil and when you sow good, goodness will find its way to you somehow. I’m yet to see a mango tree producing grapes, so make sure if you want mangoes you plant mangoes.

My mechanic fixed a few “leaks” in my car without me asking him or even knowing that he did. I honestly don’t know what damages would have ensued if he hadn’t but I am glad he did. I now have more reasons to stay a loyal customer to him than I ever did before.

Even when you do it when nobody is seeing you, the good you do will always find a way of rewarding you, even if the reward is just feeling good that you did something good for someone without their knowledge.

Let good deeds be your daily goal everywhere you go.


Be Ignited. Be Inspired. Be Influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.


PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 17th of December, 2017, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".





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