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Thorns or Roses?

April 02, 2014

So it’s the rainy season again, at least in Dar Es Salaam anyway, and with the rainy season comes all manner of mixed emotions. Some love the rain especially when it rains at night because it somehow soothes them to sleep, while others (like me) dislike it when it rains at night because it terrifies me. I had a bad experience once where thugs broke into our house at night while it was raining, so for me, when it rains at night that’s my cue to stay awake and alert, which translates to a sleepless night which in turn means a very grumpy person the next day. As for those who sleep comfortably while it rains, I so envy you. Please appreciate that gift and don’t take it for granted.

Anyway, the rains have been pounding Dar for the last couple of days and nights too and as a result, the city has been turned into one big pool. Of course with the rain comes enough damages, especially to infrastructure such as roads, the drainage system itself (if it does exist), the environment as a result of fallen trees, and of course some houses. Of course with all these damages, the people living around the affected areas are the ones who have to deal with the repercussions.

For instance, if you use the Mwai Kibaki road on a daily then you know for the last one-week it has been a "day-mare" (that's the opposite of nightmare, right?) and a source of seriously annoying traffic. Why? Because the infrastructure surrounding this road is wanting, coupled with the fact that most drivers using this road drive like they learnt how to drive by googling. I say this because if people really went to driving school, they would not be doing some of the crazy things they do on the roads. If some of these drivers were driving in the west, I bet you their licenses would be revoked after one hour of being issued. People need to adhere to rules and regulations, which they rarely do and I guess that’s why we have so many problems affecting us that could have otherwise been avoided if rules were followed. Anyway, that’s a story for another day.

Moving on, like I started by saying, the rainy season comes with an assortment of reactions from different people. Some curse from the moment they leave their homes to the moment they go back home, blaming the rain for everything that went wrong in their day. On the other hand, others rejoice and are extremely happy because it is raining. For them, this becomes an opportunity for them to better their lives while the previous lot of people look at the rains as a season to bitter their lives.

In other words, there are those who thrive when it rains while others strife. Those who thrive have no fear of being rained on, or getting muddy because they understand that by so doing, they are getting something out of it. These are the guys who see the rainy season as a season of great opportunities as opposed to it being a season of great obstacles. Farmers fall under this category of course, but they are the obvious group of people. There are others who are not so obvious but they are there to.

For instance, there are these guys who run around selling umbrellas in traffic, at bus stops and even on the streets when it rains. Since they know people really need those umbrellas at that time, they make a killing out of them by selling them at some very exorbitant prices and since most people are caught off guard by the rains, they have no choice but to buy the umbrellas at those prices. I like those guys because they see opportunities where others are seeing obstacles.

Similarly, there are these guys who stand by the road-side of particular roads/lanes, waiting for vehicles to “drown”. Like I said earlier, when it rains like it has been doing in the past few days, the roads become one big pool causing some cars to stall. These guys stakeout and wait for vehicles to stall then they charge the drivers some substantial figures to get them out of there. Of course at that time if you are the driver you will not even argue with the guys. You’ll just pay.

Then there are others who come with a “mkokoteni” to ferry people from one side of the street to the other especially where the road are rendered “uncrossable” due to floods. They charge every “passenger” Tshs 200/- per ride. At the end of the day, these guys make quite a substantial amount of money from doing something that others didn’t think about. While they were busy seeing obstacles, these guys were clearly seeing opportunities.

So, what am I trying to say in this post today? It is very simple; in every situation, no matter how bad it looks, no matter how wet, grim or messy it feels, there is always something positive that can be gotten out of it. What determines which side of the divide you are on is your state of mind. Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Do you see the glass as always been half empty or half full? Are you one of those people who see negatives first before they see anything positive?

Like someone said, it’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that really matters. In other words, you can choose to let what is happening to you bring you down or you can choose to ride on it and emerge at the top. Another saying I love so much is one from Alphonse Karr which says, “some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” That’s some powerful insight, isn’t it? Now this is such a powerful way of looking at negative situations, when you choose to look at the positive side of things as opposed to seeing the negative side of them. The guys I have described above have clearly seen the roses and not the thorns.

I used the analogy of rain because it is happening now, but you can replace it with any other situation in your life and see how you can improve your life by choosing to be positive minded and not negative minded. Like Michael Jordan said, you have the power to turn a negative situation into a positive situation. It’s all in your mind, and how your mind’s eye sees the situation in hand.

As we start a new week and a new month I leave you with the words of Emmet Fox:

“You must not under any pretense allow your mind to dwell on any thought that is not positive, constructive, optimistic or kind.”

Wishing you all a positive week and month ahead.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 30th March, 2014, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".




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