A CELEBRATION OF LIFE’S HARVEST 11

My mother at 80, surrounded by some of her grandchildren and myself.

 This is a continuation of my last post. Worldwide, people are living longer and more are living into their nineties and beyond than at any other time before.

In my small family, my father died a few months close to his 90th birthday, his young sister died at 104, their niece celebrated 100 years last October and my mother is close to her 90th birthday. Since she retired as a senior midwife in 1994, she had taken up mixed farming. In the last two years, the chronic degenerative arthritis has increasingly slowed her down.

 My father and his sister had agile minds and were relatively mobile. I usually find their centurion niece planting sweet potato vines or digging in her banana garden and no one can stop her for this is what she enjoys doing. Her joy is her strength. The common traits among them is that they chose to focus on what was going right in their lives and engaged fully with what was going on around them. They could be generous to a fault too.

Warren Edward Buffett, the most successful investor in the world, the billionaire who has been giving away the majority of his wealth to charity annually since 2006, celebrated 90 years on 30th August 2020. He shows no signs of slowing down.

Now that we are living longer, it demands that we enlarge the boundaries of vital living.

This has already caught on in the advertisement field and in the slogans we see these days like:

Life begins at 60

and  90 is the new 60. They are aimed at pushing us to think about life beyond midlife, 45-65 and plan for our Second Adulthood if we are to get the most out of it.

Numerous studies and surveys about longevity have been done and continue up to today. Results from such studies  have divided Adulthood into two stages: 1St Adulthood and Second Adulthood. The second Adulthood itself has two phases.

. The 1 st Adulthood- this is the time from 30 to 45 years of age.

Generally the body is at its best. We feel young, energetic and consider the world to be at our feet. We have learned to be strong enough to take on life’s challenges and responsibilities so as to make a difference in the world. It is our time to compete, assert ourselves and collect achievements. We immerse ourselves in proving our ability and capacity to ourselves and others.

The sex roles as predetermined by our culture, demand that the women get married and become mothers while the men marry and become fathers. This is a very demanding time for the women in particular who have to juggle a career and a young family. They are so busy bringing up children, meeting financial responsibilities of a family and trying to make ends meet while at the same time building a career.

Dennis P. Kimbro said : “ Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

. The 2nd Adulthood.

45-65- sometimes called the middle years and the first phase of the 2nd Adulthood.

45 represents the old age of youth while 50 ushers in the youth of the 2nd childhood.

This is usually the stage of greatest well-being in the lives of most healthy people. The competing, struggling and achieving is pushed aside to make space for finding your authentic sense of self- your core values, what you hold sacred and what puts spirit into your life.

You redefine personal success, take inventory of personal strengths and skills and use them to reinvent yourself. You want to remain relevant, useful to yourself and others and you want to be more and do more. Once you get this awakening , you begin to find ways of expressing your authentic self. You begin by letting go of the belief system that has informed you as you built your first identity. Other changes have to be made too in your career, lifestyle, habits and religious commitment. This is usually called the mid-life crisis. The main purpose is to make the next two or three decades your own.

By the age of 65, we have given our gifts to the world. We have served, we have accepted leadership in our families, communities and work places. We have launched our children , have a lot of time to ourselves which we can invest into expressing our authentic self.

In Uganda , the retirement age in the formal sector is 55 years of age and if one is to live to be ninety, then you have another thirty five years to go.  You cannot therefore just go on leading your life as you always have. It has gone stale or feels confining or empty. Yes, the environment we live in controls us but the yearning for something beyond family, your job or your friends forces you to trust yourself and open up and grow.

 You leave the familiar to experience the unfamiliar. Most times it is a risk worth taking. My childhood best friend, a lawyer by profession and among the first graduates of Makerere University Business School, is now a well established dairy farmer and another friend previously a teacher is an Events Organiser. I am also getting daily awakenings through my creative writing. Doing what we love and enjoying it keeps us young at heart and we just keep growing.

65-85 or beyond- this is the 2nd phase of the 2nd Adulthood. Also known as late Adulthood or the age of Integrity. All that you have lived through and learned adds up to gift you with grace and generosity that ushers you into the age of Integrity.

You recognise your accumulated skills and inner strength and feel that you should use them to teach, mentor or sponsor the young generation. If you made good use of the mid-life transformation, it will be extremely easy for you to create a new life for yourself. Failing to do this or just leaving yourself to rest on the laurels will turn you into the walking dead- a cause of accelerated aging. You need to stay alive, active, productive and creative to be healthy.

Some studies have shown that repeated creative daily routines like emotional writing, pottery, gardening and painting boost the body’s immune response. Getting absorbed into something creative increases the number of cells that fight off infections and cancer cells in our bodies and stimulates the release of Dopamine – one of the feel- good chemicals from the brain. The excitement of getting a result at the end of the task releases the Dopamine.

You can start all over again by simply embracing your mortality and rediscovering the enthusiasm, creativity and adventurous spirit  of your youth. Therein lies your power because the possibilities and rewards are usually beyond what you have experienced before.

As you go along this new path, you drop what no longer serves you and you pick what serves your new growth. Mistakes will be made but who cares, just keep moving forward into the unknown.

After all they say: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”

With the numerous technology innovations available to us, Mars is now the limit.

Just open yourself to new and more meaningful ways to be alive and do not forget to reach out and connect with others.

My octogenarian mother tells me that one of her biggest challenge at her age is losing loved ones and peers but she has tried to fight this by accepting her own mortality. At the same time she says that such deaths put her under the pressure of longevity and push her to do what she has to do for each day faster. She has also developed a sense of radical thankfulness that drives her to celebrate life every day.

Those who live beyond 90 have the following characteristics in common:

  1. Adaptability- at 90, they have all of them suffered big losses and setbacks but they mourn the losses and move on.
  2. Optimism- they look at life as an adventure and are willing to explore. They also have a marked sense of humour.
  3. They have a keen interest in current events.
  4. They have a good memory and would do what it takes to retain it.
  5. They take good care of their health- enjoying exercises and regular sleep of 6-7 hours during the night.
  6. They are religious- many have found their right place in a universe put together by a Creator.They all know too well that time is running out but they choose to focus on the present; savouring each moment. Time has gifted them with clarity about what they can control and what they cannot.  They live fully for one day at a time. This reduces the stress in their lives

But all these are things we should try to pick up as early as our 40th birthday.

All in all, we are in it for the long haul and if we are to harvest the rewards, we have to start planning for it in our youth.

Jim Rohn said: “You must take personal  responsibility; you cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, the wind, but you can change yourself.”

QUESTION:

How have you planned to get the most out of the next phase of your life?

A CELEBRATION OF LIFE’S HARVEST

24/08/1972- The Beauty Of Youth

On the 24th August , I celebrated my birthday following the COVID-19 prescribed health and safety guidelines. I had a hearty meal and spent some quality time with a few members of my family among them my grandchild aged almost one and half years. It turned out to be my perfect gift for the day.  I closed my eyes briefly to say a silent prayer of thanksgiving to God, the giver of all the perfect gifts in our lives. The emotional nourishment that I received will fill my tank for months! I had that satisfying feeling that I was loved, treasured, appreciated and respected. I relaxed and basked in their applause.

In my country, Uganda ,  the statistics from the  Uganda Bureau of Statistics indicate that the life expectancy  of a woman was 55.35 in 2008 and rose to 65.17 in 2018 while that of the man was 54.98 and 60.66 respectively.

According to Statista.com , in Botswana it was 58.97 for women in 2008 and 54.42 in men. Then in 2018 it had increased to 72.5 in women and 66.2 in men.

From the www.ons.gov.uk the life expectancy in UK was 82.9 in women and 79.3 in men in 2018.

In all counties of the world, women live longer than men by 4.5 years. Among the explanations given by researchers for this gap is that the female hormone : Oestrogen  lowers the Bad cholesterol – LDL while increasing the good cholesterol – HDL thus reducing the risks of chronic heart disease in women until ten years after menopause when they catch up with men .

By Uganda standards I qualify to be a senior citizen though I cannot collect the Allowance for the Elderly until  after celebrating my 80th birthday! Surprisingly the minimum age of retirement  for formal employment in Uganda is 55 . The judges of the high court do not retire until they clock 70 years of age.

Each birthday that I celebrate, I thank God for the gift of time and the power to go on, my parents as my mentors, my family and lifetime friends. I thank him for all that I have lived through and learned, the gifts and achievements and the wisdom I have acquired with the experiences. I thank God also for the tough times which challenged me and turned me into a resilient woman and for my small contribution towards making the world a better place.

Thankfully, I was an athlete during my school days, I have never smoked, I exercise daily for a minimum of thirty minutes, I enjoy my glass of red wine and healthy diet of plenty of fruits and vegetables, cereals, low-fat dairy products and more fish and chicken.

In the last fifteen years, I have suffered losses of loved ones; mourned for a season and moved on. I would call myself an optimistic person who sees the glass half -full. I strive to find a gem in each experience. I now know myself drastically well: I thrive best when connected to family and friends . I have a troop of loyal friends. Disorder and chaos derail my thinking, creativity and productivity.

 I never forget my responsibility to give back to the community I live in just as my parents taught me. I call myself a staunch Christian woman. I continue to live with a positive attitude and to live in gratitude while looking for beauty in every one and in everything. I accepted my flaws and strengths many years back and love who I have become. I am sure I now represent the deeper core attributes of survival and resilience so when I create works, they come from the depth of my soul and express whom I am at that moment in time.

For over a week, I have given myself time to reflect on my life and to read more about aging with grace and dignity.

By the time I celebrated my 45th birthday, I was a wife, a mother of three energetic and curious children , a full time medical doctor and a volunteer  at the Francistown SOS Village  in Botswana.  I had proved to myself and others that I had the capacity and ability to wear several hats and to deliver as demanded of me. Then one day it dawned on me that I had lived half of my life.  It forced me to step back and take stock of my life honestly.

 I asked myself a number of questions but 4 in particular needed urgent answers.

. Was my life all about being a good wife, a good mother and an exemplary doctor?

. Was there anything important missing in my life?

. Would I still be contented and satisfied when my children left for university and I had become an empty nest?

. Should not I start thinking of finding another way of being a winner in future?

Over the following months, my spiritual well-being suddenly became more important to me and  I was able to answer those questions honestly. I needed to allow myself to be myself and let myself have what I truly wanted. Yes, I could create myself a new identity and have new big dreams. I had nurtured others for all those years, I needed to make a conscious effort  to nurture myself and once again do something that could challenge me and joyfully keep me awake at night because I wanted it badly. I just had to look from within myself.

 I had been an avid reader of books since the age of six and at that moment in time, I felt that I had read enough books to write my own. The demands of motherhood and the medical career had repressed my creative side.The reflection pushed me into making the decision to create space for myself to write.

Three years later, I was involved in a nearly –fatal accident, I broke three bones in the neck.  After some weeks of neck traction and two open operations on the neck , I was up and about. I survived by God’s grace and because Botswana had an excellent  health care system , I had the love and support of my family and friends and I was strong and fit. The road traffic accident made me confront my mortality and directly pushed me to find out who I really was – my core values, what I held sacred and what put spirit into my life.

 After acquiring the virtue of authenticity, I started on my spiritual and creative journey. I invested more in my creative writing by attending training workshops, webinars, joined Online writing cartels and opened myself to new experiences of entering creative writing competitions. I was determined to become a remarkable writer through continued writing practice and reading.

 Since October 2016 , I have been running a personal blog: https://www.apagefrommunakusbook834350529.blog, to hone my writing skills while at the same time sharing my skills, knowledge, talents , gifts and wealth of experience to influences  the readers positively. It has given me a complete new sense of self-worth and importance.

Someone somewhere once said: “ The hunt is never over until both your heart and belly are full.”

I cannot describe the satisfying feeling I get when I read my short stories in the  Africa Book Club Anthology, Kalahari Literary Review Magazine, Yours 2 Read Platform and Two Drops of Ink, a platform for collaborative writing. My two fiction novels: The Last Lifeline  and  When The Lights came On  are available on  Amazon.com.

I consistently post a new article on my blog every ten days, beating this deadline keeps me joyfully awake at night. I approach this challenge with same youthful enthusiasm that sailed me through the medical school.  It leaves me with no doubt that I am on the right path of finding more purpose and meaning in the last part of my life.

 Maya Angelou rightly said: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

 I know it very well that to give birth to something new, you have to let go of something in you. It allows you to open yourself up to new possibilities and new growth.

 My biggest challenge has been: giving away a part of the medical career for my creativity. I am well aware that if I just keep on adding, things may get complicated for me.  I am yet to throw myself into it to lead a fulfilling and effective life of a writer.

 It is a long process but I have not done badly as a part- time writer.  I trust myself and believe that a combination of my love, passion for the written word and my inherent enthusiasm, courage and discipline, will get me on top of my new career. Thanks to the Internet and the ever increasing technology innovations, for making writing a lot easier. I research all my topics, write them out and share them globally without leaving my desk!

After reinventing myself as a writer, I feel more relaxed, fun-loving, joyful and adventurous. I feel that I have made the time after 50 my own.

24/08/2020- Mature Beauty

While researching material for this post, I read a lot about what the psychologists say about aging gracefully and with dignity.  Worldwide, we are all living longer than the majority of people in the last century.

Immunisation against the common childhood diseases like measles , access to effective health care services and  good nutrition, our increased understanding of our environment , the availability of antibiotics and essential drugs like insulin, advances in science  and technology and medicine, have combined to increase our life expectancy. However, at the same time new challenges keep cropping up like emerging new diseases like HIV/AIDS, Ebola, SARS and now COVID-19, food insecurity, environmental degradation and climate change.

The psychologists have continued to study the behavior and responses of human function in different populations and have come out with guidelines to help us live meaningful; creative and productive lives after clocking 50.

 By sheer coincidence, right here on my desk is a copy of  the UK Sunday Mirror Magazine with a radiant and confident woman of 60 advertising spectacles for Specsavers with the slogan : Life begins at 60. So does a 25% discount at Specsavers.

In the 90s the slogan was : Life begins at 40. This goes to show that we are staying alive for so long.

As many people are now living into their nineties, Adulthood  is considered to run in two phases:

1st  Adulthood and 2nd Adulthood.

TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT POST.

Meanwhile strive to stay safe and keep healthy. Your health is your responsibility.

EVERY DAY IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN AND GROW

A baby learning to walk.

Life itself is about lessons learned through what we go through, what we see and hear and what we read in books. We also learn by observing others and Nature around us.

During the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic difficult and uncertain times, we are being forced to learn things quickly mainly to stay safe and healthy. We were all caught off guard and unprepared  for how to handle the pandemic so the more science we learn about the disease and the more we learn from other countries which have fared better in the pandemic, the more we shall understand and be able to protect ourselves and others.

According to the Johns Hopkins University  COVID-19 Online Dashboard on 13th August 2020,

 20,939,967 cases had been reported globally and 759,928 deaths.

 In the Africa region, South Africa had the largest number of reported cases : 572,865 and 11,270 deaths.

My second home, Botswana, had 1,214 reported cases and  03 deaths.

As of today 13th August 2020, the Ministry of health of Uganda has reported 1,353 confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease, 11 deaths and  1,141 Recovered patients.

On a personal level, the lockdown left me socially isolated, financially insecure and emotionally drained. I have come to accept my vulnerability and mortality and have been pushed to surrender control of my life to a higher power: God my creator. The Bible has always taught me that God teaches us letter by letter, line by line and lesson by lesson. Isaiah 28:10.  A combination of isolation and mind solitude plus what is going around me and the news from other countries worldwide, has forced me to   think and reflect on my life and to have a new perception of the next phase of my life.

 From March to June 2020, Italy was the epicenter of the COVID-19 disease, the shocking and troubling pictures of  elderly patients fighting for their lives in the Intensive care units are still engrained in my memory.  627 elderly people majority of them men, died in 24 hours on the 21st March, 87 percent of these were patients over 70 years of age and 99 percent had associated chronic medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. They died alone in ICU or in nursing homes.

Other countries like USA and United Kingdom soon caught up with Italy and even went beyond.

Currently USA, Brazil, Mexico and India are grappling with the biggest number of new cases and deaths.

 I truly appreciate that life is a gift that has to be celebrated every day. Each day I wake up fit; up and about, becomes a time of possibilities and potential. My responsibility is to make the most of it.

The value of life becomes more meaningful after 50 years of age when you realize that you have already lived more than half of your life or at any age when you survive a threatening illness or accident. The reality of your age, your own place in life and your own mortality crystallize out.

This is what I am living with every day and two good things have come out of it. I have made a conscious effort to love with no regrets and to stop procrastinating.

LOVING WITH NO REGRETS

Those who died alone in ICU without anyone holding their hands had relatives but by the very nature of the disease which was even less understood by that time, they could not be by their relatives’ side. It left many of those relatives with a lot of unfinished business.

Such a situation would leave any of us wondering:

When did I last visit my relative?

When did I last talk to her/him?

When did I last tell her/him that I loved her/him and that I appreciated her for the way she touched and enriched my life?

Did I ever tell her/him that I loved her/him?

The answer to these questions is what hurts the living most in our fast –paced world. Our world is dominated by work; we tend to put off many things like calling a parent or a friend. Birthdays and Christmas still come once a year!

The regret of unfinished business is particularly oppressive, even haunting in its oppressive grief.”– Donna Lynn Hope.

I lost a relative who had worked as a nurse in USA for over twenty five years. In the latter years she had developed Diabetes but was well controlled and leading  more less a normal life. She died in June at the frontline of the COVID -19 pandemic. While in Botswana, we were in regular contact but when I relocated back home, I got wrapped up in my own survival and assimilation. The next thing I heard was that she was fighting for her life in the Intensive Care Unit. Her death left me drained emotionally; I cried out of grief but more for what I never said to her or what I would never be able to say.

I needed to immunize myself of similar regrets in future so I am training myself to learn to tell the important people in my life what they mean to me as often as it is possible. As love is more of action than words, I am focused on doing small acts of kindness whenever an opportunity presents itself.

After all genuine love enriches both the giver and the receiver and makes everything possible. Happy people make others happy too.

That is why I have decided to love with no regrets even if it means loving the difficult ones at a distance.

No regrets, just love.” – Anonymous

 STOPPING THE PROCRASTINATION GAME.

Procrastination can be simply defined as putting off things.

It is considered and rightly so as the “thief of dreams”. We are all guilty of it in one way or another.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was deliberately disciplining myself to stop procrastinating but instead do the most important things in my life as a matter of urgency. On a scale of 1 to 10, I could score a 7 ; I was working hard on it every day.

The psychologists tell us that each one of us needs both self-control and motivation to get things done in a timely manner.  Self-control allows you to push yourself to do things while motivation offers  the reward to your efforts. Most times the reward comes in the form of satisfaction of getting one thing on your  “to do list” done.  It brings  you closer to  a sense of completeness in life.

Studies on human behavior show the following as the commonest cause of procrastination:

1.Rewards that are too far in future

2. Not having a clear picture of your future self

3.Feeling unwanted.

4. Anxiety

5. Perfectionism

6. Fear of Failure

7. A perceived lack of control

8 .Lack of enjoyment

9. Lack of motivation

The commonest among these is the fear of failure, not being motivated enough and just being lazy to perform what is yours to be done.

In the recent past, I was putting off things because I had too many demands on my time. I was unnecessarily postponing decisions and actions and getting little done. I took inventory of my life just as I had done in my early thirties and recognised that that I was not “super woman’’.  I had to prioritise things by defining the 20 percent most important things in my life and give them 80 percent of my time. Once again , I was in control of my life and laughed more often.

On returning home, I found that most essential systems were hardly functional; simple things like acquiring or renewing an essential document, took long to be completed. Many people have forgotten the importance of punctuality; they seem to have an extra four hours in a day! The heavy traffic jams in the city drain my energies and emotions. All these affect my motivation and increase the likelihood of procrastination.

I am fighting to ensure that the demotivating factors do not outweigh my self-control and motivation and tip me over into a cycle of procrastination.

“Procrastination is one of the common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” – Wayne Gretay

As a senior citizen, I am aware of the reality of my age and yet curious about the possibilities of life from midlife to the end.   I have to do what is mine to do and fulfill my highest purpose in life. I work on it every day. Death is with us all the time but I can still see a future beyond COVID-19 pandemic and this gives me hope.

The COVID-19 Lockdown made me realize that there were a number of things that I could have started and completed before the uncertainty and unpredictability of the COVID-19 catastrophe set in.  I am now left with only four months to the end of 2020! As things stand, COVID -19 is not going away anytime soon but it is my duty and responsibility to protect myself and others .  I remain hopeful that the scientists will be able to find some effective drugs to treat the disease and a safe , effective and affordable vaccine.

Gradually  we shall figure out the best way to get on with our lives amidst the COVID-19 disease and its effect on our health and economies.

.

Over time, I shall relearn to trust myself to start creating again while pushing procrastination to the back burner. I still have much to look forward to; I have new dreams for my life.

 Who knows, I may be able to catch up on the lost months of 2020. As for now, staying safe and healthy is my top priority. It should be yours too.

QUESTION:

Did the time you spent in strict lockdown force you to relearn of the urgent need to do important things in a timely manner?

A RAINBOW OF HOPE

Colours speak to Us

  

The COVID-19  pandemic  rages on , affecting all aspects of society- health, financial, movement and getting down to our relationships and choices. All of us are longing for the world we know and yet we know that it will definitely be a new Normal.

 The majority of people in the world are under some form of lockdown to control the spread of the virus in communities and to ensure that that health care systems do not get overwhelmed by the number of patients. It happened in Italy, Spain, UK, New York right before our eyes. No  government would want to see it happen in its country.

In Uganda, as of last night, we were in day 8 of the lockdown and  a curfew from 7pm to 7am. The total number of confirmed cases was 61 of which  51 had been  treated and discharged.  Thankfully, we had not suffered any deaths among the cases or the health workers. The strict lockdown  is set to continue until the 5th May 2020. We all hope and pray that the numbers of cases will not surge to warrant an extension of the lockdown and curfew. The government has done a commendable job in adhering to the advice of WHO and  health professionals in the Ministry of Health and Uganda Virus Research Institute as well as supplying food to the most needy  around the city. Digital technology has made it easy to collect information and data which is then analysed to determine the next course of action and to keep the public well informed and part of the control plans.

I have come to trust the face and words of Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health  and to appreciate the dedication and heavy burden on the health workers who are at the frontline of this battle. They have energetically tapped into their experiences of managing the Ebola epidemics  of the recent past.

Citizens and professional all alike, our priority now is to protect ourselves from this invisible enemy, survive the lockup and move into the New Normal.

We are confined to our homes knowing very well that the environment always sets the rules  and we have to live by those rules. In these confined spaces, we are forced to learn to be alone ( in some cases)or be congested , to be quieter and to entertain ourselves.

These are difficult but temporary  times so we live one day at a time under a cloud of uncertainty. Under such environment, each one of us has on purpose to tap into the child in her/him to be able to make a game out of this lockdown . It is the only way to keep mentally, physically and emotional in top shape.

I remember some years back, one of my sons misbehaved and I punished him by locking him up in an empty room. He went in screaming but within a few minutes he was strikingly quiet. Like a monkey, he had climbed over the burglar proofing of the second door and was looking at the people passing  by in the road. He was enjoying it! He had turned a punishment into a game!

Children approach any situation with spontaneity and openness. We cannot allow ourselves to stagnate during this lockdown; time once lost, it cannot be recovered.

With childlike enthusiasm, we have to explore and create some laughter, fun, adventure  and colour in our confined spaces. The child in each one of us never goes away though as we grow up, we tend to be too focused on the past or the future to be fully open and spontaneous. Lockdown time should give us an opportunity to regain what is natural to each of us as children. We would all be alive if we responded creatively and anew to each new experience.

It is time to talk, laugh, play music, write, read, cook , paint,  to do gardening or a  DIY around the house or anything daring or outrageous to break the routine. Do it with childlike abandon with no sense of guilt. Take one day at a time. Do it on purpose; it will help you adjust to this temporary and difficult time. The complaining and whining will only make an already difficult time worse.

While researching for material for this post I came across some encouraging quotes that can uplift us.

  1. God put rainbows in the clouds so that each of us – in dreariest and most dreaded moments- can see a possibility of hope.” Maya Angelou
  2. Acting from  a  negative attitude attracts more negativity in your life. It’s your life; live it well.”- Judge Judy Sheindlin
  3. You may chain my hands, you may shackle my feet, you may even throw  me into a dark prison; but you shall never enslave my thinking, because it is free.’’ – Kahlil Gibran.
  4. “In life you either choose to sing a rainbow, or you don’t. Keep singing.” – Catherine Lory
  5.  “There comes a point in life when you realize that your darkest times  are your best times, too- you will see the rainbow of your life.” Roy Bennet
  6. My parents survived the Great Depression and brought me up to live within my means, save for tomorrow, share and don’t be greedy, work hard for the necessities  in life. Knowing that money does not make you better or more important than anyone else. So, extravagance has been  bred out of my DNA.”- David Suzuki
  7. The greatest generation was formed first by the Great Depression. They shared everything- meals, joy, clothing.  – Tom Brokaces
  8. “ It took capitalism half a century to come back from the Great Depression.” – Ben Shapiro
  9.  “Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” – Raymond Lindquist
  10. “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.”– Wayne. W. Dyer

11.“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. ” – George Bernard Shaw

  12.  “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” William Arthur Ward.

  13.    “ True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Leo Tolstoy

  14.“ All things are difficult before they are easy.” – Thomas Fuller

  15. “ Delays are valuable challenges. Stop complaining and whining instead exploit them to create a rainbow. The rainbow will show up.” –Anonymous.

As we wonder when the COVID-19 pandemic will end, how it will end and how it will change  us and our world, we have to understand that the COVID-19, Corona virus Disease, will not just disappear, instead it  will become part of our lives. We just keep hoping that the drugs to treat it and  the vaccine to control it will be discovered  sooner than later, to help us  go on with our lives.

 In 1978, I took six months of internship in the paediatric department of the New Mulago Teaching hospital . To my shock and horror, I recognised that a minimum of ten children under five years of age were dying of the viral infection , Measles, and its complications.  Each time I was on duty in the Acute Care Unit, I would leave the place shaken and crushed in  spirit.  That was one reason why I could not specialize in the care of infants, children and adolescents- Paediatrics.

WHO archives show that in 1980, before the widespread vaccination of Measles , the disease caused an estimated 2.6  million deaths each year in the world. Amazingly , by 2015, due to the widespread use of the safe  and effective vaccine, the highly infectious viral infection caused an estimated 134, 200 deaths worldwide , most of them in the under five children. The vaccine had reduced the deaths caused by measles by 79%! The Global Vaccination Action Plan targets a 90 % immunization coverage. The current Immunisation coverage of measles  in the under five years in Uganda  is about 82 % while Botswana has an Immunisation coverage of all childhood diseases  of 97 %. In the two decades I worked in the Primary Health Care department  of Botswana,  I only saw two cases of Measles and they were mild. I picked them quickly due to my haunting experience in the Paediatric department in Mulago.

Companies in USA, UK, Israel , China and other countries are working round the clock to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. It is encouraging to hear that trials in human beings have started in USA and UK. Normally it takes years to develop any safe, effective vaccine but thanks to the new technology like genetic sequencing, the vaccine to this new vaccine may take 6 to 18 months!

Before we know it, we could be walking around with a mild infection of CODIV-19.

Meanwhile , let us keep ourselves safe and others safe. We all stand to gain from this strict lockdown.


The innocent smile of a child.

QUESTION:

What is the biggest challenge that you face every day during this COVID-19 Lockdown? How have you tried to solve it ?

Please stay safe and stay healthy.

STAYING HOME TO STAY RELATIVELY SAFE

I read my Bible regularly and that Book of the Philosopher known as Ecclesiastes, verse 15 of the third chapter confirms what we all know: Whatever happens or can happen has already happened before. God makes the same things happen again and again.

While I was reading about pandemics under Medical history and Ethics , I found out that influenza pandemics had occurred regularly every 30-40 years since the 16th century and the question that was always on people’s minds was: When is the next one?

The most deadly Influenza Pandemic of modern times was the Spanish one of 1918-1920. It did not originate in Spain but the 1st World War was raging in Europe from July 28th 1914 to November 11th 1918. The influenza pandemic was spreading quickly in war- ravaged Europe and regulations did not allow journalists  to talk about the pandemic  but Spain was a neutral country in that war so its journalists could report freely about the pandemic and its economic effect on Spain. This is why it was called the Spanish Influenza. Investigative research later suggested that it could have originated in Kansas, USA in the spring of 1918. It spread quickly to Europe, North Africa, India and Australia.

The movement of people and the military during the war, the poor food supplies, and the malnourished state of  the people, facilitated the spread of the virus. The Spanish Influenza Pandemic  is believed to have caused 500 million infections and killed 50 million of them. It killed people mainly between 18  and 45 years of age. The death rate of 2% caused great economic disruption and decline. It was declared a global public health problem and guidelines were put in place to contain it.

The main focus was on  Prevention and Control of the spread of the pandemic by :

  1. Identifying the classic symptoms  and alerting the public
  2. Obligatory confinement of suspected cases followed by tracing their contacts and quarantining them.
  3. Symptomatic treatment  of cases – many of the patients died of pneumonia  caused by a bacteria in lungs already weakened by the virus infection.
  4. Closure of all public places and stopping all public gatherings and congregations.
  5. Minimising travel and quarantining travelers from areas where there were outbreaks of the infection.
  6. The people were given the right information and empowered to take on their individual responsibilities of keeping themselves and others safe.

After this unprecedented pandemic, many lessons were learned from the mistakes and what was done right.  Public health was strengthened and Essential guidelines were  developed which are still being used today to fight pandemics

Coronavirus  disease – COVID-19

These are different times ; we are living in  a well-connected world ,connected through quick modes of transportation like aeroplanes, trains, marine, vehicles on connected roadways. We are living in the science and technology –driven 21st century. The Internet allows the generation, analysis  of data and transfer of it over networks. People can easily influence each other.

Since the Spanish flue pandemic, there have been many medical advances in the diagnosis , management  and  control of common diseases and new ones like SARS and Ebola.

By April 1948, the United Nations had established the World Health Organization(WHO) as the co-coordinating and authority on International Public health and one of its main functions is to fight diseases and  to stop them from spreading.

WHO declared COVID- 19 as a public health Emergency on the 30 th January 2020. The Corona virus is a new virus,  it is a respiratory virus, has no treatment or vaccine and no one has immunity to it. The first cases were reported by 27th December  2019 as  mysterious pneumonia cases in the city of Wuhan, China. Available records of last week from Wuhun showed    81,470 confirmed cases, 75,770 recovered and  3,304 deaths. Wuhan Province has been in total shut down for eight weeks in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus to mainland China and other countries of the world.

UGANDA

The first case was confirmed on 21 st March 2020 and immediately, some restrictions to movement and to public gathering and congregation were put in place for at least 32 days.

The Ministry of Health has done a commendable job in educating us about the new disease, how to protect ourselves and others and what to do if you suspect you have the main symptoms and how to boost your immunity to infections.

Daily updates on the progress of the pandemic at home and worldwide keep us on the right path and empower us to do the right things during this period of uncertainty. I only hope that we are being told the truth about the spread of this invisible killer.

As of today 30th March, 33 cases have been confirmed  at the Uganda Virus Research Institute, Entebbe. They are all imported cases- people who travelled and returned home from countries like United Arab Emirates. Thankfully, the virus has not yet spread into the Community. This must have dictatated the total lockdown declared by the president last night and  being effective from 10pm. Uganda is a developing country, has limited resources, if the virus spread into our community fast, the numbers of patients would definitely overwhelm our fragile health care system.  The fact that 78% of our population is under the age of 30, could be an advantage to us and so are the lessons learned from having lived through and controlled the Gulu Ebola epidemic of 2000, of the west  in 2007 and the Luwero outbreaks of 2011 and 2012. They say that what does not kill you makes you stronger and wiser.

 We are following the WHO guidelines to the letter: early detection by quick testing and quick isolation followed by contact tracing to limit the spread of the virus together with the provision of Protective  personal equipment to the health workers on the frontline.

The most vulnerable among us like the elderly, those in self –isolation, those on HIV /AIDS treatment will need to be supported by the government through this pandemic. No doubt, the lockdown  will shrink the economy  and family incomes but staying healthy takes the priority for now.

 Being in the high risk age group, I have not left home since the declaration of the first restrictions on 21st March.  I cannot thank God enough for giving me this opportunity to be with my octogenarian mother during this unprecedented situation. It has allayed our anxiety and fears. But as a typical Ugandan family, our close relatives are scattered as far as Australia, Canada, UK, Sweden, Italy, USA, Kenya, and Cape Town, South Africa. We are closely connected on Social Media and mobile phones. We are asking two questions: When will it end? and Will life ever be the same again?

 As a health worker, I find it extremely disheartening to see what is happening in hospitals in Italy. I pray that it does not happen elsewhere.

 South Korea is a notable example of a country which slowed down the spread of the virus without applying the strict lockdown strategies taken elsewhere.   In January, the country quickly confirmed that they had some COVID-19 cases and immediately restricted  movement  while testing widely and  aggressively. They isolated  the cases and quarantined suspects. They used digital technology like mobile phones, ATM cards to trace contacts. It reduced the spread of the virus without lockdown .

The reopening of Wuhun, a  Chinese city of 11 million people  after eight weeks of total lockdown  gives us some hope.

This global pandemic is reminding us of how interconnected we are to each other and that we can only defeat the virus if we engaged and worked collectively. Each one of us has a small role to play that fits in the big picture.The reality is that drugs have to be developed, tested and approved  for use in human beings. A vaccine is likely to take 6-18 months to be developed but life has somehow to go on.

I for one have been reminded of not taking life and loved ones for granted and that I can only live a bigger life if I am connected to others. And that my health is my greatest wealth!

 Life never ceases to surprise; on the 29th March 2020, BBC World service featured Bob Weighton of UK as the oldest man in the world. He was celebrating 112 years on that day. What was most interesting about him is that he had lived through the great Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1919 and was now locked down in his home due to the current CODIV-19 Pandemic!

As they say, it always gets worse before it gets better, we all need to prepare ourselves for the worst and to do everything possible to support each other through the pandemic.

“ May you see sunshine where others see shadows and opportunities where  others see obstacles.- Unknown

QUESTION:

Are you playing your role seriously in protecting yourself and others from this infectious virus?

NEW POSSIBILITIES

A feast for the eyes and the palate to welcome you into 2020

The New Year gives each one of us an opportunity to start afresh while at the same time aiming at doing more and doing better.

Oprah Winfrey once said: “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

 The big picture of your life and mine comes to us piecemeal year by year. This explains why we have to look at the passing year closely before planning for the New Year. I have had to assess whether I was able to achieve the goals that I set for myself for this year and the progress I made towards advancing my overall purpose in life. I know that I should have done better in some areas and in others; things were beyond my control. I am now determined to use the lessons I have learned from my failures to improve my future, as for the achievements, they point me toward bigger goals in the years to come. They say that Experience is the best teacher.

As I write this post, a quote by an unknown author keeps coming to me: “Set your goals high enough to inspire you and low enough to encourage you.”
Unrealistic goals put you on pressure and lead to frustration.
For the last seven years, I have been a keen Follower of Michael Hyatt, the renowned American life coach and Virtual mentor. He advises each one of us to plan for the year as planning gives us clarity and helps us to make progress to achieving the goals. The three elements of the plan are:


1. The Vision- this is the big picture of your life and it should inspire and inform your plan. Each one of us is born with the power to create, transform and heal. What is most critical is that your vision conforms to who you are at a deep level and what your life, at best, should really be about. Look within yourself to identify your unique gifts, talents and skills and then use them to create your own ideal life. Having a vision of the future stretches your sense of possibilities and brings you closer to achieving your own ideal life. A positive but realistic projection of the future frees us to enjoy the present and to make our dreams come true. The vision should be very concrete so that it becomes real to us. You are free to fake it until you make it.

2.The Priorities- the most important things in your life that advance your personal development and fulfillment.
We live in a fast-paced, competitive world and many demands are made on us. It is vital that we consistently apply the 80/20 Rule of Time Management: prioritize the 20% most important things in your life and devote 80% of your time, energy, efforts and resources on them. It is the only way to stop the ‘Urgent’ from drowning out the most important activities that advance your overall purpose in life.

Life is too short. Do stuff that matters.”-  Siqi Chen

The priorities change as we grow but essentially they are: family, career, health, finances and relationships.

3. The Actions- the steps to be taken to fulfill your priorities.

Dante Alighieri rightly said: “The secret of getting things done is to act.”

 These are the goals and are better laid out using the SMART acronym:
S- Our goals should be Specific
M- should be Measurable( year-long)
A- should be Actionable
R- should be Realistic.
T- should be Time bound.

The above three elements of the year plan should be aligned together.

I have always had to remind myself that I am in control of my life. It fuels my determination to follow things through to achieve my vision and stay motivated to reach my goals. I must admit that this year my greatest weakness has been procrastination- the Thief of Dreams. I have had to fight fiercely to beat it. I had to encourage myself to stick to the deadlines and to ask my eldest son to hold me accountable.
I would urge you to believe in yourself and encourage yourself by rewarding yourself for the achievements. Be smart to let go of what no longer serves you and pick what really fits who you now are. This is the only way you can be yourself and let yourself have what you truly want.

Interestingly, I have had to take off my hat many times to Vuvu Mpofu, the newest opera singer star at the annual Glyndebourne Festival Opera of UK. She comes from a small town in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She first heard of opera at the age of fifteen when she watched a Mozart aria at a school concert. It cast such a strong spell on her that she bought two opera DVDs and taught herself to sing by mimicking singers in the DVDs. She did it over and over again until she became confident and competent to be noticed by a voice coach. Last August, she was chosen to participate in this traditional summer event. At twenty eight years of age, she became the first non-British artist to win the John Christie Award for the most promising young singer of the year.

I have watched her videos on YouTube and I have been blown away!

 With her vocal extraordinary talent, she is really going places.

This is what I call faking it until you become it.

I hope that reading this post has given you the confidence to make Smarter goals for 2020 , making it different from 2019. I wish you happiness, good health and prosperity in the New Year.

QUESTION:

Were you able to accomplish the goals you set for yourself for 2019?

What was your biggest hurdle? How did you overcome it?

TWO HITORICAL FIRSTS IN ONE MONTH

Man’s first footprint on the Moon

 I have been around for a while and have a mountain of good things to talk about. Fifty years ago, when I was a vibrant teenager; full of hope and dreams, two unforgettable firsts happened in one month! They left me mesmerized in the wonder of God’s creation. Unexpected as they were, I had no words in either my indigenous language or English language to describe them. Looking back now, the two events left me filled with respect and admiration for humankind and they boosted my energy and hope that I could in my small way achieve what I wanted in life for my own good and for the good of others.

The year was 1969 in the month of July. The first once-in- a- lifetime event happened on the 20th July, when the Eagle Module of NASA’s Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the Moon! The historic moment was being watched live by over 660 million people. 

Six hours and thirty nine minutes after landing, 38-year old Neil Armstrong(1930-2012) climbed down the ladder of Eagle to walk on the Moon. Nineteen minutes later, he was followed  by Buzz Aldrin while astronaut Michael Collins piloted the Command Module Columbia above them. Armstrong and Aldrin were the first men to set foot on the Moon! I remember it vividly as if it happened only recently and thanks to the Internet; from the Archives Teaching Resource, I have been able to fill in almost all the missing pieces and enjoy the event much more. It was perfect timing for me; I was on holiday at home so my parents and siblings were that evening glued on the black and white television set. We were all seated on the edges of the chairs watching the spectacle unravel as if all our lives depended on it! An awkward silence followed but then as if on cue, we all stood up, cheered and ulululated.

I remember Neil Armstrong’s famous words as he took the first step on the dusty Moon surface: “ This is one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind.’’

Closing my eyes, I can see both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in their white, multi-layered, flexible spacesuits, space goggles and a backpack containing each one’s life support system. They had gone on to plant the American flag in the surface.

President Richard Nixon ‘s message to them said it all: “ Because of what you have done, the heavens have become part of man’s world.’’

Now I know and understand that for centuries, man had wanted to step on the moon. The Moon race was in earnest by 1957. The unmanned Luna 2 mission of the Soviet Union was the first unmanned spacecraft to reach the Moon’s surface successfully on September 13, 1959. The Soviet Union launched the unmanned Luna 15 on 13 July, 1969 to land on the Moon’s surface and collect the lunar rock and dust. It crash landed on it on the 21st July just a few hours after Armstrong , Aldrin and Collins had landed on the Moon but before their lift off from it.

The Americans had beaten the Russians to the finishing line of the lunar race. It was never really the end but it was the starting line for the second phase of the study and exploration of the Moon.

The three American astronauts in NASA’s Apollo 11 spacecraft had set off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on the 16th July with one mission: to land safely on the Moon. It took them three days to enter the Lunar Orbit. The Mission was under control of a team of NASA engineers at the Space Centre in Houston, Texas.  Making the historic landing  on 20th July at 9:32 am. EDT, turned the three men into America’s most famous astronauts during NASA’s golden era.

In not more than eight minutes, they collected the first geological samples from the Moon surface- rocks and the fine granular lunar dust. Some samples were collected thirteen centimeters below the Moon surface. Since then more Apollo missions have brought back lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles and dust from the Moon. The Moon rock is currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Scientist claim that every sample brought back from the moon has been contaminated by the Earth’s air and humidity. Strictly adhering to the principle of Astronautical hygiene, Armstrong’s and Aldrin’s spacesuits had to be vacuum-cleaned and the inside of the lunar Module, to ensure that lunar dust and particles were not transferred to the Columbia Command Module, destined to return them to planet Earth. The Columbia Command Module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on the 24th July 1969.

 The astronauts had spent eight days in space. They were immediately quarantined in the Mobile Quarantine Facility for twenty one days! This was a safety precaution to ensure that planet Earth was not contaminated by lunar germs in case the two astronauts had picked any from the Moon’s surface. NASA considered this as a better-safe-than- sorry operation.

It was indeed a giant step in Air and space exploration and technology!

 Between that Moon landing of July 1969 and 1972, NASA sent five other Apollo Missions to the moon and each planted an American flag at the landing site.The last American Astronauts walked on the Moon surface in December 1972 under the Apollo17 Mission.

Other countries like Japan, China, Israel and India  joined the space exploration activities. Only the United States of America, the Soviet Union and China (December 2013) have succeeded in landing safely on the Moon. China with its great power status  wants to claim its position  as a world power off planet Earth.

India wants to test and prove its advances in science and space technology. On the 22nd July 2019, India’s  ISRO launched in 1969, sent off a spacecraft scheduled to land on the Moon’s south pole by the end of August 2019. It is possible that deposits of water-ice could be hidden at this pole.

South Africa’s study and exploration and utilization of space for peaceful uses began in the 1950s. It launched its national space agency in 2010.

The celebration of the 50 years since man first walked on the Moon has opened a new lunar race for exploration and inspired a whole new generation of astronauts. The Vice President of USA, Mike Pence assured Americans that America was returning to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis Project. America would be sending men back to the Moon by 2024, four years earlier than NASA had targeted.

Indeed, the Moon has become a focus of exploration once again.

For the developing countries like mine, it is a matter of national priorities; our governments have the great task of lifting their people out of poverty, creating economic opportunities, technological empowerment and improve the quality of life for all.

Both the developed countries and the developing ones have the collective responsibility of  improving  Planet earth: the environment itself , the people and animals and plants. The effects of increasing global temperatures affect all of us and so are the effects of pollution and violence. Food insecurity, unemployment especially of the youth, lack of education and government corruption affect our security and well-being.

Now that the Moon race has been set in motion once again, I hope that the Moon and the planets will be harnessed under the Utilitarian ethical principle: with the greatest amount of good for the greatest number and at the same time be protected for the future generations too.

QUESTION:

Where were you when Neil Armstrong first stepped out onto the Moon?

The second historical first of the same month and year will be covered in Part11.

SMILE AND LAUGHTER

The Smiling Emoji

My last post on this blog was about communication, the bedrock of all human relationships and a necessity for survival. Reading around this subject led me into the physical, mental and social benefits of laughter.

We all know that smiling is the beginning of laughter and like laughter, it is contagious. Many times, we have been advised to love simply, laugh often and love deeply. The cliché of “laughter is the best medicine”, could be said to be as old as civilization. I was even reluctant to include it in this post but then I remembered one proverb in King Solomon’s Book of Proverbs: Proverb 17 verse 22 : “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.”

A genuine smile is a facial expression conveying one’s deep feelings. The smile is expressed more with the mouth other than the eyes. The Americans are good at displaying their emotions and to them the smile expresses happiness and respect. The Japanese are not very open with their emotions so in a smile, they focus more on the look in the eyes other than the mouth. The Germans do not show their emotions often so they smile less often. In my country, Uganda, a smile expresses warmth and in my local area, the central region, we can laugh out loud with family and friends until we cry. The over 600 years old royal dynasty of Buganda in Uganda, has always had singers, drummers and comedians at the royal court to entertain people and make them laugh. World-wide, a good belly laugh makes each one of us feel good.

Since 1995, the unfatiguable Dr. Madan  Kataria of Mumbai, India, a country where people laugh until they hurt, has been advocating for laughing for health and happiness. He has become the world’s Laughter Yoga Teacher. He is the founder of the laughter Yoga Clubs in over sixty countries. He arranged for the first World Laughter Day in 1998 to increase awareness about laughter and its health benefits. Since then, the first Sunday in May, people gather in public places just to share laughter.

 Dr. Kataria is popularly known as the “Guru of Giggling”. As a medical doctor, he explains that a good belly laugh expels air from the lungs allowing them to take in more fresh air. The oxygen in the fresh air is made available to the cells in the body to convert biochemical energy from nutrients: sugar, amino acids, fatty acids .This energy is then used by the cells to run the essential cellular activities or processes.

Studies have proved how laughter improves our health and happiness.

  • It improves cardiac health by increasing the blood flow to the heart, lowers the Blood pressure and this reduces the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
  • It reduces the stress hormone levels thus reducing anxiety and stress on the body. Stress and anxiety have adverse effects on the body.
  • It tones the abdominal muscles that are used in a loud laugh.
  • It boosts the body’s immune system. The T-cells, the specialized cells of the immune system are activated by laughter. This improves the body’s resistance to disease and cancer.
  • It triggers the release of the endorphin hormones one of the “feel good/happy chemicals” from the brain. Endorphins improve one’s mood; adding joy and zest to life.

Endorphins are natural pain killers that temporarily relieve chronic pain, leaving you feel better.

The relief of physical tension and stress which leaves your muscles relaxed, goes on for up to 45 minutes after.

Human beings are programmed to be social creatures and laughter has been proved to have some social benefits.

Laughter connects us to other people- it attracts other people to us.

It helps to diffuse difficult situations.

It promotes group bonding.

In intimate relationships, sharing laughter strengthens the relationship and keeps it fresh and lasting.

Over the years, I have learned not to take life so seriously. I laugh at myself and at life itself.

 I make a conscious effort to laugh several times during the day. After a long day I put up my feet and watch Just for Laughs: Gags or a good comedy on the television and by the time it ends, I am enjoying a happy high.

I intentionally spend time with fun-filled, playful people like children and old friends. With such people, I find myself more relaxed, more positive and joyful.

I never forget to find my inner child- I claim the spontaneity and the ability to laugh at ordinary things.

I spend 10-15 minutes in a day, doing something that I love and that makes me laugh; like reading a funny story.

Sometimes I just decide to do something silly like making funny facial expressions in a mirror or mimicking funny voices in my past. In such situations, I focus on having fun.

And in a group I allow myself to be drawn to where the laughter is.

Sometimes all I need to do to make myself laugh is to remember a few funny experiences in my life.

Strangely, as I enjoy a happy high, I find myself admitting that Laughter is the best medicine. It is also free, can be self-administered safely and can also save you time and money at the doctor’s. It adds years to one’s life.

QUOTE:

“Trouble knocked at the door, but hearing laughter, hurried away.” – Benjamin Franklin

Simply find opportunities to have a hearty laugh every day.

QUESTION:

How often do you give yourself permission to play for fun and to laugh out loud every day?

GIVING YOUR BEST

The photograph is from Unsplash.com
The onetime Professor and head of the Blue Firm left the ladder leaning against a solid wall for others to climb up.

   Last Sunday , I was among the group of medical doctors who were given the privilege to  join Mr. George Kamya, an Emeritus Professor of Surgery of Makerere University College of Health Sciences ,celebrate his 94 th birthday at his home in Kololo, Kampala.

I had not seen him for more than twenty years but I was amazed at how robust he was. He was full of life , very alert and relaxed. All you needed was to introduce yourself to him and then he would say a word or two indicating that he had recognized and remembered you. Apart from losing the use of his legs, I would say that he has changed very little in the time I have been away. He felt comfortable with his wife of many years seated beside him. It was a real celebration of his long, rich life. A worship service followed by a few speeches and the traditional African lunch of plantains, millet, rice ,chapatti, sweet potatoes, sweet plantains, yams served with beef and chicken stews, groundnut sauce, a variety of local vegetables and a variety of fresh fruits like pineapples, water melon and mangoes.

The ambient atmosphere reminded me of my teachers, mentors and sponsors .

My favourite author, Kahlil Gibran(1883-1931) , the  Lebanese- American artist, poet and philosopher said: “You give but little when you you give of your posessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

This nonagenarian has lived a professional and exemplary ethical life:  many years ago, he had mastered the art of balancing family responsibility and serving his country as a surgeon. He gave a part of himself to all of us who passed through his hands as undergraduates and post graduates. He was a pillar of strength, support and discipline. He intentionally picked those with great potential and encouraged them  and showed them how to become  noble surgeons. He invested in them and they responded because they wanted to be like him and  to make a difference in their communities.

  Among the crop was my late husband, the first Ugandan woman surgeon, Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe. She later went on to become Uganda’s first woman Vice President( 1994-2003). For over fifty years, he left fingerprints on those he worked with and indelible footprints where he passed for others to follow and create their own stories.

  The Association of Surgeons of Uganda is a vibrant one where women are visible as general surgeons , neurosurgeons, urologists, plastic surgeons and pediatric surgeons. Its members are also active members of  COSECSA- the College of Surgeons of East and Central and Southern Africa.

Jim Rohn (1930-2009) an American entrepreneur and author said: ” All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.”

And Shannon L. Alder , an inspirational author said: “ Carve your names on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”

Most of us remember how he created his own brand, success and managed and protected it on what came to be known as his ward up to today: ward 2A, the Blue firm ,of the New Mulago Teaching Hospital .

He always acted with honour and truthfulness and his patients always came first. He paid strict attention to detail and time. He was positive, had strong self-esteem, was patient with himself and others  and kept learning. He stood up for his values and spoke against unethical behavior. He lived his values in relationships with  the co-workers and patients. He created his life out of the truth of his soul and what he was taught by his parents, teachers and life itself.

He helped to create a culture of teamwork, inclusiveness and reward and recognition for great performance. Each member felt a sense of belonging to something bigger than herself/himself, worked with integrity and was empowered to explore. Things ran like clock –work whether the seniors were present or not. Responsibility and accountability were their badges of honour.

He retired officially in 2000 but those he mentored have been able to lead and carry on his work with enthusiasm.

Over the years, as I interacted with him, I came to respect and admire him for his wealth of knowledge, skills, experiences and his passion to share it with the young generation but more for his humility and easy demeanor. No task was either too big or too small for him to perform. He performed them all with a smile.

The psychologists always help us to understand why human beings think, feel and behave as they do .As soon as this seasoned surgeon came to know who he truly was, he became secure in it to become a professional of the world while at the same time opening himself up to learn from others. He knew who he was and appreciated that he was a human being who had strengths and flaws. He learned to tolerate others , lifted the weak up while pushing the strong ones  higher up the ladder of success. He left the ladder leaning against a solid wall for others to climb up as he did.

I pray he lives for more years to take the credit for all those whom he has created through mentoring, sponsoring along with his own family. His legacy lives on through them.

 All in all, I was glad I had been part of the celebration of  a man who did the best he could with what he had  and became all that he could be. Amazingly, he never stopped at creating himself, he helped others create themselves too. As they say, what you gladly give away comes back to you multiplied many times over.

Writing this post has challenged me whether I know for sure that each day I live, I am writing my own legacy and on how I have been able to empower others to succeed.

QUESTION:

After creating your own life , how have you facilitated the young generation to create their own lives too?

THE POWER OF THE COLLECTIVE

This photograph is from Unsplash.com

Each one of us is born as an individual and dies as an individual. In between these two stages, one has to live effectively and leave the world a better place than he/she found it. None of us can produce her/his best work alone; you need others to teach you, mentor you, and sponsor you and friends to encourage you. Many old age adages, proverbs and quotations attest to this. Among them are:

Two heads are better than one.

Iron sharpens iron.

None of us is as smart as all of us. By Kenwood Blanchard

John Donne’s poem: No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main………………

One local proverb loosely translated says: You need a functional set of teeth to chew the meat.

Former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan: Yes we can.

Even the members of a cabinet in a democratic country bear collective responsibility for decisions made in the cabinet.

In this Digital era, where the internet has become an integral part of our lives, one needs to check out and belong to at least two groups of like-minded people working towards a common goal. You may call it a Tribe or a Community but your combined efforts motivate and energise  your Community to participate fully and create change in Society.

Henry Ford once said,“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.”

My late father always advised me to belong to something bigger than myself if I were to realize my full potential. It was not until many years later that I understood what he had meant: It all had to do with synergy-The creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

Now it is absolutely clear to me after reading Ash Hoehn’s They told me there is no “I” in the Team .

He says that when he became the team the team became him. The team absorbs “I”………

When the “I” is absorbed then he becomes part of something much more powerful.

 This also reminded me that in any chain link fencing, I can be as strong as the strongest and as weak as the weakest.

In a Kindergarten, children are taught to hold hands and stick together in preparation for how they will later live their lives.

In the wild, a pack of the African Wild dogs also known as the Cape dogs, are the best examples of team work or joint efforts.  A pack of twenty of them or more lives together, hunts together, eats together. They are very good communicators and among the most efficient hunters.Little wonder then that they always flourish wherever they are.

I have been around for a while and the best example of team work that comes to my mind is the organization of the Cooperative movement in my home country, Uganda.By the late 60’s this movement was at its peak and most farmers belonged to a cooperative society in their district. They grew cash crops like coffee and bought it, sold it together and bargained together with the government of the day for best price possible.

These farmers grew very rich; sent their children to the best schools in the country and some of them to universities abroad, built modern homes and bought lorries to transport the coffee and personal family cars. Farmers have never been that rich.It was all the result of the power of collective action. Later, during the 1979 Liberation War, the Wakombozi of the Tanzanian Defence Forces mistook many of those big houses for government offices where soldiers of the then Uganda Army (enemy of the people) could be hiding. Many such houses were bombed for this reason.

Who can forget the thousands of women textile workers of the Russian Empire who organized marches that ended in the overthrow of the Tsar in March 1917? They spearheaded the 1917 Revolution!

And in today’s well connected world, the youths of France organized through the Social Media, developed increased political interest. They engaged in the general election of May 2017 and ended up changing the political landscape. Later in June, the youths of Britain actively participated in the general election causing a huge upset in the results.

In December 2018, the military government of Sudan cut subsidies on basic goods like bread and fuel. The Middle-class professionals – doctors, health workers and lawyers, got together under their umbrella organisation, The Sudanese Professional Association(SPA) and organized demonstrations that culminated in the overthrow of President Omar al- Bashir on the 11th April 2019.Since then, they are struggling to work  towards forming a civilian –led transition government.

 It won’t be surprising to us if similar events occurred in other countries.

Today, worldwide, we have many challenges like extreme climatic changes, deforestation, youth unemployment and Substance Abuse, the best way we can develop locally appropriate solutions which we can own is by working together like the Cape wild dogs.

The Kenyans have a proverb that says: Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.

Working together, we can help to build and improve our communities.

QUESTION:

Are you a member of any like-minded group of people striving to give back to the community and aiming at leaving the community better than they found it?