It was only two weeks ago that I was standing on the backseat of a bouncing Land Rover headed through the Serenghetti, the Tanzanian national park that has long been documented by the likes of National Geographic and Discovery. I am so grateful that I got to visit Africa right around the one year mark of my graduation from college. The perspective I gained from spending time outside of New York was much needed. To echo TaraMarie's recent posts, the trip gave me the time and space to pay attention to each moment and just listen.
During my time out in "the bush," I witnessed many unashamed requests for help. Nowhere was this spirit of asking and giving more true than among the safari guides. One morning after a thunderstorm, our vehicle got stuck in soft mud. Another time, one of our front tires blew out after a particularly rough patch of road. In both cases, Lymo (our guide, pictured below) would calmly radio out and within minutes, another safari group would pull up alongside us. The guides chatted and laughed as they worked to resolve the issue, and soon we were on our way again.
As we journeyed through Teregeri, Ngorongoro, and Serenghetti national parks, there were two categories of animals: those who were migrating and that we were likely to see, and those that were rare during the months leading up to the long rains. What I didn't realize until about our third day on the road was that when we pulled alongside another vehicle and the guides would speak in rapid Swahili, it wasn't just to exchange pleasantries. Though they often did not know one another, each guide would inquire as to whether the other had had any luck in spotting a rare animal, and if so, where and how long ago they had seen it. It may seem simple, or an act born out of necessity, but that was why it was such a revelation. Is it not always necessary to ask for help when we can't succeed entirely on our own? There was never any internal struggle, no competitive rivalry, no shame in this request for information. Even when we returned to camp in the evening, the guides would sit together over cold drinks, planning and strategising. They relied on one another in order to show the tourists a good time and in turn, receive better tips.
I have a lot to learn from this kind of behavior because I have a terrible time asking for help. Reaching out to friends or family members for favors big and small is often accompanied by feelings of guilt or failure. More often that not, I talk myself out of it or put it off until the problem has balloned outwards.
When we are small, we are almost completely dependent on our parents to get us through the first years of life. As we grow, we become more and more independent and take steps that are both important and natural. But at what point does our fierce self-reliance start to define our own capabilities and self-image? Why do so many of us cling to small, personal failures? How can we re-learn the courage to ask for help, and the grace to accept it?