‘YOU PASS THIS WAY ONLY ONCE’ By Mwangi Ndegwa

The Kalahari desert in the southern hemisphere of the African continent is among the top five hottest places in the world. Due to its climatic conditions, there...


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The Kalahari desert in the southern hemisphere of the African continent is among the top five hottest places in the world. Due to its climatic conditions, there are some lethal creatures there among them scorpions and poisonous snakes. There is also towards the northern part lions, cheatahs and other predators. It is in these conditions that Moshe and his a hundred comrades found themselves. They were recruits in training hoping to join the defence forces of their country. This happened to be their last part of the training and it was to be a defining moment for them all, as failure here would mean missing out on a lucrative position in the army.

The part they were training in was among the most  dangerous due to the prevalence of all wild animals. If it was not a lion, then it was a cheetah. If it was not a poisonous snake, then it was a scorpion, not to mention the large herds of elephants and buffaloes. They had been dropped by helicopter on the western part of the desert and they were expected to navigate through all these dangerous areas and reach their camp on the eastern side, unscathed. On the back was a twenty kilogrammes bag full of their survival kit and a G3 rifle which strangely had only one bullet. According to instructions, you had to return the gun with the bullet still in the chamber and if you were to use it, then it had to be in a justifiable situation.

Courage was of utmost importance and one had to be alert at all times. The trek was over twenty kilometres and the probability of clearing it before dusk was almost impossible. Moshe was among the last group of recruits and his small physique and walking for long didn’t help matters. Soon, he started lagging behind and before long, he lost sight of his colleagues. Darkness, coupled with the knowledge that a wild animal could materialize in the darkness, caused his heart to panic and he became very jumpy. A little ruffling of leaves by the wind would make his hairs stand on end and he became a bundle of nerves. As he rounded a bend which marked the fifteenth kilometre point, a squirrel dashed out of the undergrowth and into his path. Without a second thought, he cocked his rifle and fired. His hands were quite unstable due to the shaking caused by fear so the aim was not good and he missed his target. The loud bang of the rifle discharging the bullet scared off the squirrel but alerted some unwelcome guests. With a kilometre to go, a lone male lion caught the scent of an approaching prey. The hunger pangs from two days of hunger made the lion more wild and dangerous. Moshe saw the lion when it was only ten meters away. He raised his gun but it was useless because it had no ammunition. Helplessness and fear completely paralyzed him and all reasoning abandoned him at his very hour of need. The lion pounced on him and all the search party found the following morning were his scattered and torn clothes, backpack and gun strewn all over the place.

This is one story that those of us who are lovers of literature would call a tragedy because of its sad ending however, if we look at it in retrospect, it represents the lives of most of us. We have all heard this phrase “life has no rehearsal.” What we see and have is the real deal. Once a day passes, it is gone forever. If you didn’t do what you had planned to do, that opportunity is lost forever. Our lives are like a gun with only one bullet and we are manoeuvering through some very dangerous areas. We might not meet lions, snakes, scorpions, or cheetahs in our lives but there are other innocent looking things which in a real sense, are more dangerous than a poisonous black mamba. They come in the form of friends, acquaintances, schoolmates, workmates and even in some instances, family members. If we are not keen and alert, we might use our one “bullet” (in this instance our lives on unprofitable indulgences), and by the time we realize it, time is gone and any hope of recovery is all but missed.

My challenge to each one of us is to strictly do a thorough vetting of any venture or person we are allowing into our lives and ask ourselves whether they have any value that they are adding to our lives if not, then it is wisest to drop them at the earliest opportunity. I conclude with this quote by Mae West ” You only live once but if you live well, once is enough.” To read more posts by Mwangi, click HERE

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