My friend Goodluck and I were in front of a tiny car battery shop on the side of the main road in Morogoro, Tanzania. My car was dead. Goodluck had helped me to negotiate a price on a good battery, and the battery had been installed. Now a group of Tanzanian men were discussing the next step in rapid Swahili. I kept hearing a recurring word that I did not know, “schtua,” and wary glances my way. Goodluck told the guys that he’d schtua my car, until one of them said that I could schtua my own car. Goodluck then asked me if I could schtua my car, to which I replied, “Sure thing, but what’s schtua mean?” Goodluck laughed nervously and climbed in the passenger seat. He didn’t answer my question.
Suddenly, the group of Tanzanian men were at the hood of my car, and they began to push! Not just push, but push me and Goodluck in my dead car backwards into actively oncoming traffic on a busy road. With seconds to think I learned the meaning of schtua: Jump-start. In this case, they were wanting me to reverse roll start, and did I mention into oncoming traffic? By the time I figured this out we were rolling at a good pace and now on the road. Goodluck’s nervous laugh had changed to a nervous wide-eyed fear as he waited for me to pop the clutch. I did. The car fired up. We reversed directions and sped into the flow of traffic. And then we drove and laughed about the schtua-ing experience. I’ll never forget that word, by the way. That’s how you learn a language.
Why did this story from a couple years ago come to mind? Because I’ve been asking myself, “why are we waiting for calm green pastures and perfect circumstances to schtua our lives?”
I constantly have a lot of those things on my “one-day” docket. As in, one day when I have the time I’ll actually truly learn the guitar. One day, I’ll start running consistently to train and get in shape. One day I’ll spend hours in creative daily prayer. One day...
I rely to much on the excuse of the near-future. In the past 5 years we’ve moved a lot. 3 continents, 7 cities, 7-10 different residences. I’m constantly thinking that if I can push off that which I want to do - that which will make me better - a day of calm is coming when I’ll have the time, space, resources, and consistency to make it all happen. In the meantime, I’m watching a piece of my life float by.
So I’m learning. I’m learning to let go of some things that aren’t really that important. And I’m learning to stop waiting. There isn’t, there will not be, a better day than today. So what if life is moving at the speed of oncoming traffic. Do it now, jump-start life and get moving.
There’s a quote attributed to Martin Luther King Jr that says, “I have so much to do today that I will spend the first 3 hours in prayer.” It makes the point that busyness doesn’t negate the things of importance but only more deeply requires them. And so I am learning, again.
Stop waiting. The traffic will never stop. By the time I find a quiet clear stretch of road to jump my battery, I may need a new catalytic converter.