dig the well before you get thirsty


From the Order of Service of Mzee Edward Kwatiraho

I LISTEN to podcasts avidly – more than I do our local radio stations. The podcasts I choose provide wit, wisdom and work…of an intellectual nature.

One of them is hosted by a Personal Development Coach called Jordan Harbinger who has taught me the phrase “Dig the Well before you get thirsty.” The origin of the phrase goes back to Zhuzi (or Zhu Xi), a Chinese scholar (1130 to 1200 Anno Domini!)

Dig the Well before you get thirsty‘ is a profound statement for many reasons and it dismays me many times when I realise that in 2019 I might be among the people who don’t follow this simple tenet eight hundred years after the death of the person who first said it!

In short, it means we should prepare for everything well in advance. You know one day you will get thirsty, so dig a well in advance. Or: don’t wait for trouble to befall you before working out a solution.

So if you have a well already dug, when the thirst comes – as it must because of biology – you will have an option nearby.

Last week at the funeral of Edward Kwatiraho, a grand old man, the father of some friends of mine, the phrase came back to me as we spoke about his illness and his last leg of the journey of life.

During an afternoon-long discussion before he left for his last medicals in India, he shared a heap of wise thoughts with a group of us. When his children and friends eulogised him they recounted lots more he had given them through his 82 years on earth – including the need to always be organised and prepared.

‘Dig the Well before you get thirsty’. And that’s why it came up during his send off, as I thought of the fact that he had to go to India for that treatment.

See, it is a fact that one day we will all die of something, most likely medical in nature.

Being aware of that fact should make us dig our medical wells as soon as possible so that when the medical thirst strikes in the form of cancer or heart disease or any of those other conditions that are enriching airlines flying to India, we can handle them right here at home.

Actually, that is going too far to start with – not the distance to India, but the handling of more complicated ailments.

As Mzee Kwatiraho’s cortege was departing for Bukinda, in Kabale, to lay him to rest I thought of that saying again. “Dig the Well before you get thirsty.”

His children had told me along the years of the preparations they had made to ensure their home in Bukinda was comfortable. In fact, Mzee Kwatiraho had moved from Kampala and was enjoying his twilight years in Bukinda in comfort till the sickness returned to ail him.

We all have that village to go back to when we are being laid to rest, and most of us only visit it once a year during one of the long holidays and festive seasons.

How many “wells” have we dug there? Focusing strictly on the medical, many of us will go to the village totally unprepared as usual for any medical emergencies that may arise.

But, more importantly, when we do fall sick while there then we stop over at an interim dispensary or clinic nearby as we make our way to Kampala to be admitted at a ‘proper’ hospital. Even where there are serious hospitals at the District centres, in the town nearest to the village, we still only stop over there.

Why? Why aren’t we kitting out our village health centres so that in case we fall sick while there we can get decent treatment and, much more importantly, when we are away for the larger part of the year, our relatives and neighbours there enjoy good treatment?

How about this year we start digging “wells” in our villages when we go this Easter or, more practically, in December? Surely we can take along some medical equipment for our local dispensaries and kit them up so they are better capable of saving lives?

‘Dig the Well before you get thirsty.’

Until then, God forbid that you get thirsty the next time you visit your village.

4 thoughts on “dig the well before you get thirsty

  1. Great advice! Reminds me of something I heard from a podcast that most of us have become “reactors”. We are too busy living that we react to moments that could have been avoided if we prepared. Maybe because we think situations are always distant from us until they happen to us.
    So, thanks for the reminder!

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  2. Hi Simon, this was a great piece sir. I would like to chime in real qucik I think sometime overpreparedness can be our downfall. Something (like sickness) just catch us off guard no matter deep a well we dig. The mindset you alude to is a powerful one though, and I apprecaite your sentiments in this piece.

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    1. Thanks, Mike. It is a powerful mindset indeed, but one that would work powerful wonders if adopted as a personal policy. Even illness can be planned for if one does medicals on a regular basis and also establishes the right facilities around themselves with or without the government. Ask everybody you meet whether or not they have a First Aid box at their homes or in their cars, for instance…

      Liked by 1 person

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