faith: Thoughts on Africa, traveling in Kampala: Who is really doing the driving?
photo by Connie Harriff
It is also important to know that driving in Uganda is very different than in the U.S. First they drive on the British side of the road, and people don’t wait their turn — they just push in. Local signs and lights are just suggestions.
Roads are narrow and often very bumpy. Our worst roads here in Michigan would be among their best. And speed bumps? They are large and everywhere in the middle of main streets.
Anyway, Ivan came to pick us up, and a funny thing happened. He told us his son was with him. My mom and Doris, my sister’s mother-in-law, got into the back seat expecting to see a small child, but no one was there.
I got in the front, and there was this cute little boy sitting on his father’s lap. This scene brought me back to when I was a kid riding on my father’s lap when he mowed the lawn. Cute I thought, but that would never happen in America. The kid put both hands on the steering wheel at 2 and 10 o’clock, and we took off.
I asked Ivan about his son, and Ivan told me he had just turned 4 the day before. So we were riding in the darkest of night, down streets I didn’t know, driven by a 4-year-old. Amazing.
We took a short cut because of traffic, which brought us down dirt roads that reminded my mom of the Valley of Death. But strangely I was amused and feared no evil; I couldn’t take my eyes off the father/son driving team.
I found myself mesmerized by the child as he held himself up — barely big enough to look over the steering wheel. And no doubt, he looked as if he was in control of the whole thing.
But something more was going on. His father was still in control. He mastered the gas and the breaks; shifted gears and his hands were always lightly on the wheel below his son's, guiding his every turn.
I was instantly reminded of how we have control of our lives, or think we have control. I never liked the saying “God has the steering wheel and I am just along for the ride.” When sitting in the passenger seat with no responsibility, it is easy to lose site of the goal and just go along for the ride. This image of a son driving on his father’s lap brought me to what I would call a better picture.
Here I was, thinking I was driving my life. I thought “I am in control,” hands on the steering wheel, looking straight ahead. But really I am sitting on my Father’s lap.
His arms around me His hands under mine, he presses the gas and shifts gears as I drive through valleys and over pot holes, and if I stray too far one way, He will turn the wheel back. He keeps me from the gutters, hitting the car ahead of me, breaks before someone damages me beyond repair. I am involved, but not in control. He never leaves me to go alone.
In hindsight I don’t think the kid really thought he had control, I think he knew his daddy had his back through it all, and that his dad the master driver was training him. And because of that, everyone in the car arrived safely at our destination home.
— Connie Harriff is a member of St. Luke Lutheran Church of Ann Arbor.