There is a Swahili proverb that I learned growing up in Kenya that says “haba na haba hujaza kibaba”. This means “little by little, the pot gets filled”. This vivid image reminds me that in many things we undertake, it takes perseverance and a realization that most things worth having don’t fall into our laps. They require successive stages of effort in order to get to our goal.
My son Caleb, who is almost 4, got me thinking about this concept when we went to the swimming pool this past weekend. He has only been in the pool a few times in his life and during those times, he clung to our necks like a barnacle! So this past Sunday afternoon, we embarked on our new swimming adventure at an outdoor pool not far from our house. I got Caleb excited about how fun it would be to swim and also warned him that he would have to be extra brave since the pool water was likely to be quite cold. I also told him his life jacket was like a super-hero jacket that would help him float.
After a scenic drive through vast farmlands, we arrived at the pool and Caleb walked up to the pool all kitted out in his swimsuit, life jacket and goggles. I knew that plunging him into the cold water at the outset was not likely to be a good idea. So we started off with him dangling his feet in the pool as other kids splashed around us. “It’s cold, mummy“, Caleb said cautiously. I told him not to worry and that if all he wanted to do that day was dangle his feet in the water, then what was fine. There was no rush.
After some time, I got into the pool and asked if he wanted to join me. He agreed and clung tightly to my neck. I strolled around the pool with the water at my waist and every so often, dipped a little lower in the water. Before long, Caleb started to view it as a game and I could feel the grip of his arms around my neck loosening. I then asked him if I could put him in a horizontal position with my arms under his belly so that he could try kicking his arms and legs to move around. He tried it and although he was unsure at first, he loved it! He then noticed some pool noodles lying at the side of the pool and asked if he could try one. Before long, he had pushed me away and said he wanted to float on his own, his legs and arms kicking excitedly. You can imagine what a proud mama I was at that moment. It had taken baby steps over the course of 1.5 hours to get him to this point but he was already seeming so much more comfortable in the water than when we had first arrived.
Caleb’s swimming experience reminded of two things: one, it takes patience to ‘fill a pot’ slowly rather than engulf it in water but usually the final result is sweeter, more hard-earned, more memorable! And two, our children really depend on us for so much, but there comes a moment when they are ready to do things on their own and even though my son is only just approaching four, I feel that he is becoming so much more independent. It is an interesting phase we are in!
Little by little…fills the pot. I see it in so many facets of my life. I remember when I first started using weights during my exercise a few years ago and I could barely do a tricep curl with 3 pounds. Now I find 10 pounds manageable. It took months of progressively increasing the weight. The expansion of our family didn’t happen overnight. It took months of trying to get pregnant and then a miscarriage before we finally had our first child Caleb and subsequently our second child Naomi. My faith in God is something that has taken many years to grow and bloom. It starts with a small seed of faith that grows into a tree of complete trust and dependence on God. Similarly, it has taken many steps to get to the point where I am finally applying to medical school. But each step brings me closer to my dream and it will mean so much more to me when I get there!
Little by little…fills the pot. Don’t give up on whatever you are working towards or believing for. Some days will be difficult, some days will be easier. But your effort and faith are not in vain. Progress is being made, however slowly it may be.