Tonight Andrew the 21 year old postulate asked me if I wanted to shoot hoops with him since I teased him all day that I would take him on!
We walked about 2 miles down a dirty street where I was the only mazungo in sight to end at a full court with two back boards that had hoops that were bent at 45 degrees to the board and hadn’t seen nets since I was a boy. There we found three ugandan lads from 18 to 21 and Andrew introduced me to Mathias, a friendly young man with a motorcycle. Andrew then said they had to go look for the only ball in town! Asked if I was ok ( I said sure but felt otherwise). Back they came ten minutes later sporting an orange basketball that was so old it was completely smooth and had two bubbles on it where the bladder had broken through the worn exterior cover. I warmed up with the four lads and soon found that the dribble had issues if you hit the not so round spots and that a side shot with a bent rim is unusually difficult! So the game began the 53 year old Mazungo and the 4 ugandan young men. 3 on 2 we started and of course they gave me to the unfortunate two stuck with the old mazungo! After 10 minutes our team was victorious at 11 to 2! I became an instant hit as I passed like Steve Nash, dribbled like Baron Davis, and shot like Kobe! (Ok its all relative but give me a moment in the African sun) It seems that although they love to play only a few have the basic skills and strategies that we do in the states.
A small crowd had seen the game and. 5 more young men took off their shirts and joined in. So now 5 on 5 and it got serious…….Mathias and Patrick were the ugandan stars and they put three more on their team Gary, Mike, and Peter but Andrew, Tom, Joe, Richard, and yours truly were ready for the challenge. After 1 hour of hard play we were victorious 25-23! Many high fives on both sides and a hard fought battle and these men who stared at the old mazungo and would not acknowledge my presence an hour and ten minutes before became my friends as we laughed shook hands and said farewell.
You see worlds away with different languages and different skin colors we found a common language, basketball, and a common goal, to have fun and play! It really wouldn’t have mattered who won, it was a moment in time when old met new, black met white, lugandan met english, and our hearts became light.
So remember the next time you see someone who doesn’t look like, speak like, or feel like you that you may only be lacking the understanding that in most cases we are all pretty good humans travelling journeys on this earth and that given the right common ground we all want the same things.
To feel accepted, to play, to have fun, and yes to see the eyes of another in our own smiles.
Peace be with you,