Here’s the biggest takeaway from the driving tour at the safari park in Murichson Falls National Park:
Elephants eat the seeds in the orange fruits produced by palm trees. The elephants’ digestive tracks do not break down the seeds, so the seeds, fully intact, exit the elephants in their poop. The seeds in their poop grow to form more palm trees. In short, palm trees grow from elephant poop.
Our visit to Murchison Falls is a well-earned break after physically and mentally hard days of filming. A break like this gives time to both recharge and reflect.
Among many other things, we have talked to South Sudanese girls who are refugees studying at an all-girls boarding school in Uganda, interviewed a family fleeing from South Sudan at one of Uganda’s immigration centers that receives refugees as they cross the border, and filmed a large crowd of refugees at a food distribution center in a refugee settlement.
The bus (driven by Sam who should have his own Fast and Furious film because that’s just how great of a driver he is) takes us to all these places: the school, immigration center, and refugee settlements.
Without a working aux chord, the bus rides back to our living facilities give time to think – mixed in with good conversations and card games.
However, my thinking has largely just been the repetition of Father Frans van der Lugt’s 5-word response to suffering:
“Still, the world is good.”
I toss the quote over and over until I think I’ve convinced myself of its truth. At the places we’ve been, it’s really easy to find evidence that points to the contrary. Of which the most heartbreaking is expressionless eyes that have seen far too much of the bad.
But, we have to be willing to consider the possibility that within these landscapes of suffering there is hope for change that leads to something better.
And, as with the elephant’s poop that sprouts a palm tree, something that seems pretty shitty can give rise to something remarkable.
I say this not to romanticize hope at the dismissal of the atrocious conditions in which refugees are made to live. Even an ounce of hope in the face of such widespread hardship is radical.
But, if the world still is good, its goodness has to be reflected in its people. In an interview with Tom Shadyac, Desmond Tutu says what follows about such change that leads to something better:
“God says, ‘you know what, I don’t have anybody else except you.'”
So, it’s up to us.
And, here, I’ve found a sort of fuel in some of the most extraordinary people committed to this goodness in spite of a seemingly hopeless situation. They are exemplars of what it means to be selfless and compassionate.
So, we find ourselves in a safari park, and piles of elephant poop are everywhere.
Hope is knowing that from some of these piles comes palm trees. And that these palm trees will provide shade and respite to what passes underneath so that those that pass feel (even just temporarily) cared for.