The Birthday Cake

The Birthday Cake

In July of 2011 I was fortunate to be included in a team led by Maryann Frazier that spent two weeks in Kenya assessing African bees and working with local beekeepers.  There were many fascinating moments associated with both bees and beekeepers, not least dangling in front of a hive a leather-covered sphere spiked with 5 milligrams of alarm pheromone to see just how aggressive these African bees really are!   


With time other lessons are emerging, one of which involved a birthday cake.  


We spent the first week in Nairobi, the second on the coast north of Mombassa.   It’s a long drive between the two and Maryann had arranged for us to stay overnight at Lion’s Camp which overlooks the famous Tsavo National Park.   The camp, under thatch, is built on a hill top overlooking the park entrance, and on arrival we watched two herds of elephant at watering holes below us. 


It was also the birthday of Sarah Ashcroft, our esteemed data technician who kept us, and the data, in impeccable order.  Several days previously Maryann had asked Dr. Elliud Muli , our philosopher, guide and friend, if he could call ahead (cell phones are ubiquitous in Kenya) and ask if the camp kitchen could provide a surprise birthday cake. 


That night, sitting on the open verandah which served as a dining room, brushed by a cool breeze, the lights dimmed and out of the kitchen came the cook, proudly holding the cake, followed by a towering Masai warrior in full garb including his spear (his normal duties included camp security guard) and the kitchen helpers.  They circled the  table, singing “Happy Birthday” after which Sarah was asked to cut a slice of cake for each of us.  The cook then took what was left and cut a slice for every other person in the dining area, and the rest went back to the kitchen to share with the staff. 


Because in many parts of Africa one never eats alone.  Everything is shared, no matter how meager.   Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes about uBuntu, meaning, “I am because you are. “  The ancient Mayans had  a phrase, “En lac ech,” which translates as “You are the other me.”


The sharing of the cake was a potent reminder that we are interconnected,  interdependent. We cannot meaningfully exist without each other. 

As the late Stephen Covey argued, we get hung up all too easily on our independence, which can be self-centered and self-gratifying, forgetting that there is another way of being in this world. 


Honey bees of course are prime examples of this interconnection.   A single bee cannot survive but for a short period without her community. And there is a larger lesson here as well.  We are focused on, passionate about, the glorious honey bee.  Yet hopefully we don’t think of bees in isolation.  We empathize with those who are equally passionate about quality of life issues :  bats, bird life, frogs and toads, soil, water, air .. the list is long. 


Without empathy, without connection, each of us remains tied to a peripheral niche issue, our victories are small and temporary, and the power of the whole is unrealized.   And it’s all too easy to do this in a society that regards divisiveness almost as normal.  But if we are willing to open our hearts to the passions of others  we might start a real dialogue and take steps towards the inclusiveness and solidarity necessary to tackle the enormous challenges that we face.  


Yes, we  can have our cake and eat it  - enough to fill our needs and enough to share.   That is the law of abundance, rather than the  fear of scarcity.   


Namaste.  I honor the light, the live and the love within you. 


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Latest comments

27.11 | 16:01

Moustache, wax? Of course. Now if all of the drones had mustaches ...

27.11 | 12:43

One of our club members says he got into beekeeping in order to make his own mustache wax. There's the explanation for the bearded/mustached ABF attendees!

13.08 | 05:43

Good morning Mr. Barnes, I'm so pleased to see the best of history teachers is still going strong! Looking at your website brings back some great memories

21.05 | 07:18

Its pleasure to read about Boy Scout here. He plays vital role to serve humanity. I will share after my