A few of the few of you who read my blog nearly ten years ago may remember a post which mentioned Mr. Duguma Hunde, the owner of Ethiopian industrial conglomerate DH Geda. In short, I met Mr. Hunde who was in his 60s, and one of his board members in a Beijing train station. I can't remember for how long we spoke between that time and our exit in Shanghai, but he will forever remain with me.
I'll never forget the way Mr. Hunde made me feel as we sat next to each other in the station, talking quietly and calmly about the upcoming 2008 US presidential election and other things, as he held my hand gently between his hands. I could have never guessed that I'd be comfortable with another man holding my hand. I can't really describe what I felt, but the experience was something like the following.
He leaned toward me, was completely focused on what I said, and made me feel like I was important to him. His eyes and attention not once averted from me and our conversation. He had a soft smile and an unwavering confidence about him.
He struck me as the type of man who, upon learning his time to die was tomorrow, would have gently smiled, prayed for his family, and said "ok." He may have been the most charismatic person I've ever witnessed - whether in movie, book, person or otherwise.
That day, thousands of miles away from my family and friends and alone, one of Africa's most successful men made me feel loved and important. The way he treated me has inspired me to try harder to show kindness to other men, especially those I don't know. I can't tell you whether I'm a kinder person at all as a result. But that's not really the point, which is that a brief encounter with one man has continued to inspire me after ten years. It has at least affected my thoughts if not my actions.
A year or so after I met Mr. Hunde, I google-searched him, which is the only way I learned about his self-made business success from humble beginnings (by Ethiopian standards no less).
The search, to my devastation, revealed that a few months after we met, he had died unexpectedly. What I can say is that I feel blessed to have crossed his path during his time here. Thank you Mr. Hunde.