In February of 1999, my brother Jack and I were in Belize at a rustic camp on the edge of the Macal River in the middle of the jungle. All the power at the camp was solar. There were no phones, only two-way radios. The ridge across the river rose over 500 feet cloaked with the deep green rain forest.
One evening, I noticed a kitten occupied with something in the shadows. I shined my camping light in the cat's direction and spied a black scorpion about three inches in length moving in my direction. The kitten nipped at the scorpion and then jumped back avoiding a flip of the ominous creature's tail. This dance went on for several seconds until the kitten grabbed hold of the scorpion's pincer and flung it into the undergrowth.
That night, I heard a faint scream from another hut. Later, we learned that another guest had killed a scorpion above her bed. From that point on, we diligently checked our shoes each morning and bedding each night for these uninvited guests.
Most mornings, I was awakened by the primitive sound of an oropendola bird. They are as interesting to watch as to hear. These birds are the size of our crows, with dashes of yellow on their tails. When they broadcast their loud call, they start with beaks high in the air and, as they expel the call, their head drops between their legs. Quite an effort. Hummingbirds of several species and sizes were common along with cormorants, great egrets, and snowy egrets that fish the Macal River.
One afternoon was consumed with a canoe trip down the Macal River starting at the camp. It was another beautiful day of driving sun and temperatures in the 80s. The river had some nice class two rapids, not too much of a problem for Jack and I, even in an aluminum canoe. On the way down, we saw over 60 bats resting on the shady side of a huge boulder at the edge of the water. On top of the rock were two green iguanas sunning themselves. As we floated down the crystal clear jungle water, we saw several huge brown iguanas and dozens of the smaller green ones. Late in the day, we sat on a sand bar and watched a particularly large iguana flap his spiked head to attract the attention of a willing mate. He was majestic as the thick drooping skin on his chin waved with each motion.
At that moment we noticed a few beer cans floating down the river. Right behind followed over a dozen canoes filled with tourists. They periodically tipped their canoes, hence the cans in the river. After they had passed, we gathered up the empty cans for proper disposal. Farther down the river, we stopped and toured medicinal plants at the home of a famous herbalist who had been taught rain forest remedies by a Mayan shaman.
This trip was a special event with luscious thick forests and exotic wildlife. Unfortunately, the tourists on the Macal River disrespected the country's beauty. Good leaders are able to see the value in their surroundings and their people. It is a shame to miss events and individual successes that should be celebrated.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.