A True Friend
Sometime in 2017, it dawned on me that a true friend is not someone who offers much advice, solutions or cures but rather, one who has chosen to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. A person who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a true friend.
For me, when I think of a truly true friend, the person who first pops up in my mind is David Mwakima (see photo above). He is a kind, generous and understanding fellow; the kind of friend every human being needs and no successful man can do without.
I first met Mwakima in 2011 when I visited Starehe Boys' Centre, my Alma Mater. He was then serving as a deputy school captain in the school. When I told him I was an old boy of Starehe and my name, he responded, "I have heard about you!" That's all I recall in the conversation we had in 2011.
Then in 2012 when I went back to Starehe to give a motivational talk to the boys, I got to meet Mwakima again and know him better. He had by then been promoted to be the Starehe Boys' school captain. And one of the first things that struck me most about him was the way he was amiable, likeable and approachable.
I also noted he was an avid reader because when I informed him I was then pursuing Political Science at the University of Nairobi, he asked me whether I had read Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince. Being the honest young man that I am, I admitted to him that I hadn't and even told him the word Machiavelli sounded vaguely familiar to me. Thanks to that chat with Mwakima, two or three weeks later, I read Michael White's biography of Machiavelli titled A Man Misunderstood which made me know more about the famous Machiavelli.
One morning in 2012 during that time I had gone to give a talk to the boys, I found Mwakima revising for the SAT exams. I interrupted him and then fell into a conversation with him during which I learnt he was applying to MIT, Cornell and Stanford. Having also applied to those top colleges when I was in Starehe Institute in 2006, I gave Mwakima some advice drawing from my experiences. Like I advised him to "prepare for the worst but hope for the best". It seems he listened to my advice because even though he was applying to the top colleges, he didn't let an opportunity to study at Deerfield Academy slip away. Deerfield Academy is one of the best college preparatory schools in the United States.
Mwakima wasn't accepted into any of the colleges he applied for admission in 2012. While I am not sure whether those rejection letters depressed him as much as they did to me a few years earlier, I tried to lift his spirits by telling him via phone that he could still make into the top colleges by applying again during his time at Deerfield. And true to my advice, a year later, he was accepted into several top flight colleges in America. He chose to matriculate at Harvard. And I was happy for him that he had succeeded where I had failed.
My advice and moral support for Mwakima in the years 2012 and 2013 were not in vain because he in turn came to help me as the years rolled by. Like in the year 2014 when I was applying for the Young Africans Leaders Initiative (YALI) - a program conceived by the Obama administration to mentor young Africans to be leaders in politics and in business - Mwakima helped me proof-read and fine-tune my essays and recommendation letters. And he was very meticulous that we get everything right. Unfortunately, I didn't get accepted into the program.
Then when I opened a blog for sharing my thoughts, experiences and learnings with the world, Mwakima was one of the few friends who gave me positive feedback. At one time in 2014 when he was on holiday here in Kenya, he was so impressed with my blog and the quality of writings in it that he requested we meet in Nairobi. I honoured the invitation. And during our rendezvous, he gave me a flower vase as gift with the name "DEERFIELD" printed on it. On my part, I gave him a CD-copy of Charles Swindoll's delightful David: A Man of Passion & Destiny.
In December 2015 when I apprised Mwakima that I was having difficulties making the best use of my life and gifts, he sent me an email full of advice on how I could become a better person. And I noted he didn't try to appear preachy or a know-it-all. His was a piece of advice given by a humble and understanding person to a struggling person.
Then in February 2017 when I was supposed to pay web-hosting fees for this blog before a given deadline, I approached several for help because I was penniless that time. But none of them assisted me. It made me worry about my blog getting shut down. But then, Mwakima came through to my aid by settling the web-hosting fees. How grateful I felt! If it weren't for him, I would have given up on blogging, a hobby that has wonderfully enriched my life.
I would have loved to go on and on about the other ways Mwakima has helped me, financially and morally, but I beg to stop there in the interest of time. All I can now say is that for me, David Mwakima is the kind of friend the Bible says sticks closer than a brother. And my dear reader, I would advise you never to look down on young people because you never know: they could end up helping you a lot the way Mwakima has done to me. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on a true friend, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "A Model of Servant Leadership". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Finding The Right Path
Have you ever heard of a creature that has completely lost its sense of direction in life? A good example is a cock that has just been beheaded and escaped from its captor's hands. An even better example is me after I dropped out of the university at JKUAT in 2009.
As I have said again and again in this blog, I went astray during my time at JKUAT where I was pursuing a BSc. degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering. That I went astray is not something I am ashamed to admit because even King David, one of my heroes in the Bible, also says in Psalms 119:66-71 that he went astray. And like David, my going astray has helped me to walk in obedience to God's Word, though I am still struggling in some areas I wish not to mention here.
I really lost my sense of direction in life after I dropped out of JKUAT, especially from the years 2009 and 2010. During those years, I sometimes used to suffer from severe bouts of guilt. Some days I would feel as dull and dank as a tomb. I also used to frequently struggle getting out of bed and observe hygiene. Imagine I would go for several days without bathing, changing clothes and cleaning my room: that's crazy, isn't it?
Back then in 2009 and 2010, I used to stay in our old wooden house before my elder siblings, bless them, built a mansion for our parents in 2015. My depressed living was complicated by having to live in a leaking room with a pot-holed floor, bathing in a dilapidated bathroom which forced me to either heat water in a sooty kitchen or endure bathing with cold water. It really was a depressing lifestyle.
But what I loathed most in those days were the duties my modest parents made me do like milking cows in a muddy cowshed, cooking meals in blinding firewood smoke and tethering calves in a farm that was full of weeds and thorny bushes. So much did I detest those duties that I sometimes used to run away from home by pretending I was going to teach piano in Nairobi. It was during one of those run-aways to Nairobi that I came close to messing up. Would you love to hear the details?
Okay, I met this young woman of easy virtue called Sophie [not her real name] in a cyber cafe in downtown Nairobi. I struck a conversation with her as I browsed internet in the cyber and I think she kinda liked me because she agreed to escort me to a basement room in a building within the city where I tried to touch her "funny". Luckily, for fear of getting caught, I didn't explore her further as I would have wished.
But that's the thing - when you hit rock bottom in life, you tend to engage in such promiscuous activities as pre-marital sex and even illegal ones like drug-taking. Some turn to alcoholism. Fortunately for me, perhaps out of divine love, I never messed up during those dark ages of my life in 2009 and 2010. The closest I came to tarnishing my name was caressing Sophie in a basement room after just meeting her for the first time in a cyber cafe.
As I have told you, I used to be slipshod in those dark ages of my life. My father used to regularly criticize me for wearing a short that had darkened with dirt, especially as a result of milking cows in the muddy cowshed I have told you about.
The years 2009 and 2010 were the dark ages of my life for shizzle. I later on joked to my friend Chege Njuguna, who was pursuing Electrical & Electronics Engineering at JKUAT, that I was living my life at a frequency of several "what-the-hell?" per minute.
With time though, I started finding the right path in life by reconnecting with my hobbies: reading, writing, designing websites, playing the piano and listening to music as well as speeches in a computer. Those hobbies usually boosted my spirits. Like when I designed a website for my high school class sometime in 2012, I felt a deep sense of fulfilment and progress. I also got to learn how to develop web applications - an enjoyable skill that later on helped me set up this blog which appears simple yet requires advanced computer-programming knowledge to construct.
Thanks to reconnecting with my hobbies, I am now feeling as if I am walking down the right path in life. Well, I still have a long way to go especially as pertains making money from those hobbies but I am already so far from where I used to be and I am proud of that.
My dear reader, if you have hit rock bottom in life like I once did, please don't commit suicide or turn to drugs, alcoholism and prostitution. Those vices will only make things worse. Instead, try reconnecting with your passions. Think about the things you loved doing as a child or as a teen in school (it could have been singing, drawing or tinkering with machines) and start doing them again.
Well, I am not promising you that life will become a piece of cake once you begin reconnecting with your passions. You will face criticism and rejection, among other setbacks. But I want to challenge you to become like a rubber ball: the harder the life hits you down, the higher you should bounce. Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on finding the right path, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on "The Doors God Closed For Me". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.