How a Friend Helped Me - Reflections of a Young Man™

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How a Friend Helped Me

The handsome young black man in the middle of this photo is Peter Kariuki during his days at Deerfield Academy. I have extracted the photo with permission from the website of Deerfield Academy. Copyright © all rights reserved worldwide.

Peter Kariuki (yes, the young man I have mentioned in the photo above) was a schoolmate of mine at Starehe Boys' Centre but he never got to know me during our time in the school because he was three years my senior and we didn't board in the same house. He was promoted to be the school captain of Starehe Boys' sometime in 2003 when he was in the institute division of the school.

After completing his one year term as school captain, he was awarded a scholarship to pursue a post high school diploma at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, United States, from where he was accepted in 2005 at the renowned Stanford University where Bill Clinton's daughter had received her Bachelor's degree a few years earlier. A lucky young man he was.

For some reasons unbeknown to me, some fellow students at Starehe hated Peter Kariuki with a passion. "Those guys are evil!" one housemate of mine told me while pointing to a team of the three most senior captains in Starehe that included Peter Kariuki.

Then when Peter Kariuki flew to Deerfield Academy, one of my classmates ruefully remarked, "Let him fly to America; he will still come back to Kenya." And he uttered that remark in a tone that suggested how intensely he loathed Peter Kariuki.

Me, I have never been one to hate a person just because others are doing so. I therefore befriended Peter Kariuki via email when I was first applying to top American Colleges that included Stanford in 2006 while I was in Starehe Institute. I however cannot remember the advice he offered me at that time. As it happened, I was rejected by all the colleges I applied for admission.

When I re-applied to the top colleges for the second time while I was a freshman at JKUAT where I was pursuing a B.Sc. degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering, I contacted Peter Kariuki again. This time round, I remember him advising me to be grateful that I was in JKUAT. But guess what? I never felt proud to be in JKUAT because I really wanted to study in a First-World environment where I could interact with people of other races. As it happened, I was again rejected by all the colleges I applied for admission.

And when I re-applied to top American for the third time in 2009, I decided to maximize all the help I could get from Peter Kariuki. I requested him to review my application essays. He obliged and offered me his honest assessment as well as suggestions to improve the essays.

Like in one short essay in which I wrote of how I evangelized the gospel to distressed people (that was a big lie! I have never preached the gospel to anyone), Peter Kariuki suggested that I explain how evangelism enabled me to know what drives people and how people make life choices and choose ideologies to believe and live by. That subordinate clause I have displayed in green are the exact words he used. I so loved them that I copy-pasted them into the short essay.

Apart from reviewing my essays, Peter Kariuki advised me to also apply to less competitive colleges because Stanford's standards are high. Guess what again? The other colleges I applied for admission were Yale and Harvard which are as highly selective as Stanford, if not more. They all rejected me.

Grateful for the advice he had offered me freely when I applied to top American colleges in a span of four years, I continued to keep in touch with Peter Kariuki via Facebook. Like I asked him sometime in early 2011 which of the schools he had attended (Starehe Boys', Deerfield Academy & Stanford University) that he had found the best. He replied that it was Starehe Boys'.

And guess what again? Some time in March 2011, I extracted from Peter Kariuki's Facebook album two photos of him taken while he was asleep in bed. I combined them with a photo editor and wrote on top of them "Kulala Tu!"[1] Then I posted the edited photo on my Facebook wall while poking fun at Peter Kariuki as an oversleeper. Mark you, oversleeping was considered a crime during our Starehe years and captains like Peter Kariuki were charged with moving from dormitory to dormitory at dawn to apprehend oversleepers.

When Peter Kariuki learnt what I had done, he felt offended. He sent me a message warning me that it's wrong to use other people's images without their permission. Then he later on blocked me on Facebook. Since then, I have never heard from him again. I would like to let him know, if he's reading this story of mine, that I have matured up. As in, I no longer use people's images without their permission.

[1] "Kulala Tu!" is a Swahili statement which translates in English as "Just Sleeping Only!"


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Identifying Our Virtues

This is the renowned Stanford University, birthplace of gene-splicing and global positioning systems, where I applied for undergraduate admission thrice but was rejected. More on that in the story of mine below.

When I was applying to Stanford University for the second time ten years ago, the university asked me to list five adjectives that best described me. I came up with these ones:
  • Able
  • Polite
  • Simple
  • Social
  • Honest
Then Chris Walters, a helpful gentleman from England who was volunteering as a Music teacher at Starehe Boys' Centre, advised me to remove the adjective "simple" from the list. That was a wise advice because the Bible insinuates that simple people are easy to deceive and manipulate.

Today, I have decided to again come up with a list of adjectives that describe me which I will be reviewing often. Okay, let me begin.

First, the following are the adjectives that describe my physical appearance:
  • Handsome
  • Youthful
  • Smart
Then the following adjectives describe my character and personality:
  • Polite
  • Intelligent
  • Social
  • Punctual
  • Organized
  • Honest
  • Tactful
  • Insightful
  • Understanding
  • Prayerful
  • God-fearing
  • Friendly
  • Bright
  • Wise
  • Creative
  • Ambitious
  • Daring
  • Resilient

And then the following are the adjectives that I am striving to internalize into my day-to-day living:
  • Diligent
  • Assertive
  • Composed
  • Courageous
  • Grateful
  • Observant
  • Optimistic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Discerning
  • Charming
  • Forgiving
  • Funny
  • Early-riser
  • Avid-reader
  • Team-player
  • Quick-witted
  • Clear-thinker
  • Jogging-enthusiast
  • Self-reliant

There you have them: that is, the adjectives that describe me as well as those I am striving to possess. I recommend that you also give that kind of exercise a try. Over to you!


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Amazing Grace

As I write this story, I am listening to Amazing Grace hymn which I have played and recorded on my Yamaha piano keyboard. I have played the enlightening hymn with a harmony I was taught by my friend Francis Kariuki during our teenage days. Somehow, I have managed to remember the harmony over the years.

Now, Amazing Grace is an old hymn. It was composed in 1779 by John Newton. A very old hymn indeed. Very old. Yet ever new.

Let's look at its first verse which goes as follows:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
I used to sing that verse when I was a young man of 19 years. That was ten years ago. Back then, I thought I had found the right way of living after getting inspired to be reading the Bible at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, a wonderful church I joined after I left Starehe Boys' Centre in April 2007.

But imagine it is now dawning on me on how lost I have been for the last ten years! I have been timid on many occasions, made poor decisions, associated with the wrong people, offered free services while languishing in want and wasted time by idling and oversleeping.

And each successive day, I am realizing other ways in which I have been lost. Can you now see why I am saying Amazing Grace is an old hymn yet ever new?


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