Keeping Hope Alive
Even though the weather was pleasantly crisp and clear here in Kiserian when I woke up, it wasn't a beautiful morning for me today. I woke up feeling a bit gloomy because God has not been answering my most important prayers. The gloominess persisted during my morning jog and walk to Kiserian Shopping Centre. When I was coming back home, I remembered Rev. Jesse Jackson's words in his famous 1988 U.S. Democratic National Convention speech.
Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered a powerful message that set that 1988 convention on fire. He used these three words to inspire his listeners: "Keep hope alive!" And he kept saying those three words over and over and over for what seemed forever as the crowd in the convention swelled with applause. You could feel the sincerity in his voice.
When I remembered those three words of Rev. Jesse Jackson as I was coming home from my walk to Kiserian, they didn't scatter my gloom. But they forced me to keep hoping that things will eventually work out. And that God will answer my prayers with time.
Besides Rev. Jesse Jackson, several other American leaders have extolled the virtue of hope. Bill Clinton wrote in his autobiography that hope is the fibre of his being which has stayed with him even on nights when he has lost his power of analysis and articulation.
Then Barack Obama won the hearts of most Americans in the 2008 U.S. presidential elections by preaching the message of hope in his campaigns and speeches. He even added the word "hope" in the title of his best-selling book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.
Those American leaders have inspired me to cling on hope like a tick on a buffalo no matter what life throws at me. I will from now on not allow the challenges of life make me lose hope as they have done in the past. Allow me to tell you of several instances when I lost hope in the past.
In November 2001 when I sat for my KCPE exams, I expected to excel in them. But when the results were released several weeks later, I was seized by a feeling of hopelessness after I failed to see my name in the newspaper in the list of top 100 pupils in my province.
Then when I applied to four top American colleges in the 2007/08 application round, I was again seized by a feeling of hopelessness when I learnt in March and April 2008 that I hadn't been accepted into any of the four colleges. I did really feel hopeless.
But my feeling of hopelessness that I have remembered most over the years was one I felt in one afternoon around August 2008. That time in August 2008, I had began going astray by hanging around in the university without attending classes and communicating home. And then the unexpected happened: the university was closed down after the students went on strike. That afternoon when the university was closed down, I felt hopeless because I had nowhere to go since I didn't want to head home. It must be the kind of hopelessness that grips thieves the day they are arrested by police.
Since that time in August 2008, I have faced other challenges that have made me lose hope, like in 2014 when I failed to be selected for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) program. But somehow, I have kept going and found my mojo along the way.
As I have said, I have now resolved to cling on hope like a tick on a buffalo even when life throws challenges at me. Like Bill Clinton, I will make hope be the fibre of my being even in times when I will lose all my power of analysis and articulation.
Right now, I am clinging to the hope that I will eventually make money from my hobbies; that I will meet my soulmate in the course of this year; that I will be married and in my own home by the time the next FIFA World Cup will be held in 2022; and that my parents, siblings, relatives and true friends will live to see me walk down the aisle with my princess charming.
My dear reader, I beseech you to also cling to hope. Don't allow the challenges of life to take away your smile. Keep hope alive! If you are suffering from a terminal illness, have hope that a better life awaits you in heaven. Or if you have lost a loved one, have hope that the departed friend is in a better place and you will eventually reunite with him. Keep hope alive!
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I will never forget the afternoon I went for a HIV test. It was on a sunny day in 2017, roughly two years ago. That afternoon, I was feeling particularly excited and energetic. And because nothing important was occupying me, I decided to go for a HIV test at a VCT centre which is about three kilometres from where I live.
Well, I hadn't engaged in any promiscuous sex in the previous ten years that would make me suspicious that I could have contracted HIV. Still, I thought it wise to know my status, especially after having been injected with medical drugs in several clinics in a span of four years.
You see, when I went astray at the university in JKUAT in 2008 and again at the University of Nairobi in 2011, the doctors who attended me thought I was sick. So they put me on medication that included injections. I had worried a little that some stressed-up nurse might have injected me using a HIV-infected syringe. That's why I wanted to be sure that I was HIV-negative.
Feeling excited and energetic, I arrived at the VCT centre after about fifteen minutes or so of walking that afternoon in 2017 I have told you about. And when I opened its gate, one of the things that struck me most about the centre was the way it was clean and quiet in comparison with the neighbouring communities. The VCT centre looked more like a school because of the numerous buildings on its compound, some of which were one-storey. But I didn't see any students there.
Upon entering the VCT centre, I first headed to the loo for a short-call. Then I went to the HIV-testing room where I was welcomed by a male counsellor who appeared to be middle-aged. But whether young or middle-aged, the counsellor was warm and friendly - that's what mattered. He asked me to get seated next to his desk which had two chairs facing each other. I sat on one chair; the other remained empty.
Before doing HIV test on me, the counsellor asked me a number of questions. I only remember two of his questions. The first was whether I had ever slept with a woman. When I told him no, he asked incredulously in Sheng, "You mean you have never slept with a woman?" I told him "no" again but confessed to having viewed adult films in the internet.
His other question that I remember was, "What if you find you have HIV?"
"That will be deadly," I blurted out.
To tell you the truth, I wasn't scared of having HIV because over the previous five years prior to that afternoon I underwent a HIV test, I hadn't come down with a flu or caught a cold. So I was cock-sure I was HIV-free.
I guess the VCT counsellor sensed my honesty and confidence because he didn't put me through a long counselling session. After those few questions, he showed me how HIV testing is done. He was to remove blood from one of my fingers, put it on a paper strip and then wait to see whether one or two red lines would appear on it which would reveal whether I was HIV negative or positive.
When I saw the counsellor holding the needle he would use to prick me, the first worry that floated in my mind was not the fear of getting pricked but whether the needle was safe. With all the people that may have visited the VCT centre, I needed an assurance the needle was safe and fresh. The counsellor reassured me it was, so I allowed him to go ahead and prick one of my fingers in order to get the little blood he would use for the HIV test. He removed the blood and put it on a fresh HIV-testing paper strip.
As we waited for the paper-strip to reveal whether I was HIV negative or positive, I continued having a delightful conversation with the counsellor. He told me sex is good for health, but not masturbation; he therefore implored me to get myself a girlfriend.
While we continued conversing, I glanced at the paper-strip that had my blood on it and saw there was only one red line. Huraay! I was HIV-negative! The counsellor confirmed I was indeed HIV-free. He then winded up our conversation by telling me to bring my future girlfriend for HIV testing. "Don't allow her to ruin your life," he added.
"So this empty chair opposite me was for my girlfriend?" I asked, the idea having registered in my mind at that instant.
"Yes!" he agreed.
I left the VCT centre feeling as energized and excited as I had been when I entered it. Finally, I had known my HIV status. I was negative, with a capital N.
NEW! NEW! NEW! For those of you who missed my social media update two days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced a new song that is available in the videos' section of this blog. Just click on the "videos" link on the menu at the top of this blog to listen to the song.