When Bad Things Happen
Back in the mid '90s when I was growing up, I once complained that I had never seen accidents happen and instead watched them on TV during news time after they had already taken place. In the many years that followed, the situation remained the same because I don't ever recall witnessing an accident happen on the road. But today, I had a chance to observe one at close-range in my hometown of Kiserian.
Well, I was taking my usual morning walk in Kiserian today morning when my attention was suddenly drawn to a tuktuk that was driving onto the main road as a motorbike was speeding towards it. The tuktuk driver seemed unaware of the approaching motorbike because he continued driving onto the main road. I could tell that the two were going to collide. Luckily, the motorbike rider veered away from the tuktuk to avoid a collision but still, his motorbike hit the tuktuk on the front, breaking a metal rim off the tuktuk.
The motorbike rider didn't stop and apologize for hitting the tuktuk; he just drove on, leaving the tuktuk driver to ponder on the consequences of his vehicle's broken metal rim. And there was a policeman nearby who appeared to not want to be involved in resolving the minor accident in which nobody was hurt. I also didn't bother to hang around to observe the reaction of the tuktuk driver; I just continued with my walk, the minor accident having reminded me that I am not the only one to whom bad things happen to.
Yes, bad things happen to all of us once in a while as we journey through this crazy adventure called life. Some of the bad things include theft, injuries, mistakes, conflicts, criticism, rejections, sicknesses, career failures, rude remarks, financial constraints, technological problems and loss of loved ones. I am sure you've faced such bad things at one time or another in your life, haven't you?
Personally, I have not only faced some of those bad things but also witnessed them in the lives of others. I particularly remember one case of theft that took place at Starehe Boys' Centre in 2004 when I was in Form 3 at the school. Okay, let me tell you the story.
That time in 2004, we entered our classroom one morning only to find it in chaos. And what's more, someone had defecated on the floor. It turned out that some thieves had entered into the classroom the previous night and walked off with our textbooks. When the school administration was informed of the theft, investigations were swiftly carried out. The school officials searched our lockers and some other buildings for any leads that could shed more light on who had raided our classroom, stolen our books and defecated on the floor before fleeing.
Whether the school administration succeeded in tracking down the thieves, I have never known. But I remember Dr. Geoffrey Griffin, the then director of the school, claiming that his administration had recovered some of the stolen books. And I heard through the grapevine that the head of the gang of thieves that had raided our classroom was an old boy of Starehe.
Several of my classmates had their books stolen in that theft. And I have always suspected that a Biology textbook I lost in Form 3 was also stolen in that raid but I never reported it, something I came to regret in the ensuing years when I had to account for the lost book. Such are the kind of bad things that happen to us in life.
And because such bad things happen to us, I have reflected on the steps we can take to help us cope with negative situations. Foremost in my reflections is turning to God in prayer and pouring out our worries to Him. And if you are a Christian like me, you can open the Bible and read verses that can help put your problems into perspective.
Secondly, I have thought of releasing our frustrations caused by the bad things as another way of helping us cope with negative situations. How? By talking to a friend and writing in a journal. That can save us from exploding into rebellion or imploding into a depression.
And lastly, I have thought of trying to identify the lesson learned from the bad thing that has happened to us. I believe there is always a lesson hidden in every adversity. And who knows? That lesson could be the gateway to achieving some of our fondest dreams. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on what we should do when bad things happen, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Soaring Like an Eagle". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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In December 1996 when I was nine, I spent my school holiday at the home of Auntie Joyce (my Mum's eldest sister) in Murang'a District which is located in Kenya's central highlands. I got to interact with my cousins and other relatives during that holiday. And I also had the opportunity to learn how tea leaves are harvested since we don't grow tea here at home in Kiserian.
One of the things that struck me most about Auntie Joyce's home back then in 1996 was the absence of books and magazines that I had been accustomed to at my parents' home in Kiserian. Even finding a small piece of newspaper to use as a toilet paper was a problem. It seems Auntie Joyce and her family didn't put premium on reading as much as my family did.
Yes, my family did put a lot of emphasis on reading and academic excellence when I was growing up. And to help us excel in school, my father bought us plenty of books, magazines and newspapers. Of us five, his sons that is, my immediate elder brother Paddy turned out to be the most excellent student in school.
I recall vividly sometime in the mid '90s my brother Bob Njinju predicting that Paddy's academic performance would go down when he got into Standard Four. How wrong he was! Getting into Standard Four didn't diminish Paddy's academic prowess. He continued appearing among the top pupils all the way to Standard Eight which led to his admission at the prestigious Starehe Boys' Centre in the year 2000.
At Starehe where he schooled alongside other bright boys, Paddy still continued shining in class. I remember reading a Form Three report form of his on which Dr. Geoffrey Griffin, the then director of Starehe, had written, "A splendid performance". He went on to score an 'A' in the mighty KCSE exams and had the distinguished honour of being featured in the front-page of newspapers in the list of top 100 best students in Kenya.
And when he matriculated at the University of Nairobi in 2005, Paddy even excelled more there. He graduated with a first class honours BSc. degree in Anatomy, a Bachelor's degree in Medicine & Surgery and an MBA from the university - all in a span of six years. As you can see, Paddy was a consistent top performer throughout his schooling life.
Unlike him, I was not always great in academics. My performance used to go up and down like a yo-yo. Like I topped my class in Term 3 exams in 1997 when I was in Standard Four. But when I moved to the next class, Standard Five that is, my grades started dropping. Two of my friends in my neighbourhood regularly ridiculed me for being a dimwit that time I was in Standard Five. They thought it foolish that I couldn't even tell who Kenya's Attorney General was.
But alas! Come December 2001, I gave everyone who knew me a surprise by doing well in that year's KCPE exams which led to my admission at Starehe Boys' Centre where my brilliant brother Paddy had been accepted two years earlier.
When I got into Starehe, I ended up among the last students in my class in my first term which shouldn't have been shocking because the school used to take only the crème de la crème. But back then, I felt embarrassed of that performance so much that I feared what my family would say of me as I headed home. Of course they panned it.
I managed to improve academically as my high school years wore on to the point of scoring an 'A' in my KCSE exams. And like my brother Paddy, I had the distinguished honour of getting listed in the newspapers in the list of top 100 students in Nairobi Province, a remarkable achievement considering that the province had the best high schools in Kenya, with the possible exception of Central Province during that era of provincial administration.
Then when I enrolled at the university in JKUAT in 2007 to pursue a BSc. degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering, my academic performance took a nosedive again. I scored several 'C's and a 'D' in my first semester at the university. Then in my second semester, I failed a subject called Material Science.
I was on holiday when news got through to me that I had failed the subject. And I would have kept it a secret had the university authorities not sent a letter to my father's mailbox asking me to retake the Material Science exam. Sooner than later, word started spreading around my family of how I was failing. That tells much of the way my folks set premium on academic excellence.
Although I didn't turn out to be a consistent stellar student during my schooling life as my immediate elder brother Paddy was, at least I picked up the habits of reading and writing from my family's focus on academic excellence. I plan to continue with those habits for the rest of my life. And if I ever get lucky to have a family, I hope to instil those two habits on my children. So help me God.
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