Embracing Our Imperfections
As I was taking my daily walk in my hometown of Kiserian last Sunday, I noticed there was something different in an area surrounding a T-junction in the town. I however couldn't figure out what made the area look so different. It seemed like a tree had been cut down but when I scanned the area for a stump, I couldn't see one. I thought of asking someone why the area looked different but I quickly dismissed the thought because that was a trivial matter. So I walked back home without having known what had happened to the area I know very well.
That observation I had last Sunday wasn't the first time my memory has failed me. I have had a couple of other experiences during which I have been unable to recall things in the past. Like I have several scars on my arms and legs which are as familiar to me as the Sun. But you know what? I have no idea how most of those scars came about. Their causes became blurred and lost in the mists of my memory.
Then when I was in Starehe Institute in 2007, I saw in a computer a picture of a road that appeared like one I had walked on. I however couldn't seem to trace the location of the road even after jogging my memory to all the places I had been to.
And then there was a time I spotted a familiar man as I was lining up to pay for entrance into the 2015 Nairobi International Trade Fair. But imagine I couldn't connect where I had seen the man. I engaged my mind by thinking of all the possible places I could have seen him but my memory failed me. Eventually, I gave up pondering on where I had seen the familiar man and entered into the trade fair without having connected where I had seen him. How strange!
All those experiences in which my memory has failed me bring out one fact: that I am not perfect - just like every other mortal who has ever lived in this grand and magnificent planet.
Yes, no one is perfect - something Rev. Jesse Jackson pointed out in his famous 1984 U.S. Democratic National Convention speech that I love listening to. Even Jesus said no one is good apart from God. By saying so, Jesus was insinuating that only God is perfect; the rest of us have to embrace our imperfections and learn to live with them.
So my dear reader, I beseech you to quit putting yourself down for the mistakes you have done in the past. Stop tormenting yourself with guilt over the wrong judgements you have made. Understand no one is perfect apart from God. Let your past experiences make you better, not bitter. And don't be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect.
Always remember that God, too, understands that you are imperfect. He knows all your weaknesses as is sang in the wonderful old hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".
Now that you understand no one is perfect, allow others to make mistakes. Don't overreact at minor provocations. And resist the urge to be critical of someone. That's all I am saying.
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A Great Opportunity I Once Lost
Back in 2004 when I was in Form 3 at Starehe Boys' Centre, we were taught Mathematics by a funny teacher called Mr. Joseph Kasili. He once told us during one lesson that stealing is a way of sharing wealth. But what I remember most of Mr. Kasili is him saying to us, "I know some of you are so ambitious that you want to pursue your university education in America."
I was among those students in my class who eventually developed a burning desire to study in the United States. Like when I was reporting back to Starehe Boys' in January 2005 for my Fourth-form year, I mailed a letter to MIT, the world's premier institute in science, technology, engineering and math. I expressed in the letter my wish to enroll at MIT once I was through with my high school education. And I thought the staff at MIT would be impressed with the letter and send me a prospectus of the institute along with application forms but they never did.
Towards the end of my Fourth-form year in 2005, a great opportunity opened up for me to study in America. This is what happened: The Washington University in St. Louis mailed a letter to Starehe Boys' Centre informing the Starehe administration of a scholarship at the university called the Danforth Scholars Program that one Starehe student could apply. Mr. Paul Mugo, the then Starehe Boys' senior master in charge of Fourth-formers, hijacked the letter and brought it to me. He did so after I had caught his attention earlier on in the year when I informed him of my interest to study overseas.
To qualify for the Danforth Scholars Program that Mr. Mugo wanted me to take advantage of, I had to write a resume and send it to Washington University in St. Louis. A brilliant schoolmate of mine at Starehe called Beneah Kombe helped me to draft the contents of the resume. Actually, Beneah wrote much of the resume even though I was the one applying for the scholarship. I remember admiring his excellent command of the English language that was evident in the resume.
A few weeks after mailing the resume, I received a fat envelope from Washington University in St. Louis - the kind that applicants get when they are accepted at top-flight colleges in America. While I can't recall how I felt upon the receiving the fat envelope, I am sure I must have been elated, thinking that I was now destined to fly to America as it had been my dream.
When I opened the envelope, I was delighted to read in a letter addressed to me that I had been selected for the Danforth Scholars Program. But guess what! The letter went on to say that I would only receive the scharship if I got admitted at Washington University in St. Louis. And to be a candidate for admission at the university, I had to fill out forms, write several essays, submit three recommendation letters from my teachers as well as sit for the SAT and TOEFL exams - all before a January 1st deadline that was only about a month and a half away.
After we finished our final high school exams known as KCSE in November that year, I began in earnest to apply to Washington University only to hit one roadblock after another. Like when I went to find out the cost of sitting for SAT and TOEFL tests, they turned out to be too expensive for my family to afford. That time, I didn't know it was unnecessary for me to take TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language) tests since I had been studying English in all my schooling life.
Because my family couldn't afford to foot the bill of taking the tests, I approached Mr. Paul Mugo and asked him if the Starehe Boys' administration could help. Mr Mugo promised me that he would discuss the issue with Mr. Joseph Gikubu, the then acting director of the school. I don't know if he did; all I know is that he came back to me and apprised me that the Starehe administration was not in a position to assist me.
With that news from Mr. Mugo, I gave up applying to Washington University in St. Louis; so I wasn't awarded the scholarship I had been selected for. And my dear reader, that's how I lost a great opportunity that had opened up for me to pursue my university education in America. Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on a great opportunity I lost, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometime back on "My First Major Setback". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.