Lessons From a Friend
A True Story
on Sep 13, 2020
I once read in a certain yoga book that all people experience moments of happiness during which they wish others the very best in life. But such moments of ineffable joy and goodwill are rare and fleeting for most people. Only a few people in the world have mastered the art of feeling happy and benevolent much of the time. And one such person is my friend Joseph Mazzella, an American who hails from the beautiful U.S. state of West Virginia. Allow me to tell you how I got to know Mazzella and how we became friends.
Back in 2013 when I launched this blog, I searched the internet for inspiring stories that I could plagiarize and post on the blog. To my delight, Google directed me to a certain website with feel-good stories, the kind that I wanted. In the website, I instantly liked stories authored by one Joseph Mazzella. His stories were about love, kindness and compassion; they covered such diverse topics as sharing smiles, crying at times and taking delight in nature.
Mazzella encouraged his readers to share smiles, pointing out that smiles are a spreader of joy, messengers of peace and prelude to laughter. He further said that we not only smile because we are happy but we also feel happy because we smile. Understanding that life can be tough as well, Mazzella exhorted his readers to cry once in a while as crying cleanses our souls to pave the way for the peace of God.
On his observations of nature, Mazzella wrote several stories about butterflies, sunrises, sunsets and rainbows. He wrote about how seeing a lovely butterfly hover over a meadow gives him glimpses of heaven. Then he added that it is not only butterflies that give him an idea of heaven but also a hug, an uplifting song and an encouraging word.
Mazzella wrote of how sunrises are gentle reminders of how God loves us. He penned in vivid prose of the exhilaration he derives in seeing the sun set in his home-area, and then concluded the story by saying that after the sun has set, he has this calm assurance that it will rise again the following day to give him another chance to spread love.
Perhaps the Mazzella's story that touched me most was one on how he had read somewhere when he was a child that there is a pot of gold where a rainbow touches the ground. As you can imagine, he believed it. So one evening during his childhood years when he spotted a rainbow curving majestically across the sky, he ran towards the point where the rainbow seemed to be touching the ground. But alas! However fast he ran, he didn't reach the place because the rainbow would keep on shifting.
Mazzella says that that wasn't the last time he had chased after elusive treasure. Over the years, he has gone after fame, money, and even relationships that he thought would bring him lasting happiness but none ever did. He concluded in the story that he has finally found the true treasure that never fades. And that treasure is the love of God which is free for all. Mazzella has accepted that treasure in his heart and he is endeavoring to share it with others.
So inspiring did I find Mazzella's stories to be that I plagiarized them and posted them on my blog. Some of my readers commented on how motivating the stories were. If only they knew where I had extracted them from!
Later on in 2014 after getting hold of Mazzella's email address, I sent him an email in which I commended him for his exemplary stories. He replied to the email and asked me if he could include me in his mailing list. I gladly accepted to be part of the list. Since then, he has been emailing me a story every week without fail. And, my dear reader, that's how Mazzella and I became friends.
Sometime in 2015 when I let Mazzella know that I run a blog, he discovered, to his utter surprise, that I used to plagiarize his stories. He warned me, in the kindest manner possible, that plagiarism is wrong. Being the wise young man that I am, I heeded his warning, for as the Book of Proverbs counsels, "he who hates correction is stupid". I can now proudly declare that since 2016 when I rebranded this blog to what it looks like now, all the stories I have been sharing here are the product of my own genuine effort.
Besides warning me on what I was doing wrong, Mazzella has encouraged me to keep on writing and sharing my stories with the world. And he always wishes me joy every time he emails me. That's why I have said at the beginning of this story that Mazzella is one of the few people in the world who have mastered the art of feeling joyful and benevolent. And would you believe me if I told you that he has two sons with autism? Well, he does. And that teaches us life doesn't have to be perfect for us to be happy.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on lessons from a friend, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "Bidding a Friend Farewell". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Developing Hope & Optimism
A True Story
on Sep 6, 2020
When I was in Starehe Institute in the years 2006 and 2007, we used to have what we called Dean's Talk - weekly meetings between students and staff of the institute. I have fond memories of the speeches I delivered during those Dean's Talk meetings. And I remember, too, what the teachers would tell us, such as exhorting us to refrain from watching adult films in the institute computer laboratories.
A male teacher once told us, during one of those Dean's Talk meetings, of a friend of his who would think of road accidents before embarking on a journey in his car, his reasoning being that such kind of thinking would reduce his chances of getting involved in an accident. I now think the teacher's friend had a point in his way of thinking after it has dawned on me lately that most of the stuff we anticipate doesn't happen; it is those things that we don't expect that regularly happen. Have you also discovered that?
But coming to think of it again, I don't find it wise to go around in a droopy face expecting bad things to happen. We ought to be filled with hope and optimism as St. Paul advises us in some of his epistles in the Bible. Hope that good things are coming our way; optimism that all things are working out for our own good.
To be honest, it has not been easy for me to be hopeful and optimistic. There have been times I have imagined traumatic experiences happening in my life, traumatic experiences like a loved one being diagnosed with a terminal illness or there being a funeral at our home here in Kiserian. Whenever I have caught myself imagining such trauma, I have pinched myself painfully and whispered to myself, "Thuita, stop dwelling on the bad stuff that could occur; focus on all the good things that could happen."
Recently, as I lay in bed at night waiting for sleep to come, I caught myself worrying what I would do if my laptop broke down. Where would I get money to buy another laptop for listening to hymns and doing my blogging hobby? I wondered. And I don't know why the thought of my laptop breaking down entered my mind; maybe it's as a result of the way my laptop has slowed down since I upgraded its operating system about two months ago. Anyway, when I caught myself worrying about my laptop breaking down, I tweaked my left arm and said to my mind, "Thuita, think of what could go right, not what could go wrong."
I don't know about you but for me, there are quite a number of wonderful things that can happen in my life such as meeting the woman of my dreams, receiving a donation for maintaining this blog or coming up with a beautiful melody for a great hymn. Given the way I am regularly pinching myself in an effort to remind myself of all those wonderful things that could happen to me, it is now apparent to me that hope and optimism are like muscles; they have to be practised regularly for them to become stronger.
Talking of strengthening muscles, I am reminded of an experience I had in the last decade. Back in 2012, I purchased rollers for firming up my abdominal muscles. But guess what! Whenever I stretched with the rollers for three or four days, I would feel in my stomach muscles an excruciating pain that would force me to give up using rollers.
Around September 2017, I again began stretching with rollers. Like in my previous trials, I did feel pain in my belly muscles after several days of stretching but this time I persisted, for I was serious about losing weight. And wow! The pain in my belly muscles gradually disappeared as I continued exercising with rollers. I have kept doing the exercises since then. These days, I stretch with rollers 12 times daily without feeling any discomfort. And I would probably be stretching more times had my senior brother Joe Kagigite not warned me that over-exertion with rollers can cause severe back problems.
Now that stretching with rollers has become second nature to me, I do it with the ease of a fish in water. But I know if I cease using rollers for a month and then start stretching with them again, the excruciating pain will come back. That's why I am always keen to keep on using rollers each passing day.
Hope and optimism work in a similar way as the stomach muscles. They have to be practised every day if they are to become second nature. And once we have infused ourselves with hope, we still need to keep thinking optimistically because the news and challenges of everyday living can easily erode our hope. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story about developing hope and optimism, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "Developing Courage". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.