Being a Shrewd Judge of People
A True Story
on Oct 11, 2020
During my high school years at Starehe Boys' Centre, we were usually asked to describe the traits of characters in the novels, plays and short-stories that we read in our literature classes. I remember describing one character as assertive in a literature lesson we were being taught by an attractive blonde teacher called Miss Gathige. Despite the lessons I learnt in the literature classes, I never developed an interest in describing people's characters after I finished high school in 2005.
It's not until 2010 when I re-read the autobiography of Bill Clinton that I developed a desire of discerning the traits of the people I encounter in my day-to-day living. That was after envying Clinton's gift at describing people. He, for instance, described Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, as an impressive man with a quiet but commanding presence. As for Madeleine Albright, the second Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, Bill Clinton said he liked her toughness and intellectual clarity.
Describing people is now a skill I am endeavoring to become good at. One thing I have discovered is that people are different, and the better I am able to discern people's character, the more I am able to deal with them and know which ones to associate with and which to avoid like the plague. Allow me give you four examples from my life experiences that made me realize people are different. Only four examples.
- On one morning when I was at the university in JKUAT in 2008, I spotted in the fields of JKUAT a certain young female student who was praying and meditating. Because I was feeling lonely and miserable that morning, I approached the student and begged her to hug me. And wa! She turned hostile and threatened me that she would yell for help if I dared touch her. I had no choice but to leave her alone.
Then two or three years while roaming on the internet, I came across a certain female blogger who once went to the streets of Nairobi giving out free hugs to lonely people. Reading about the blogger's generosity in giving hugs has made me remember the young female student at JKUAT who once threatened to yell for help if I dared touch her. How different people are!
- When I was at JKUAT in 2009, I formed a friendship with a certain Computer Science student by the name John Murimi. On two or three occasions after I got acquainted with him, I started calling him Prof. John Murimi. And wa! One time when I referred to him as Prof. John Murimi, he was angry with me. He commanded me to never again call him "professor".
Then there is this guy in my neighbourhood who has a bushy beard and a goatee like that of Osama bin Laden, the feared fugitive who was infamous for masterminding terrorism activities against the United States. One evening, I joked to the guy that he bore an uncanny resemblance to Osama bin Laden, and after he liked my joke, I started calling him Osama, something that didn't bother him.
Imagine John Murimi got pissed off with me for referring to him as "professor" and here was a guy in my neighbourhood who never minded me calling him Osama. People are different.
- When I was part of a choir at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi, I used to refer to women in the choir by their first names, including those who were my mother's age. I would call one Eva, another Lilian and another Margaret. And they all never minded me calling them so.
Then sometime in 2012 or 2013, I sent an SMS to a distant neighbour who is my mother's age, addressing her as Mary. Guess what! She immediately instructed me to never again call her Mary, insisting that only folks of her age can call her Mary. Since then, I have been respectfully addressing her as Mrs. Mathenge, the name Mathenge being her husband's moniker.
- Some years back, I shared the following quote via SMS with several friends: "As we journey through life, let's try not to look down on anyone lest we forget that even dirty water can put out fire."
One friend named Dr. Imbugi Luvai replied that that was a nice quote and thanked me for sharing it with him. Encouraged by the positive feedback from Dr. Imbugi, I later on shared the quote with another set of friends including Mrs. Mathenge (yes, the one who instructed me to never call her Mary.)
Guess what again! Mrs. Mathenge got disturbed by the quote; she thought I was criticizing her. When I visited her a few days later, she inquired if she had ever looked down on me. Indeed, people are not the same and they respond to information differently.
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.
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A Bad Day That Ended Nicely
A True Story
on Oct 6, 2020
Yesterday, I woke up earlier than usual because I was travelling to a certain studio in Nairobi to produce a hymn I had composed. Before leaving home, I uttered a prayer that my journey may be a success and that all may go well in the recording of my hymn. I had to pray; I just had to since I believe in the liberating power of prayer.
The morning was bright and clear as I left home. From the way the sun was shining brilliantly in a sky that was mostly blue, I could tell it was going to be another hot, sultry day here in Kenya.
I walked to my hometown of Kiserian to board a matatu bound for Nairobi. After about two and a half hours of travelling, I arrived at the music studio at around 10.00am just as we had agreed with Sylvester, the owner of the studio. Sylvester was also punctual; he didn't keep me waiting. And punctuality is one of the traits I admire in people in addition to honesty, kindness, tolerance and a sense of humour.
Although both Sylvester and I were set to record my hymn, there arose two problems. The first was a personal one: I was feeling groggy and fatigued. Imagine as soon as we entered the studio, I felt like collapsing on the floor for a nap. I don't exactly know why I felt fatigued in spite of having had a restful sleep the previous night; maybe it was due to the hot, dry weather. Anyway, I put on a brave front by pretending to be well when I met Sylvester yesterday morning.
The other problem was a power failure in the studio. There wasn't enough electricity to power the fluorescent tubes and run the studio's desktop computer. Feeling disappointed, I told Sylvester that I had made a long journey and didn't want to go back home without having recorded my hymn. So I chose to wait till electricity was back in reliable supply.
As luck would have it, Sylvester left me alone in the studio while I waited to see if the power connection would be rectified. It was luck on my side because I had time to doze, albeit lightly, which helped me ward off the fatigue I had arrived in the studio with. And that fatigue has made me resolve to be grateful for those times I am alive with power, energy and excitement.
I must have dozed for more than two hours because when I picked my phone to check something, I was surprised to see it was 1.20pm. How fast time flies sometimes! On learning it was 1.20pm, I removed from my bag a packet of milk, several slices of bread and three small bananas that I had carried for lunch. I feasted on them with gusto.
After having my lunch, I took out Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and re-read the passages that I highlighted when I first read the book in 2018. I always find it wise to carry a book with me whenever I go on a journey; it keeps me occupied on those inevitable moments of inactivity.
Time continued flying as I re-read the book. Before I knew it, more than two hours had passed when Sylvester called me at around 3.40pm. He asked me to postpone the recording of my hymn. As to where he was, I didn't know. Agreeing with him since the power connection hadn't been rectified, I closed the studio with a padlock he had placed on an organ as per his instructions. Then I headed home.
Despite having not fulfilled my mission of recording my hymn, I went back home feeling rather energized. My moods were elevated when I remembered a favourite quote of mine that says:
O God, when I lose hope because my plans have come to nothing... then help me to remember that your love is always greater than my disappointments - and your plans for my life are always better than mine.I reached back home at around 7.00pm just as it was getting dark. And I was feeling so buoyant in spirits that I couldn't believe I was the same guy who had felt tired and bone-weary earlier on in the day. For me, yesterday turned out to be one of those days that begin badly and end up nicely.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on a bad day that became good, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "Some Bad Days I Once Had". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.