Doing Away With Excuses
A True Story
on Oct 21, 2020
Back in 2013, I received via this blog a message from a Standard 8 pupil who informed that he had found my blog via Google search and learnt I was an old boy of Starehe Boys' Centre - a prestigious high school here in Kenya. The pupil apprised me that he also wanted to join Starehe. While I can't recall whether I wished him well in his ambition, I do remember contacting him a month or two later to inquire if he had realized his dream. And alas! He told me quite frankly that he hadn't qualified to join Starehe as his score in KCPE exams wasn't that spectacular.
That the pupil didn't make it to Starehe surprised me because I expected him to be intellectually advanced for him to have known how to surf the internet and read my blog. Imagine when I was sitting for my KCPE exams in 2001, I didn't know how to use a computer, let alone how to surf the internet; yet I still aced my KCPE exams and got into Starehe. Surely, that pupil deserved to have had no excuse for failing to make it to Starehe; he had access to technology that I lacked more than a decade earlier when I was his age.
And that brings me to the topic of my story: doing away with excuses. I have read that too many of us crawl through life with excuses on why we are not as accomplished as we should be. Some of us claim we are too young or too old; others blame the circumstances of their birth and how they have been treated unfairly.
But are those excuses really valid? I don't think so because History is replete with stories of individuals who were handed the worst life has to offer but they still came out as winners. Individuals such as Helen Keller and Stephen Hawking.
Helen Keller was struck at the age of 2 by an illness that left her deaf, mute and blind. Despite the debilitating setback, she went ahead to become the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. After graduating from university, she succeeded in carving out a career as a respected author, lecturer and political activist. Sometimes when I read her quotes, I marvel at how brilliant she was. Take for instance the following quote of hers:
Knowledge is power. Rather knowledge is happiness because to have knowledge - broad, deep knowledge - is to know true ends from false, and lofty ideals from low. To know the thoughts and deeds that have marked man's progress is to feel the great heart-throbs of humanity through the centuries; and if one does not feel in these pulsations a heavenward striving, one must indeed be deaf to the harmonies of life.Now, can you believe that quote was penned by someone who was deaf, mute and blind from infancy? I don't know about you but for me, I can't come up with a quote of such dazzling brilliance in spite of having been seeing, hearing and talking my entire life.
Then there is Stephen Hawking who was diagnosed with a serious disease of the nervous system at the tender age of 21. The illness crippled him. Struck by such a disease, many people would shrink to despair and resort to begging for money in the streets. But not Stephen Hawking who forged on with life and became one of the most noteworthy physicists to ever grace this planet. I like what Hawking said: that "however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you just don't give up."
It's not only people with disabilities like Helen Keller and Stephen Hawking who motivate and challenge me but also other great men who succeeded in life without access to technology we take for granted today. Great men such as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein who in spite of having lived in an age without internet, still became intellectual giants and helped advance the course of mankind with their ground-breaking ideas.
An even more inspiring example of folks who become eminently accomplished without access to technology we have today is classical music composers such as J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. These composers lived in an age before electricity was discovered, so they lacked such sound-recording devices as iPods, smartphones and computers. Despite lacking access to such modern accessories, they still realized their potential and composed hundreds of musical pieces that have inspired people of subsequent generations.
So, my dear reader, do we deserve to have excuses for not realizing our potential? Remember Newton and Einstein had the same two eyes, two ears, two legs and two hands as us. Others like Helen Keller and Stephen Hawking didn't enjoy the health we are blessed with. As for me, I have resolved to stop making excuses and unbridle the silent wealth of power within me that is screaming for exposure. From today, I will pray more, read more, listen more, believe more and do more. So help me God.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on doing away with excuses, you might also enjoy another one I wrote early last year on "Inspiring Adverts". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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My Caring Friend Mike
A True Story
on Oct 16, 2020
A few years ago, I came across a quote in the internet that said we should all have a friend who is like a mirror and a shadow: a mirror never lies and a shadow never leaves. While I think a shadow leaves us when it gets dark, I found that quote wise and on point. And when I examine my life, I am glad to have a few friends who stick with me more than my shadow does. One of them is Mike Njeru (see photo above).
I first met Mike in 2007 at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi when I joined a choir in the cathedral where he sang as a tenor. Through my interactions with him since then, I have come to know him as a humble, caring and generous gentleman. He has been a living example of the teachings of Jesus and St. Paul. And getting to know him has been like being friends with God.
Back in 2007 when I was a naive and self-conscious young man, Mike took a special interest in me. He once asked me that year why I wasn't using my gift in playing the organ after he noted I was taking too long to sing with the choir on the pews. While I can't recall the response I gave him, I do remember him inquiring from me how he, too, could learn to play the organ. I enlightened him that learning to play the organ is mostly about training the mind, not the fingers as he thought.
Eventually in early 2008, I did start accompanying the choir on the organ as Mike wanted. He must have got some kick out of it. Later on that year, he lent me his electric piano keyboard for several weeks. Thanks to his generosity, I learnt on one Saturday night how to play on the piano the wonderful old hymn "Trust and Obey" which says in its first verse that "when we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!" I really enjoyed having Mike's piano keyboard in my room.
On another Sunday in 2008, Mike drove me to his house in his car. As we followed the road to his house, I shared with him my dream of wanting to school in America at such elite universities as Harvard. He must have been familiar with how the universities accept students given the way he was quick to let me know that Harvard is not for self-seekers. I think his point was that Harvard seeks students who have demonstrated concern for others and potential for leadership.
As it happened, I never realized my dream of studying in an elite university in America. And when I failed to realize that dream, I lost interest in an engineering course I was pursuing in a local university called JKUAT. What's worse, I also lost interest in attending church at All Saints' Cathedral where I sang tenor and played the organ. That loss of interest led to my admission in JKUAT hospital.
Mike must have become concerned with my absence in church because he phoned me one evening in 2009 to check on me. While I can't recollect what we talked on the phone that evening, the fact that he called me showed how caring he was. (That evening Mike called me, I was in JKUAT repeating my second year. I dropped out of the university a few months later.)
In late 2010 when I matriculated at the University of Nairobi to pursue a degree in Political Science and Economics, I resumed attending church at All Saints' Cathedral. This time round, I strived to overcome my naivety and self-consciousness by being social and outspoken. In the process, I ended up offending some choristers.
Like on one Sunday in 2011 after a church service, I stood in front of the choir and complained to them that they had deserted me when things happened to me at JKUAT. I ended the speech by telling the choristers not to blame Jesus if they went to hell. Some choristers never took my speech kindly, but not Mike who didn't see anything wrong with me expressing my feelings. He heartened me by advising me not to be a people-pleaser.
As it happened to me when I was in JKUAT, I was also admitted at the University of Nairobi clinic in 2011 for reasons I have explained before on this lovely blog of mine. When I was admitted in the university clinic, Mike visited me on several occasions including one Saturday afternoon which I will never forget. That afternoon, Mike obtained permission from the clinic nurses and drove me to an upscale mall where he bought me plenty of snacks. He also purchased for me Anthony T. Gitonga's Pathway to Purpose, a book I never finished reading.
Since 2011, Mike has continued taking a special interest in my life. He has been commenting on some of the songs and stories I have been sharing with the world. I remember there was a time he asked me why I had become silent after he observed I hadn't been writing for several weeks. Then sometime in 2014, he got concerned with me not having acquired a university degree. When I concluded that it wasn't fit for me to go back to the university, Mike respected my decision as a true friend should.
Truly, Mike has been such a great, caring friend to me. I have tried to reciprocate his kindness towards me by comforting him when he lost his mother; I also at one time advised him on how internet domain names are set up. But I feel the little I have done for him can never compare to the much he has done for me. May God repay him for being such a caring friend to me.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on my caring friend Mike, 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.