A True Story
on Oct 26, 2020
Sometimes I appreciate it when little bad things happen to me because they awaken me to all the good things in my life that I take for granted. Like last Friday, I was having a wonderful time in the evening listening to Franz Liszt music on my laptop when Mum called me to go assist her on something. I paused the music and hurriedly put my headphones on a nail where I hung them. In my hurry, I missed the nail while putting the headphones and lo! The headphones fell on the floor with a thud and two pieces of plastic attached to the earphones came apart, exposing the magnets and wires on both sides.
Seeing my headphones come apart saddened me a bit for I love using them to listen to hymns and classical music. And the headphones are damn expensive. I bought them more than four years ago at Ksh. 600, which to me is a lot of money considering I could buy a good book on the streets of Nairobi with that money and still have some cash left. When the headphones came apart, I became more thankful that I have a laptop which I use to listen to my favourite music. I now consider that to be a big blessing and will endeavour to remain grateful for it.
Then on a Sunday evening a week ago, I started coughing as I was reading a book on the back porch of our mansion. That had me worried because coughing is not the kind of illness I would like to have in these times of Covid-19 crisis; people may think I have the dreaded disease. Thankfully, my urge to cough died down as the evening wore on. Just so that I could not cough again, I drank a cup of hot water. Afterwards, I thanked God for my good health which I will now be more grateful for.
And then about two weeks ago, we had a power loss in our home area for more than twenty hours. Due to that power disconnection, I missed listening to music on my laptop. I also got concerned that my phone battery power would get depleted thus making me unable to check my email and social media accounts. Encumbered by such worries, I asked Dad to inform the workers at Kenya Power Company that our area had no electricity. Dad reported the problem and when the electrical fault was rectified and power came back, I felt instantly grateful for access to electricity. And what a big blessing electricity is!
It's not only the physical problems that awaken me to the big blessings in my life but also emotional ones. There are moments I feel irritable and insecure, either because people have let me down or as a result of immaturity on my part. Those feelings of irritability and insecurity make me more grateful for those occasions when I am alive with peace and happiness.
Perhaps my most baseless emotional disturbance occurs when Mum calls me every now and then to go do things for her. You see, Mum was crippled by stroke, so she always depends on us for almost everything she needs done. Because of her poor education, she also relies on us for guidance on how to use her smartphone and how to turn on our telly. I sometimes get annoyed when Mum keeps on calling me to go assist her.
These days when Mum gets on my nerves with her persistent pleas for help, I remember the wonderful hymn "If I Could Only Hear My Mother Pray Again" which was composed by someone who missed his departed mother. Remembering that hymn makes me all the more grateful to have Mum still with me, and that helps me ward off the feelings of irritability I have towards her. I know a day will come when I will also wish I could hear my mother pray again.
Yes, I have come to appreciate the little bad things that happen to me because they make me more thankful for the big blessings that I take for granted. As a result of those little problems, I now want to make gratitude my way of life by focusing more on my blessings than on my problems. And I have a lot to be thankful for such as good health, access to electricity and a family where I belong.
My dear reader, I beseech you to also embrace gratitude as your way of life. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for such blessings as food and joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on cultivating gratitude, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "Choosing Gratitude". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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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.