Lessons I Learnt From Books
A True Story
on Jul 9, 2018
Calvin Morekwa (yes, the young man in the photo above) was a primary school classmate of mine at Kunoni Educational Centre - a private school in my county where I was admitted and sponsored in the last four terms of my primary school years. I used to admire the way Morekwa walked. To put it humorously, I would say he walked in capital letters. So much did I admire his walking style that I would later on in high school try to imitate it.
And I also liked the way Morekwa laughed during one happy chance. For this one, I would say he laughed in italicized letters. Imagine I would later on visualize myself laughing in a similar manner.
Morekwa was such a bright fellow when we were in primary school. It was as if position one of our Standard Eight class was reserved for him because no matter how intensively the rest of us studied, he still topped the class. And he topped right from the first CAT in Standard Eight till the final national primary school exams known as KCPE.
I haven't seen Morekwa in more than a decade but I am glad we are friends on Facebook where I extracted the photo of him above. And I like the way he looks calm, clean and composed in the photo. I also like the way he is surrounded by neat-looking books because I love books.
Yes, I love books; so much that I always feel better in the presence of a book. If you are an attractive young lady in secret love with me and you wish to win me as a husband, let me tell you a secret of achieving that: just buy me books as gifts!
And because I love books, let me tell you, my dear reader, about some of the books I have read and the lessons I have gleaned from them:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey: I had always wished to read this book since I read its introductory pages earlier on in this decade at the Kenya National Library in Upperhill, Nairobi. So much did I wish to read the book that I approached several friends of mine for help in buying it but none of them came through to my aid. Luckily though, I got some money earlier on this year with which I bought the book and it didn't disappoint.
I learnt powerful lessons for personal change in the book and among the lessons is that the way I feel should never be a function of how people behave or treat me. In addition to that, I also learnt from it to seek first to understand, and then to be understood. That reminds me of the lines in the famous prayer of St. Francis of Assisi which go like this:
O Divine Master, grant that I may not much seek... to be understood as to understand ... [for it is in understanding that we are understood]...
- The Book of Matthew: This is one of my favourite books in the Bible in which Apostle Matthew recorded the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, my best friend from whom I draw strength, guidance and inspiration.
I learnt from the book to value prayers but not to show it off to others by shouting loudly for people to hear. So, as per Jesus teachings, I prefer praying in the silent chambers of my heart whether I am alone in my bedroom or out there in the streets.
Also, I learnt from the Book of Matthew not to worry about the future but instead live one day at a time. That has been a hard lesson to implement in my life but I am getting better at it with time.
- My American Journey: This is the autobiography of Colin Powell, a black American, born of immigrant parents, who rose through the ranks of the United States military to become the National Security Advisor under President Ronald Reagan.
Of the many excellent lessons I learnt from the book, the one that I will tell you is to never be buffaloed by experts. We should always be ready to challenge them even in their own backyard.
- The Book of Proverbs: This is also another favourite book of mine in the Bible, especially the Good News version. It is rich with splendid sayings.
From those sayings, I learnt to hate lies, to value hard work, to think cheerfully, to be wary of the wayward wife, to marry a woman of noble character and to choose my company of friends wisely. Perhaps most important, I learnt from the sayings to involve God in everything I do. And I usually do that every other day.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey: I read this book a few years ago even though I was well past my teenage years. And I learnt from it that laughing:
- Loosens up mental gears and helps us think more creatively
- Helps us cope with the difficulties of life
- Reduces stress levels
- Relaxes us as it lowers our blood pressure
- Connects us with others and counteracts the feeling of alienation, a major contributor in depression and suicide
- Releases endorphins, the brain's natural pain killers 
- A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe: I read this novel as a high school set book for my KCSE exams. And I really loved it; so much that I re-read it last year.
Although the novel is a bit steamy, it does shed light on the nature of political leadership in many African nations after they gained independence from their European masters. And if someone was to ask me who my favourite fictional character is, I would reply that it is Odili Samalu - the main character of this short novel.
- The Book of Psalms: This is yet another favourite book of mine in the Bible. It was authored by David, the pioneering King of Israel and my hero who I am striving to emulate.
By reading the psalms in the book, I was able to identify with David in the way he was rebellious and oppressed. I also came to discover from the book that like David, I also have interests in music and writing. But I believe that I will never be unfaithful like he was.
 I have extracted these benefits of laughing from page 233 of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey, published in 1998 by Simon & Schuster.
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Thinking About Death
A True Story
on Jul 5, 2018
Oops! One of my neighbours called Ludovic Kahoro, who is a catechist in my home-town Catholic church, lost his father last Sunday whom my Mum used to know as Mr. Munyu. I was a bit surprised to hear of his demise because I hadn't know he was ill in the numerous times we have met this year.
Mr. Munyu was a short, quiet man who seemed to me to be always absent-minded. Whenever we met on the road-side and he happened to spot me, he would get jolted out of his absent-mindedness, smile, greet me and then lapse back into his absent-mindedness.
One thing I liked about Mr. Munyu was the way he loved cleanliness. He was always clad in suits and well-polished shoes. I remarked to him about his cleanliness one day two or three years ago, to which he replied, "Yes, I love cleanliness. And I always ensure even the most hidden parts of my body are clean."
So if cleanliness is next to godliness as the cliché goes, then Mr. Munyu was a godly man - which makes me think he is now resting with the angels in heaven.
Mr. Munyu is now the fifth neighbour I have lost in the last two or three years. That has led me to think about death since we are all destined for the grave. And several authors have actually encouraged me in their books and speeches to think about death.
There is Rick Warren who in his internationally acclaimed book, The Purpose Driven Life, advises us to live with an eternal perspective because our time on Earth is ephemeral. I agree with that because we only live for seventy or so years which is short compared with the age of the Earth which scientists estimate to be 3.8 billions years old.
There is Stephen R. Covey who in his international best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, encourages us to think about the kind of compliments we would love spoken of us during our funerals by our family, friends, relatives, work-mates and community members.
There is Steve Chandler who in his book, 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself, exhorts us to think of death as one of the ways of motivating ourselves to make the most of each day. He says living without thinking of death is detrimental to our lives much in the same way as playing a match as if it will never end.
There is Pepe Minambo who in his relatively small book, Be Inspired Before You Expire, beseeches us to live such a wonderful life that the organizers of our funerals shall have an easy time coming up with our eulogies.
Then there is Steve Jobs who in his famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University encouraged the university's graduates to think about death regularly. He said:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.It is such kind of thinking about death that drove Bill Clinton to accomplish much at a young age because he says in his autobiography that his father's early death infused him with a sense of mortality that made him make the most of each day. If you didn't know, Bill Clinton was first elected Arkansas Governor at a tender age of 31.
So I have also decided to be thinking about death as one of the ways of motivating myself. I will strive to be grateful for each day, greet it with a smile and spend it productively and enjoyably. And I will strive to leave a legacy of faith, hope and love by looking at the best in others even when they see the worst in me.
Hopefully by the time I die, the words spoken about me during my funeral will resemble those of Ted Kennedy in his eulogy for his brother Robert Kennedy who was assassinated in 1968 while running for the United States presidency.
Ted Kennedy delivered a magnificent eulogy for his brother, closing with these words of power and grace that have touched me to the very core:
My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. [He should be] remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.And when will I die? Well, I can die any time from now. But I am sanguine if I continue deepening my faith in God and working on my physical fitness while engaging at a labour of love, then I can clock 90 as a sprightly, grey-haired nonagenarian.
How about you? Ask yourself what difference you'd love to have made in the world by the time you die. And try to continually imagine the kind of words that will be spoken of you during your funeral. Adieu!