Some time when I was in Standard 5 at Noru-Moru Primary School, I loved taking part in a boyish football game called Chobo Wa which I am sure must still be popular among boys in village schools here in Kenya. Basically, the main aim of the game was to beat up the boy who happened to have the ball pass in between his legs as we dribbled it past one another. So we all had to be cautious not to be caught off-guard.
Quite a number of boys were always extra-cautious not to be caught off-guard by standing still when the ball came near them or idling by the sidelines as they waited for the unfortunate culprit to beat up. But for me, I used to be among the few outgoing players in the arena who dribbled the ball while trying to pass it in between some boy's legs. And on several of those Chobo Wa games, I managed to come out of every game unscathed until one fateful morning break-time.
I was dribbling the ball with my usual valour and vitality that morning break-time when it passed in between my legs. And then suddenly, every boy, especially the fearful idlers, descended on me with kicks and blows on every part of my body. After what seemed like an eternity of getting beaten, I must have gone back to class when the bell rang feeling more like a wildebeest that had escaped the jaws of a crocodile. That was way back in 1998.
On reflecting about that boyish game of Chobo Wa, I have discovered that it bears some resemblance with real life in that most people idle fearlessly on the sidelines while waiting for the makers of the world to mess up so that they can descend on them with criticism.
Yes, we are all prone to criticism throughout our lives. I admit some of the criticism may be well-founded and beneficial to our growth but most often, much of the criticism is due to what I call "the pecking order of the society": others want to escape their own insecurities by pointing out how they are better than us.
I want to encourage you, my dear reader, not to take criticism personally. If the criticism is justified, learn from it. But if it's unjustified, remember the problem is with the critic. Let's take to heart the following words of Theodore Roosevelt, one of America's greatest presidents:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.Pretty powerful words, aren't they? As for me, I have resolved to continue pursuing my dreams with renewed valour and vitality like the way I used to dribble the ball in Chobo Wa in those far-off days when I was in Standard Five at Noru-Moru. Adieu!
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I was born on December 31st, 1987 - the last day of the year. But unlike my saviour Jesus Christ, nobody prophesied my birth years before I was begotten. And nature didn't respond to my birth in any unusual way to celebrate my arrival on this planet. The dogs in my home-area barked as usual; the birds flew around nonchalantly as they have always done; and no extra star twinkled on the night of that day I was born.
Today, thirty years after I was born, I am still alive and kicking. I am blessed beyond measure with good health, a supportive family and quite a number of people I can count as friends. I am truly blessed.
And do you know why I am counting myself blessed? Because several contemporaries didn't make it to today. Let me tell you about two of them. Only two.
The first is my brother Stephen Ndonga who was born in 1996 and passed away while still an infant. I can still see him as a baby wrapped in sheets.
That night Mum brought baby Stephen Ndonga at home, I asked her where she had gotten him from. Mum lied to me that she had bought the baby in a supermarket. I believed her. And for several days after baby Stephen Ndonga became part of our family, Mum regularly asked me to look after him.
Then one afternoon after I came home from school that year 1996, I found a crowd of visitors at our homestead. My younger brother Symo was quick to inform me that baby Stephen Ndonga had passed on earlier that day. The bad news made me weep afterwards as I came back home, this time from buy something in a nearby kiosk.
Imagine baby Stephen Ndonga, who was begotten by the same mother and father as me, didn't live to see this day. But for fate, I could easily have been the one who passed away.
The second contemporary I will tell you about who didn't live to see this day is Nkosi Johnson - a South African child who came to public attention at the turn of this century for championing people with HIV/AIDS to be open about the disease.
Nkosi was born on February 4th, 1989, a year after me. But he had the unfortunate fate of contracting HIV from his mother - a virus that eventually caused his death in 2001.
In 2001, I was in Standard Eight studying diligently to ace my KCPE exams so that I could be admitted at Starehe Boys' Centre, the then Kenya's top ranked high school. (I made it.) But imagine as I studied diligently to join Starehe, Nkosi Johnson was preparing to die. Am I not truly blessed?
Yes, I am truly blessed to be alive and kicking today. As a result, I have now chosen to practise gratitude, a virtue that is on everybody's lips but in a few people's practice. So as from today, I have purposed to complain less and be grateful more. Adieu!