Positive Quote For Today

"The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself."— C. JoyBell C.

My Brilliant Brother Paddy

This is my brother Patrick Gatonga, who I fondly call Paddy. More about him in the story below.

About two or three weeks ago, a friend of mine named Dennis Makhandia shared with me a video clip on Whatsapp. At first, I ignored it because I don't like watching videos on social media; I prefer going through information in text format. But two or three days after Makhandia shared the video clip with me, I decided to view it, albeit briefly, just so that he wouldn't think I had declined to view the video.

And wow! The video clip turned out to be about my immediate elder brother Paddy. It spoke of his prowess in playing the piano and how he graduated from the University of Nairobi with three degrees: a BSc. in Anatomy in 2008, an MBChB in Medicine & Surgery in 2011 and an MBA, also in 2011. As the narrator of the video clip continued waxing lyrical about Paddy's exemplary achievements, she said, "At only 34 years of age, [Paddy] is now the CEO of Jubilee Health Insurance."

I felt proud of Paddy to see him being spoken highly of in a video clip that was making rounds on social media. And later on, I couldn't help reflecting on Paddy's life and the humble beginnings he has had to overcome.

Paddy and I grew up in a modest home where we were expected to help in cooking and farming activities. We used to graze cattle together, till our farm with hoes and machetes, plant maize and beans whenever it began to rain, fetch for firewood and prepare meals in a sooty kitchen. And we shared the same room at home; a room that had a pot-holed floor, wooden walls and a corrrugated-iron roof that would amplify the patter of rain.

I remember one time in 1999, a plague of safari ants invaded our room in the dead of the night. The safari ants climbed onto our beds and began to bite us mercilessly, jolting us out of our slumber. We sprang out of bed, switched on the lights and warded them off. Despite the interruption of our sleep, we woke up in time to attend school the following morning. Such are the kind of humble beginnings that Paddy has had to overcome in his journey to becoming one of Kenya's youngest CEOs.

On analyzing Paddy's life, I have been able to discern that he owes his success not only to his brilliance of mind but also to his character. He has always believed in hard-work, not entitlement; in self-reliance, not self-indulgence. Not once did Paddy ever beg for pocket money from our parents when he was pursuing his degrees at the University of Nairobi. Instead, he used to earn his upkeep from the part-time jobs that he did as a side-hustle.

There was an afternoon in 2006 when I paid Paddy a visit in his room at the University of Nairobi and found that he possessed a desktop computer as well as a piano-keyboard. He must have sensed that I envied his possessions given the way he was swift to inform me that all he had was as a result of hard-work.

When I matriculated at JKUAT university in May 2007 to pursue a BSc. degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering, I tried to emulate Paddy by moonlighting as a piano-teacher in a music school where he had taught a few months before. But you know what? Three or four months later, I gave up doing the part-time job. Unlike Paddy, I lacked the intellectual stamina to juggle work and studies at the same time.

What amazes me most about Paddy was how he paid his way to getting an MBA while he was still a medical student at the University of Nairobi. Imagine when I matriculated at the University of Nairobi in September 2010 to pursue a degree in Political Science & Economics (I dropped out of JKUAT in 2009), I found myself in a quagmire of where to get fees for the degree. I approached several people for financial help but none came through to my aid. And there was Paddy studying for an MBA at the same university without seeming to worry about money. What a contrast!

After he graduated from the University of Nairobi with three degrees, Paddy kept on working diligently so that he could become the self-reliant gentleman he has always aspired to be. And he has encouraged me on several occasions to also strive to be independent.

During a family get-together on Christmas Day in 2014 for instance, I mentioned to Paddy that I was scouting for a donation for publishing a book I had authored. In a tone of disapproval, Paddy strongly advised me against begging for donations and asked me to earn the money for publishing the book. His disapproving comments made me quickly regret why I had mentioned my plans to him.

Then on another evening in 2015 when I phoned Paddy and told him that I wanted our Dad to apportion me land for building my own home, he suggested that I work for money and pay Dad for the land I craved to get from him. This time, I took his comments in my stride.

Truly, Paddy believes in hard-work, not entitlement; in self-reliance, not self-indulgence. Is it any wonder, then, that he has quickly risen through the ranks to become the CEO of one of Kenya's biggest insurance firms?

NEW! NEW! NEW! If you missed my social media update three 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 access the song.


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Caring For The Environment

When I was in high school at Starehe Boys' Centre, it was a rule that all first-formers in the school be in bed by 9.30pm on weekdays. So on my first days in the school back in early 2002, I took the initiative of switching off the lights in my dormitory at exactly 9.30pm. A prefect noted my initiative and recommended me for the Starehe Boys' Environment Club. Thanks to his recommendation, I was selected to be part of the club.

Joining the Starehe Boys' Environment Club turned out to be a positive experience for me. We the environmentalists (as members of the Environment Club were called) used to meet every Sunday after supper in a debating room that was next to the school library. I remember with nostalgia the issues we would discuss and deliberate on during those meetings. Issues such as switching off lights at the stipulated times, turning off running taps to conserve water, picking up trash on the school compound and taking care of a botanical garden that was out of bounds to all students save for environmentalists.

As a result of those meetings we had as environmentalists, I became even more fanatical about switching off lights. I would ensure all lights in my dormitory were off at 9.30pm on weekdays and at 10.00pm on weekends as Starehe rules demanded. And I did that not for want of any reward but because I felt it was the right thing to do.

One weekend night in 2002, I almost got into trouble with a certain prefect in my dormitory. I would switch off the lights in the dormitory and he would switch them on. Even though I can't recall who between me and the prefect won the tangle, I do recollect threatening him that I would report him to the Lion, as the captain in charge of the environment was called. I didn't report him though.

Serving as an environmentalist at Starehe had such an impression on me that a few months ago when I threw an orange peel out of the window of my room, I felt a twinge of guilt run through my spine. I quickly castigated myself and resolved to be dumping waste materials in a dustbin. And that's what I have been doing.

It seems that I was not the only member of Starehe Boys' Environment Club who picked up life-long lessons on caring for our surroundings. While walking on a street in Nairobi City one morning in 2010 or 2011, I ran into James Muhia - a fellow environmentalist during our Starehe years. I had a short cozy chat with Muhia that morning. And when I reminded him of our time in the Starehe Boys' Environment Club, he informed me that he still doesn't pass by litter without collecting it.

How I wish everybody was like Muhia! Especially after observing how some people dump things in public places without giving a hoot about the consequences of their actions. A few weeks ago for instance, I saw a driver drink a packet of milk as he was leaving a petrol station in my hometown of Kiserian. After he was done drinking the milk, he shamelessly threw the packet out of his car window and continued driving to wherever he was headed. I thought to myself that that was something very foolish of him to do.

Then the other day, someone dumped what looked to me like baby diapers on the side of a road leading to our home. And the dumped diapers weren't two or three or four. They were about twenty!

I don't know what would prompt someone to shamelessly throw a packet out of a moving car or dump about twenty baby diapers on the side of a road. Is it due to lack of quality education such as the one I got at Starehe? Or is it because of the other garbage in our environment?

You see, my younger brother Symo once shared with me an insightful observation he had made that garbage attracts garbage. His point was that if you are in a littered environment, you would feel no remorse in leaving rubbish on it. But if you are in a very clean and tidy place, you would be ashamed to add trash to the place.

Coming to think of it, maybe that kind of dumping rubbish on the side of the road is a problem prevalent in Third-World nations like ours because I have heard from folks who have travelled to the developed countries comment on how attractive their environments are. A few years ago, I read in a newspaper of a Kenyan who travelled to America. And when he came back, he said this of America, "It is very clean!"

RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on caring for the environment, you might also enjoy another one I wrote more than three years ago on "Forswearing Foolish Ways". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.


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