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.
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Being a Shrewd Judge of People
A True Story
on Oct 11, 2020
During my high school years at Starehe Boys' Centre, we were usually asked to describe the traits of characters in the novels, plays and short-stories that we read in our literature classes. I remember describing one character as assertive in a literature lesson we were being taught by an attractive blonde teacher called Miss Gathige. Despite the lessons I learnt in the literature classes, I never developed an interest in describing people's characters after I finished high school in 2005.
It's not until 2010 when I re-read the autobiography of Bill Clinton that I developed a desire of discerning the traits of the people I encounter in my day-to-day living. That was after envying Clinton's gift at describing people. He, for instance, described Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, as an impressive man with a quiet but commanding presence. As for Madeleine Albright, the second Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, Bill Clinton said he liked her toughness and intellectual clarity.
Describing people is now a skill I am endeavoring to become good at. One thing I have discovered is that people are different, and the better I am able to discern people's character, the more I am able to deal with them and know which ones to associate with and which to avoid like the plague. Allow me give you four examples from my life experiences that made me realize people are different. Only four examples.
- On one morning when I was at the university in JKUAT in 2008, I spotted in the fields of JKUAT a certain young female student who was praying and meditating. Because I was feeling lonely and miserable that morning, I approached the student and begged her to hug me. And wa! She turned hostile and threatened me that she would yell for help if I dared touch her. I had no choice but to leave her alone.
Then two or three years while roaming on the internet, I came across a certain female blogger who once went to the streets of Nairobi giving out free hugs to lonely people. Reading about the blogger's generosity in giving hugs has made me remember the young female student at JKUAT who once threatened to yell for help if I dared touch her. How different people are!
- When I was at JKUAT in 2009, I formed a friendship with a certain Computer Science student by the name John Murimi. On two or three occasions after I got acquainted with him, I started calling him Prof. John Murimi. And wa! One time when I referred to him as Prof. John Murimi, he was angry with me. He commanded me to never again call him "professor".
Then there is this guy in my neighbourhood who has a bushy beard and a goatee like that of Osama bin Laden, the feared fugitive who was infamous for masterminding terrorism activities against the United States. One evening, I joked to the guy that he bore an uncanny resemblance to Osama bin Laden, and after he liked my joke, I started calling him Osama, something that didn't bother him.
Imagine John Murimi got pissed off with me for referring to him as "professor" and here was a guy in my neighbourhood who never minded me calling him Osama. People are different.
- When I was part of a choir at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi, I used to refer to women in the choir by their first names, including those who were my mother's age. I would call one Eva, another Lilian and another Margaret. And they all never minded me calling them so.
Then sometime in 2012 or 2013, I sent an SMS to a distant neighbour who is my mother's age, addressing her as Mary. Guess what! She immediately instructed me to never again call her Mary, insisting that only folks of her age can call her Mary. Since then, I have been respectfully addressing her as Mrs. Mathenge, the name Mathenge being her husband's moniker.
- Some years back, I shared the following quote via SMS with several friends: "As we journey through life, let's try not to look down on anyone lest we forget that even dirty water can put out fire."
One friend named Dr. Imbugi Luvai replied that that was a nice quote and thanked me for sharing it with him. Encouraged by the positive feedback from Dr. Imbugi, I later on shared the quote with another set of friends including Mrs. Mathenge (yes, the one who instructed me to never call her Mary.)
Guess what again! Mrs. Mathenge got disturbed by the quote; she thought I was criticizing her. When I visited her a few days later, she inquired if she had ever looked down on me. Indeed, people are not the same and they respond to information differently.
NEW! NEW! NEW! For those of you who missed my social media update two 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 listen to the song.