Relating to Other People's Pain
A True Story
on Jun 4, 2021
I love wearing shorts when I am here at home because they are easier to wash than trousers. They are also cheaper; I buy one pair at only Ksh. 150 at a certain stall in the main market of my hometown of Kiserian. Some folks in Kiserian have noted my love for wearing shorts that they have mentioned it to me during my walking exercises in Kiserian.
Last Wednesday, I noted one of my shorts was wearing out. Since I don't like putting on torn clothes as that would make me look like a poor man, I decided to buy a new pair of shorts during my walking exercises later in the evening. When evening came, I asked God through prayers that He would help me buy a nice pair of shorts that would fit me. Then I left home feeling energetic and hopeful.
On reaching Kiserian, I headed straight to the stall where I buy shorts. Well, the fellow I found at the stall was a stranger. From the look of his face, I could tell he was an alcoholic. His eyes were bloodshot and some of his teeth were missing. But at least he was sober when he was dealing with me. He measured the size of my waist to assess which pair of shorts would fit me.
After he selected the pair of shorts which he thought would fit me, I negotiated with him to sell it to me at Ksh. 150. At first, he demanded Ksh. 250, then Ksh. 200 before finally agreeing to sell it to me at Ksh. 150 - the price I had budgeted for the shorts. As I left the stall, I had a feeling the pair of shorts I had bought was too big for me. But I silently turned the matter over to God, asking Him to let the shorts fit me.
When I reached home, I put on the new pair of shorts, hoping against hope that it was the right size for me. But alas! It turned out to be oversized - just as I had thought. My heart sank after I found out the new pair of shorts was oversized. I felt pain sear through my soul; pain for having been cheated into buying the shorts by the alcoholic.
I wish I had remembered a favorite quote of mine that says, "Don't confuse mere inconveniences with real problems." Maybe the quote would have cheered me up. But the quote didn't pop up in my mind, so I continued wallowing in pain. As I settled on my desk to check my email and social media updates, I complained to God why He had permitted me to buy an oversized pair of shorts yet I had put the issue into His able hands before and after the purchase.
While in that pain-stricken mood, I thought of other people who were going through more pain than me. I remembered reading in the newspaper earlier that day of parents whose nine-year old daughter had been kidnapped and eventually murdered by unknown assailants. And I imagined the pain those parents were going through. Compared to what had been done to their daughter, buying an oversized pair of shorts that cost only Ksh. 150 felt like a very minor issue.
I believe that train of thought that had taken me from my own pain to that of the parents of the murdered daughter was God speaking to me. He was helping me put things in perspective after I complained to Him for not answering my prayers. Sooner rather than later, I felt a sense of peace return in my soul. And when I became my usual happy self, I vowed to always identify with other people's pain - the way Bill Clinton did when he was serving as the 42nd U.S. President (see photo above.)
Let's face it: we live in a fallen world that is full of suffering. People out there are in so much pain. Some are sick, some are stuck in abusive relationships, some are going through marital strife, some are overburdened with guilt, some are bitter about injustices done to them, some have lost their loved ones, some have had their houses gutted by fire - you get the picture?
Most of us get so caught up in working for our daily bread, in fulfilling our dreams, in keeping up with the Joneses and in showing off our success on social media that we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the pain other people are going through in their lives. And that's unwise. Which is why I have resolved to always identify with other people's pain. I urge you, my dear reader, to do likewise.
By the way, I went back yesterday evening to the stall where I had bought the oversized shorts. I didn't find the alcoholic who had sold it to me the previous day. Instead, I found another guy who was kind enough to have me exchange the oversized pair of shorts for another one. After he measured my waist to assess which short would fit me, he found two shorts that were nearly my size; one was a bit bigger for me and the other a bit smaller judging by the waist measurements he had taken. He suggested I pick the bigger one. But I had a feeling the smaller one would fit me, so I chose it.
Sure enough, the "smaller" pair of shorts turned out to be the right size for me when I wore it after reaching home. I felt elated to have trusted my instincts and I remembered to thank God for helping me through the buying process. Truly, buying an oversized pair of shorts had just been a mere inconvenience; it wasn't worth all the pain it had inflicted me on Wednesday evening. Don't you agree?
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on relating to other people's pain, you might also enjoy another one I wrote a few years ago on "Bill Clinton: A True Leader". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Why I Like Joel Osteen
A True Story
on May 30, 2021
Although I am deeply Christian, I don't like much action on pulpits. I don't like the studied air, the theatrical grimace and the artificial inflection of voices that some of our most popular preachers here in Kenya have. Instead, I prefer preachers who speak naturally and humorously, and in a manner calculated to inspire devotion - the way Joel Osteen does.
Joel Osteen is an American pastor based in the U.S. state of Texas. I first heard him preach on the telly in 2008 when a fellow chorister at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi took me to his house. He preached extremely well and with such great propriety that I instantly liked him. If my memory serves me right, he talked about the importance of keeping in touch with old friends and treasuring beautiful memories - a message that resonated with me.
About two years later when I resumed attending church at All Saints' Cathedral, a church-mate called Mrs. Njoroge lent me Joel Osteen's Become a Better You on one Sunday. I felt so proud to be in possession of the book that I showed it off to a few fellow choristers in the cathedral. And devouring the book, I did. After I was done devouring it, I dutifully returned it to Mrs. Njoroge. But the much I remember learning from the book is to think well of myself.
Having become a fan of Joel Osteen, I would sometimes listen to a sermon of his that was available in the audio-visual section of the Kenya National Library in Nairobi where I used to go for private studying in 2011. The sermon was about being open to new ways of serving when things don't work out the way we envisioned them. While listening to that moving sermon, I admired Joel Osteen's style of speaking so much that I would visualize myself delivering a speech in a similar manner.
After being moved by that sermon, I turned to YouTube for more of Joel Osteen's sermons. I downloaded quite a number of them and saved them on my phone for listening during my free time. Oh my, weren't the sermons inspiring! Not only did I learn something from them such as praying bold prayers, I also enjoyed some of Joel Osteen's jokes. He really has a refreshing sense of humor.
Sometime in 2012 when I visited a distant neighbor of mine named Mrs. Mathenge, I found her with a copy of Joel Osteen's It's Your Time. I begged her to lend me the book, which she did. Even though I read it to completion, I can hardly recall anything I gleaned from the book. But I am quite sure it had useful nuggets of information that I now have no record of as I have long since returned the book to Mrs. Mathenge. And that's precisely why I don't borrow books these days; I buy my own copies so that I can keep them for future reference.
Several months ago, I developed a burning desire to re-read Joel Osteen's Become a Better You because I thought the book could help me get rid of the guilt, worries and insecurities that sometimes assail me when I go for my evening exercises. Since the book was not available in the bookshops I visited, I tried ordering it from Amazon but found the shipping and handling costs prohibitive. I then contemplated calling Mrs. Njoroge, the lady who lent me the book in 2010, to request her to sell me her copy but I brushed the idea aside.
Guess what! As I was walking on a busy street in Nairobi last Friday but one, I found the book on sale at a certain bookstall which sells second-hand bestsellers. I hastily bought it and began reading it the following day. And wow! How delighted I felt to go through 377 pages of encouraging messages!
Joel Osteen wrote Become a Better You with authority, just like the way Jesus did when He was preaching over two millennia ago. He had insights into the challenges that people go through in life. In the book, he offered his advice on how we can rise above those challenges. He backed his points with authentic and interesting stories, some of which he drew from his own experiences.
While reading the book, I found myself underlining so many sentences whose messages spoke right to my heart. As I underlined the sentences, I kept wondering whether I am the same person who studied the book in 2010 because I seemed to have missed much of the wisdom in it. And I couldn't help envying Joel Osteen's talent for encouraging people and wished I, too, could possess that talent especially for encouraging myself in those low moments when I am plagued by guilt, worry and insecurities.
All told, Joel Osteen's Become a Better You has encouraged me to trust in God with every detail of my life, to get rid of accusing voices in my head, to pray with an attitude of expectancy, to embrace where I am in life and to not mind what critics say about me. The book has made me like Joel Osteen more, and I have resolved that should I come across another book by him, I won't hesitate to purchase it.
By the way, it seems like I am not the only Kenyan who likes Joel Osteen. A friend of mine called Douglas Warui once asked me if I listen to Joel Osteen's sermons after I emailed him an article I had written about how the words we speak can build or destroy other people. Then there is Peter Kuria, a fellow in my neighborhood who has named one of his sons after Joel Osteen. That's interesting, isn't it?
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