The Virtue of Punctuality
A True Story
on Nov 11, 2021
Sometime in 2018 as I was ransacking our home library, I came across a letter my brother Paddy wrote in 2004 when he was a student in the institute division of Starehe Boys' Centre. He was requesting the Starehe administration to be granted an opportunity to go for a gap-year to one of the foreign schools that Starehe was associated with. And he mentioned in the letter the virtues he had learnt at Starehe. One of the virtues was punctuality.
I also attended Starehe Boys' Centre for my high school as well as college education. And while I can't exactly tell whether it was in that school that I learnt the importance of being on time, I do know punctuality is now one of the traits that I admire in people besides honesty, kindness, tolerance and a sense of humor. There is nothing that annoys me these days so much as to be kept waiting by someone with whom I have agreed to meet.
One morning in 2019, for instance, I travelled to one of the outskirts of Nairobi to produce a hymn with a music producer named Jason. Having agreed with Jason that we meet at his studio at 10.00am, I made an effort of leaving home early so that I could honour our agreed time of meeting. But alas! That fellow Jason wasn't in his studio when I arrived there on time.
I kept calling Jason to ask him where he was. And every time he received my call, he would promise to be in the studio in a short while. When it clocked 2.00p.m. and he still hadn't turned up, I began to run out of patience. I contemplated heading back home and demanding from Jason the money I had paid him as a down-payment for my hymn production.
On second thought, I decided to just wait for Jason. He did finally come to the studio at around 4.00p.m. - that's more than five hours after I had arrived. Even though I came to admire Jason's expertise in producing songs and the quality of machines in his studio whose software resembled the cockpit of a commercial jetliner, I didn't like the way he had kept me waiting for more than five hours.
Then last Monday, I commuted to Nairobi to produce another hymn I had composed. This time, I had planned to record the hymn in the studio of a guy named Sylvester who charges me much less cheaply than Jason. I had also come to like Sylvester because he can be at once kind and humorous. But last Monday, I saw an ugly side of him that I hadn't seen before. And that's a total disregard for other people's time.
Well, Sylvester and I had agreed to meet at his studio at 11.00am last Monday. Since I value punctuality, I arrived more than thirty minutes early at the building that houses Sylvester's studio, hoping against hope that Sylvester was in the building whose gates are always under lock and key. But when I called him, he didn't pick my calls. Since I couldn't enter into the building without permission from a tenant, I decided to hang around.
The sky was endlessly blue and the sun relentlessly hot. So I went to a shadowed spot next to the building, sat down and took out my Bible to read while I waited for Sylvester. I re-read the books of Judges, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Job. Okay, not the whole of those books but the verses I had highlighted in my previous readings.
And wow! I ended up enjoying re-reading those verses. So much did I enjoy them that my spirits started to rise. I especially remember learning from the book of Job that we should submit to God, accept His instructions and lay up His words in our hearts if we want to prosper and have peace. And from another book I have forgotten, I gleaned that it's unwise to rejoice at our enemies' misfortunes.
While re-reading those inspiring verses in the Bible, I kept pausing to call Sylvester. But the dude wasn't receiving my calls. And when he finally phoned me at noon, he informed me that he was held up somewhere and then promised to call me in 15-minutes time. Guess what! The dude didn't phone me again. Worst of all, he didn't pick my calls. After phoning him more than 10 times, I eventually gave up and decided to head back home.
I went back home feeling burnt-out and let down by Sylvester. My trust and respect for him was greatly diminished after that Monday. And if it hadn't been for the moments I had enjoyed re-reading my Bible, I would have considered my Monday wasted. Oh, how it annoys me to be kept waiting by someone I have agreed to meet with!
My dear reader, I beseech you to cultivate the virtue of punctuality. Show respect for other people's time by turning up for appointments on time. And if you are going to be late for an appointment, have the courtesy of calling the person you're meeting with to inform him you'll be late. Punctuality may not be mentioned in the Bible but it sure is a great virtue; as great as faith, hope and love.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on the virtue of punctuality, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on how I was deeply offended. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Being Like a Child Again
A True Story
on Nov 6, 2021
Here in Kenya, we have what we call KCPE exams that are taken at the end of primary school education. Each year, thousands of primary school children sit for the KCPE exams. Some adults do also take the exams, including prisoners. And you know what? In the long history of KCPE exams, I have never heard of any adult emerging tops. It is only thirteen- and fourteen-year old kids who have been topping the charts in KCPE results that are released with much fanfare.
I have been thinking that the reason why adults don't excel in KCPE exams is due to the responsibilities they have of caring for their families and the guilt, hate, worry and jealousy they grapple with. There is no way you can expect adults with such emotional baggage to beat thirteen- and fourteen-year old kids whose young minds are free from negative emotions and who have everything provided for them by their parents.
Let's be honest: it's fun being a child. As the best-selling author Paulo Coelho observed, children are often happy for no reason; they are always busy with something; and they have that drive to ask for what they want with all their might.
Well, I didn't have a blissful childhood when I was growing up in the '90s. I was sometimes criticized and punished for minor wrong-doings. At other times, I would be subjected to such boring menial tasks as collecting firewood, cooking meals in a sooty kitchen and carrying heavy luggage. I vividly recall one afternoon in 1994 or 1995 when I was delivering a load to our home, a policeman instructed someone to help me carry the load because he thought it was too heavy for a boy of my age.
Although my childhood wasn't blissful, it wasn't that bad either. I was brought up in a stable home where I had everything provided for me. At no one time did I ever hear my parents quarrel with each other. If my parents ever had any differences between them, and I suppose they did, then they did a good job at resolving them without me realizing it.
As a child, I never worried about what I would eat or wear next because I was confident my hard-working parents would meet my needs. All that was demanded of me was to study diligently and excel in exams at school. And studying diligently, I did. Thanks to my diligence, I performed fairly well in my exams at school. How fortunate I was!
But the best part of being a child that I miss most was the freedom I had: freedom from hate, guilt, jealousy and fear of what could happen in the future. I can't recall ever feeling guilty over something wrong I had done, or fearing that something could go possibly wrong in the days to come. And even though I was sometimes treated unfairly and taken advantage of, I never struggled with hate. I was as quick to forgive as God.
It is not until I became an adult that I began grappling with such negative emotions as hate, guilt, worry and jealousy. I still struggle with those negative emotions to this day. And from those struggles, I have realized how we adults have a hard time letting go of hate and guilt. We tend to cling to bitterness and insecurities like a shadow.
I am now craving to be like a child again. To be full of happiness and positive thoughts; to not worry about the future; and to be free from hate, guilt and jealousy. I have therefore resolved to re-awaken the child in me by being playful and prayerful. After all, why should I not be like a kid again? Am I not a child of the Almighty God who loves me more than my parents ever did when I was little?
The Bible promises us that when we become believers, God gives us the right to be called His children. So, my dear reader, I exhort you to also believe in God and re-awaken the child in you. Be as creative and playful as you were when you were young. Free your mind from hate, guilt and worry. Do your work with joy, and greet each day with a smile. Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on being like a child again, you might also enjoy another one I wrote more than three years ago on "Awakening the Child Within". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.