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.

Overcoming the Odds

With permission, I have extracted this picture-quote from a website called Enki Quotes. All rights reserved worldwide.

After doing some morning chores on the morning of last Friday, I settled down on my desk to read the previous day's "Nation" newspaper. As it is my habit, I thanked God for the newspaper, asking Him that reading it may deepen my faith, understanding and appreciation of His Word. I also prayed that if I read in the paper of anyone I know who is succeeding, I may rejoice in his success, and that if I read of anyone I know who is suffering, I may sympathize with him. Then I began devouring the newspaper.

With keen interest, I read about national celebrations of a Kenyan holiday called Madaraka Day that had been marked on Wednesday. I also read about how the presidential race is hotting up as our country gears up for General Elections slated to take place in August this year. Then when I turned to page 10 of the newspaper, a photo of my friend Paul Muhia leapt out at me. He had been featured in a full-page advert of an entrepreneurship competition in which he had emerged a winner.

I have known Paul Muhia ever since he was a young boy in the '90s. His mother used to run a small shop near our home in the late '90s and well into the 2000s. I will never forget the day in 1999 when she became furious with me for buying something in her shop on credit and then dashing to a nearby kiosk to buy something else with money in my pocket. She must have thought I was taking advantage of her kindness.

Despite rousing her fury on that unforgettable day in 1999, I continued being a regular customer at her shop. If my memory serves me well, I recall Muhia attending to me when his mother was away. Theirs was a small shop that earned them the money they needed to scrape by. Judging by the size of their shop and the number of customers they received, I don't think they ever made more than Ksh. 200 in profit from a day's sales.

Muhia being several years younger than me, I hardly ever chatted with him when we were growing up in the '90s. It's not until 2013 that I got to interact with him. And from my interactions with him, I came to know him as a quiet, laid-back lad.

I also got to know Muhia as a humble and honest young man during one Sunday service in 2013 in our home church. During that service, he remained standing next to his seat as all other church attendees went to the altar to offer their tithes. Come to think of it, he could have opted to head to the altar and drop an empty envelope in the tithing box to avoid embarrassment, but he chose not to pretend what he was not. That kind of dead-level honesty impressed me.

After Muhia and I got to know each other, we met on the road on one Saturday afternoon in early 2013. We exchanged greetings after which he was quick to request me to help him select the degree course to pursue at the university. He had just finished his high school education and was awaiting KCSE exam results.

Being the helpful fellow I was back then, I yielded to his request and gave him the best advice I could offer. I advised him to estimate the grade he was likely to score in KCSE and select the degree he would qualify for. And I told him not to worry about selecting a degree he wasn't sure he would qualify for since the admissions board would give him a chance to change his preferred degree once KCSE results were out.

I also remember advising him to be careful when selecting the university he wanted to attend since choosing one that was far from Nairobi would make him travel a long distance, thus increasing his expenses. And I apprised him that studying at an institution near a city such as the University of Nairobi could be advantageous, for he could land part-time jobs while pursuing his degree course.

When his KCSE results were released, Muhia informed me after one church service that he had scored an 'A-' of 77 points, just what he had expected. The grade made him secure an admission to one of the local public universities, but he missed qualifying for such prestigious courses as Medicine and Acturial Science. But him scoring an 'A-' of 77 points was a remarkable achievement for a person of his humble background.

Muhia's mother was proud of him, probably due to his good character and excellent grades in school. She once sidled up to me after a church service in 2013 and asked me to chat with her son. I did talk to Muhia as she requested.

As the year 2013 slipped by, Muhia and I drifted apart as we saw less and less of each other. I never bothered to find out where he opted to go for his university education. And they have long since closed down their small shop and relocated to another place.

To be honest, I had thought Muhia's quiet and laid-back nature would work against him in this dynamic and competitive world that favours the extroverted. It therefore came as a surprise to me last Friday when I saw him being featured in a full-page advert in Kenya's leading newspaper. Truly, life is like that: incomprehensible and full of surprises.

I am sure Muhia has pocketed a six-figure fee for emerging victorious in the entrepreneurship competition that had landed him in the newspaper. His mother must be mightily proud of him now. I am also proud of him for rising from a humble background to win in the game of life. He is a shining example of how education and determination can help one to overcome the odds. Bravo Paul Muhia!

FEEDBACK: Has this story made you think about how it is possible to overcome the odds? If so, send me your thoughts through the feedback page of this blog. I am dying to hear from you!


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Striving to be a Hymn-writer

With permission, I have extracted this picture-quote from Azquotes.com. All rights reserved worldwide.

Earlier on in the previous decade, there was a time I thought having new music played over the radio was as easy as cutting through butter with a hot knife. I imagined that all I had to do was produce a song and the radio stations would gamble to have it played in their airwaves. And soon afterwards, I would become rich and famous.

So when I produced my first song in a music studio in 2015, I was over the moon for the next few days that followed. I was further elated when some friends who listened to the song on the internet commented on how magnificent it was. One friend remarked that it had great potential to be a hit.

Encouraged by that positive feedback, I had the song burnt on several CDs. Then I spent a whole day in 2015 walking to various radio stations in Nairobi to give them CD-copies of the song for playing over their airwaves. At the end of that day, I felt tired but pleased with my efforts.

And you know what? Several months passed by without me hearing my song played in any of the radio stations I had presented it to. That discouraged me so much that I almost threw away the remaining CD-copies of the song that I had in my room. Turns out having new music played on the radio isn't as easy as I had thought.

I surmise that my song wasn't played over the airwaves because the radio stations I presented it to don't play music of such genre to their audience. What genre was my song, you ask?

Well, I also didn't know what type of music the song was when I produced it in 2015. At first, I thought it was an R & B song before my friend Alenga Luvai corrected me saying it wasn't in that category. When I now listen to the song, which is about my country Kenya, it sounds more like a church hymn.

Despite that frustrating effort to have the song played on the radio, I have never given up on my dream of being a successful musician. I have for long held to the hope that if I could just produce one great song, it would turn my fortunes around. That hope has kept me churning out songs at the rate of 12 in a year. And I have ended up focussing on composing church hymns since it is the genre of music that excites me most.

Discouragingly, none of the hymns I have composed so far has gone viral over the web. (You can listen to them in the videos' section of this blog.) I am thinking the reason why my hymns have not been an instant hit is because I haven't observed the rules of poetry writing.

You see, when I googled for information about hymn-writing a few years ago, I learnt from one website that there is what is called "meter" in poetry. (And hymns are just poems set to music.) While explaining what "meter" means in poetry, the website threw in such confusing jargon as "metrical feet" and "iambic pentameter". Another website advised its readers to stick to formal language when writing hymns.

All that stuff about "meter" and formal language, coupled with such rules of melody and harmony writing as modulation and good chord progression, put me off. Due to my inability to understand and observe all that stuff, I resorted to composing my hymns according to what pleased my ears.

When I go through some of the greatest hymns of all time, I don't find anything complicated about them. Take for instance the wonderful, old hymn "Amazing Grace" - there is not a single hard word in it. Which makes me wonder what all that hullabaloo about "metrical feet" and "iambic pentameter" is all about. But then, coming up with such simple rhyming lines of "Amazing Grace" is not easy. That leads me to believe the composer of the hymn knew all the rules of poetry writing.

The thing is: composing songs in the Queen's language is difficult. I think that's why I haven't heard of any Kenyan artist who writes his songs in English. If I succeed in writing great hymns, I will be breaking new ground.

As I strive to be a great hymn-writer, I have resolved to learn and understand the rules of poetry-writing that put me off a few years ago. I have also resolved to read the plays of William Shakespeare, the greatest bard who ever lived. Shakespeare is said to have observed the rules of poetry-writing when composing some of his sonnets.

To be honest, I found Shakespeare hard to comprehend when I last read three of his plays (Macbeth, Julias Caesar and A Midsummer Night's Dream). Which makes me wonder why he is so popular, even among high school students. But ever the determined young man, I will keep reading his plays till they finally make sense to me - all in an effort to be a great hymn-writer. So help me God.

RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on striving to be a hymn-writer, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "My Favourite Hymns". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.


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