Emulating Nelson Mandela
A True Story
on Aug 15, 2023
Who hasn't heard of Nelson Mandela, the great anti-apartheid hero? I personally came to admire Mandela after I bought and read his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, in 2019. The autobiography was, in a word, enjoyable.
So much did I enjoy the autobiography that I re-read it a few months ago. And this time, I digested it better. I now feel I know the late Nelson Mandela better. Allow me, therefore, to tell you something about him and how I am endeavoring to emulate him.
Mandela ran away from his guardian to live in the city of Johannesburg in 1941. And after arriving in Johannesburg, he found himself fighting against the South African government that treated native blacks as second-class citizens. He would stage protests to resist the oppressive regime, something that landed him in prison in 1962.
As Mandela and his fellow political prisoners were being whisked away to jail, one warder said to them:
You chaps won't be in prison long. The demand for your release is too strong. In a year or two, you will get out and you will return as national heroes. Crowds will cheer you, everyone will want to be your friend, women will want you. Ag, you fellows have it made.The warder, as it turned out, wasn't quite right in his assertion that Mandela and his fellow political prisoners would be in jail for a year or two. Mandela actually spent 27 years in prison.
But the warder was right in predicting that women would admire the political prisoners. When Mandela was in hospital as his years in prison were coming to an end in the late '80s, some women would drop by to see him. And when a male guard tried to keep the women from visiting Mandela in the hospital, Mandela joked that it was because the guard was jealous of seeing him get attention from such beautiful young ladies.
Then a survey conducted in Britain in 1998 revealed that most British women preferred Nelson Mandela to movie star George Clooney. (The survey was not mentioned in Mandela's autobiography. I read about it recently from a certain magazine.)
A few years after being released from prison, Mandela was on the ballot in 1994 running for the presidential seat of his native country: South Africa. He was hugely popular in South Africa and abroad as he campaigned for the presidency.
Despite the confidence that most South Africans had in him in 1994, Mandela was frank with his fellow citizens not to expect miraculous changes in their lives by electing him president. He told them that they had to work hard instead of idling in shebeens if they were to attain their dreams.
Needless to say, Mandela won the elections by a landslide. Thousands of jubilant people flocked to Pretoria to witness his inauguration on May 10th 1994. Mandela the protestor, Mandela the prisoner, was now Mandela the president.
On analyzing the life of Nelson Mandela as depicted in his endearing autobiography, I have been able to deduce the qualities that made him a great leader. And the qualities were his optimism, courage, diligence, humility, humor and patience.
Mandela was an optimist, an early-riser, an avid reader, a fitness fanatic and a practising Christian who kept away from drugs and tobacco. He was also a humble, humorous and forgiving person who identified with the common man.
Shortly after his death on December 5th 2013, I came across in the newspapers a story of how livid he once became when someone described him as a saint. Mandela had gotten livid for being called a saint because he thought he had done most of the sins young men commit in the cities.
For his optimism, courage, diligence, humility, humor and patience, Mandela has earned my respect and admiration. That's why I am endeavoring to emulate him.
Because I would like to have a marriage that lasts "till death do us part", perhaps the only side of him I don't want to imitate was his love life. Mandela divorced two women before marrying Graca Machel, a widow.
My beloved reader, I implore you to also join me in emulating Nelson Mandela. Let's rise early every day, be optimistic, crack jokes, read a lot, forgive others, exercise regularly and identify with the common man. And who knows? You and I could end up attaining greatness like Nelson Mandela!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed the above story on emulating Nelson Mandela, you might also enjoy another one on "Book Review: 'Long Walk to Freedom'" which I wrote a few years ago. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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How I Once Volunteered
A True Story
on Aug 10, 2023
Right now as I pen this story, I am listening to "Canon in D Major", a soulful piece of classical music by Johann Pachelbel. The music conjures up in my mind memories of the time I volunteered to teach piano at a remote Catholic church in Kamuongo, Eastern Kenya, during the 2006 August holiday when I was a student in the institute division of Starehe Boys' Centre.
It was the late Anthony Munyao, a schoolmate of mine at Starehe, who had me volunteer at Kamuongo Catholic Church. He connected me to Fr. Vadakara, an Indian priest in charge of the church. And as soon as Fr. Vadakara and I got in touch, we arranged how I would travel to Kamuongo.
Although I can't recall how the weather was like on the morning I left Nairobi for Kamuongo, I do remember leaving home early in the morning, carrying a bag of clothes and the books I would read while at Kamuongo. Among the books I carried was Todd Siler's Think Like a Genius.
The journey to Kamuongo turned out to be quite long, for it involved boarding several public service vehicles. I arrived at the church in the evening just before darkness set in. Fr. Vadakara welcomed me warmly.
On the day that followed, which was a Monday, I was introduced to the students I would teach piano. For some strange reason, I can't recollect how many they were. All I remember is me beginning to tutor them piano and music theory with admirable zeal.
As our music lessons progressed, the number of students in my class dwindled. I only had two students at the end of the second week. And I was such a demanding teacher that I would pinch them on the fingers when they were slow at understanding my instructions. That's until one afternoon when they protested at my harsh way of teaching. Their protest softened me.
I taught the two students quite a lot in a short span of time. Among the things I had them learn were how to read sheet music, how to harmonize melodies on a combined staff, how to name keys on a piano and how to play the C Major scale on the piano using chords.
Well, the musical instrument we used was not a real piano but an electric piano keyboard. The piano keyboard had a recording of Pachelbel's "Canon in D" which I loved listening to in my spare time. That's why the piece of music conjures up in my mind memories of my time at Kamuongo, even to this day.
As far as I can remember, I stayed in Kamuongo for about three and a half weeks. And during those weeks, Fr. Vadakara treated me with enormous kindness. He always ensured I was well-fed by his cook. And he regularly invited me to dine with him in his mansion.
Fr. Vadakara also had a great respect for me, probably because I was schooling at Starehe Boys' Centre, one of the best institutions of learning in Kenya back then. He requested me to give a talk to youngsters in his church. I gladly acceded to his request and delivered to the youngsters a speech in which I challenged them to think like geniuses.
Besides teaching piano and giving a talk to church members at Kamuongo Catholic Church, I also learnt something valuable during the three and a half weeks I was at Kamuongo. That was how to ride a bicycle after one of my piano students freely allowed me to use his bike.
I will never forget the evening when, as I was learning how to operate the bike, I went for a ride on a sloping road next to the church. And yikes! The bike coasted down the road at full speed and I hadn't yet mastered how to control it. Fortunately, I didn't hit any of the men, cattle and donkeys that were on the road. I just reached safely down the road without causing any harm. That was my guardian angel protecting me from danger.
Soon after I mastered how to ride the bike, I would go cycling in the evening to areas surrounding the church. The areas were so dry and dusty that they almost resembled a moonscape, perhaps because I visited Kamuongo during the drought season.
All told, I thoroughly enjoyed the three and a half weeks I volunteered to teach piano at Kamuongo Catholic Church. The food there was great, the people were friendly and the environment serene. My only regret is that I never had a photo of myself taken there. How I would have loved to see pictures of my time at the church!
NEW! NEW! NEW! If you missed my social media update two days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced another hymn titled "Accept My Heart". Just click on that link in blue to access and listen to the hymn.