Comfort & Joy
A True Story
on Aug 15, 2020
Last Tuesday, it became cold and windy here in Kiserian at around 5.00pm. Dark-greyish clouds hung overhead, threatening to pour down their contents any minute. Despite the unpromising weather, I decided to go for my one-hour evening walk to my hometown of Kiserian. Thankfully, I reached the town without it having not rained.
As I was walking in Kiserian, I saw a flock of birds flying above a two-storey building that houses a supermarket called Hypercity. The birds were hovering around the building while whistling. And they were hovering so swiftly that I couldn't tell whether they were martins, sparrows, swallows or woodpeckers. They looked very full of life and joy.
Seeing the birds full of life and joy has reminded me of the times when I, too, have felt joyful. Like there was a Saturday evening in 2008 when I felt a surge of happiness in my soul after coming from a choir practice at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi. Fuelled by that happiness, I roamed the fields of JKUAT university while reciting "Abraham Lincoln's Letter to His Son's Teacher". It really was a terrific evening for me.
Then there was another Saturday afternoon in 2012 or 2013 (can't recall the exact year) when I again felt a surge of happiness in my soul. In my state of excitement, I headed to All Saints' Cathedral to be with the choir I used to regularly sing with when I was at the university in JKUAT. At the cathedral, I found a chorister named Susan teaching the choir a song titled "Comfort and Joy" which I had never heard before. Those three words "comfort and joy" perfectly explained how I was feeling that afternoon and what I would always like to feel, at least most of the time.
While we rehearsed the song, Susan asked each tenor to sing a few lines that were troubling us. When it was my turn to sing, I sang the lines very loudly and enthusiastically, especially the words "comfort and joy". I am sure some of the choristers who heard me sing that afternoon wondered why I wasn't turning up for choir practice as often as I used to do when I was at JKUAT a couple of years before.
I still believe in those three words: "comfort and joy". They aptly summarize the kind of atmosphere I would like to have in my soul, whether when alone in my room or when chatting with folks. And from my experiences in life so far, I have realized that feeling comfort and joy in the soul is both a skill and a decision. And I will tell you why.
Well, there are people out there who seem blessed in every way but are quite unhappy in their souls. They are blessed with riches and fame but still leading a life of quiet desperation. Others are well physically but mentally, they are tormented by such negative emotions as hate, fear, worry, guilt and jealousy.
Then there are people who are facing challenges but are happy and content with what life has to offer. A good example is a distant neighbour of mine called Mrs. Mathenge who was crippled by a disease. She once told me that sometimes she gets so wrapped up in what she is doing that she doesn't realize time pass.
It is people like Mrs. Mathenge that have made me realize that feeling comfort and joy is both a skill and a decision. I believe we are all capable of having "comfort and joy" in our souls regardless of the challenges we could be facing. And how can we achieve that? By trusting in God, counting our blessings, forgiving others, repenting our sins, being optimistic, reading good books, pursuing our hobbies, doing physical exercises, listening to uplifting music, relating well with others, leading a life of integrity and not sweating the small stuff.
Perhaps most importantly, we can experience "comfort and joy" in our souls by entertaining noble thoughts in our minds as St. Paul advises us in Phillipians 4:8. If we strive to plant beautiful thoughts in our precious minds, our lives will begin to grow beautifully and our bodies will become clothed in beauty and youthfulness. And we will move around with energy just like the flock of birds I saw fly swiftly above Hypercity Supermarket in Kiserian last Tuesday.
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Part 3: High School Memories
A True Story
on Aug 10, 2020
A friend of mine called Kamau once told me that there are only two good high schools in Kenya: that is Alliance and Starehe. While I don't agree with Kamau's supposition, I do remember my immediate elder brother Paddy wanted to go to Alliance High School when he was selecting high schools in February 1999 while he was in Class Eight. But my parents prevailed on him to choose Starehe Boys' Centre as his first choice high school.
As for me, I knew I wanted to attend Starehe even before I got into Class Eight because of the way the school featured prominently in the media thanks to its consistent stellar performance in KCSE exams and to the high-profile visitors it occasionally received. When Paddy was accepted at Starehe in January 2000, I felt a bit jealous of his success since I wanted Starehe to be "my" school.
I am sure Paddy is now eternally grateful to my parents for having made him choose Starehe becaused he went on to have a spectacular high school career in the school. He persistently did well in academics right from Form 1 to KCSE, was appointed a prefect while in Form 2, became a leader of a few clubs in the school, was selected to attend a conference in Germany while he was in Form 3, and joined the Starehe Boys' Fire-fighting squad when he was in Form 4. And after he was through with his studies at Starehe, he landed an opportunity to go for a gap-year internship at Armidale School in New South Wales, Australia.
Well, I did also make it to Starehe as it was my dream when I was in primary school. I was admitted at the school on 17th January 2002, a date I will remember to my grave. And even though I didn't have such a spectacular high school career as did my brother Paddy, at least I won several certificates in piano-playing during the Kenya Music Festival (KMF) competitions. I also learnt how to play volleyball during my high school years at Starehe.
But the high school achievement I have been enormously proud of was my improvement in academics; I rose from the bottom rung in my class to score an 'A' in the mighty KCSE exams. It was probably due to my improved academic prowess that Mr. Geoffrey Karumba, our class teacher in Form Four, appointed me as a leader of one of the study groups he split us into in 2005 when we were in our final year in high school. I must have been a good leader because my group scored the highest marks in an assignment Mr. Karumba gave us just before our KCSE exams commenced.
Looking back, I surmise I did well in my KCSE exams as a result of the way I enjoyed my Fourth-Form year at Starehe. I loved interacting with some of my fellow fourth-formers at two clubrooms in the school. And I was also thrilled by an inter-class soccer competition that was held during the long April holiday that we had in 2005 during which we Fourth-formers remained in school for extra tuition. My classmate Wilson Chira ably acted as our class coach during the inter-class soccer competition.
What impresses me most about Chira was the way he tried to involve most of my classmates in the soccer competition. He would sometimes stay on the sidelines so that some of us could have a chance to play. I did take part in the competition matches as a defender. And I defended very well in some of the matches just like soccer star Rio Ferdinand did when he was playing for Manchester United at that time.
Although I can't recall which fourth-form class won the inter-class soccer competitions that we had in the 2005 April holiday, I will never forget the stunning free-kick that my classmate Innocent Shimenga lobbed from midfield to the goal. It really was a stunning free-kick which would have been worthy of being put on Youtube had it been captured on video camera.
So much did I find the inter-class soccer competition enthralling that I wished a similar one could be held during the long 2005 August holiday that we Fourth-formers again remained in school for extra tuition. Unfortunately, for some reasons best known to the organizers, no such competition was held over that August holiday. Oh, how I miss those golden bygone days!
NEW! NEW! NEW! For those of you who missed my social media update three 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.