Remembering Dr. Griffin - Reflections of a Young Man™

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Remembering Dr. Griffin

This is the late Dr. Geoffrey Griffin with the 1989 Starehe Boys' prefectorial force. Photo courtesy of Jay Bwika, an old boy of the school.

That evening in January 2002 during assembly after I first reported to Starehe Boys' as a student, I was honoured to be part of the brilliant student body that was addressed by Dr. Geoffrey Griffin - the school's founding director. He was the first white man to hear speak to a live audience. And he spoke with such intensity and confidence that I found his voice so mesmerizing that I prayed several weeks later that he would live to see me complete my studies in the school.

I enrolled at Starehe at a time when Dr. Griffin had grown a bit senile due to age and perhaps for some other reasons. So he never got to know my name even though I strived to stand out by giving speeches during assembly and accompanying the whole school on the piano. The only students Dr. Griffin knew by name during my days at Starehe were Amos Odero and Jesse Nyoro (let me not tell you who they were). But at least, I found him encouraging and understanding in the few instances I got to capture his attention.

Like he gently requested a teacher to help me out on the piano after I became horribly nervous while attempting to accompany a hymn when I was still a First-former. About two years later when I had developed the chutzpah to play the piano in front of the whole school, Dr. Griffin congratulated me on one or two times on his way out of the assembly hall. I am not sure if he got to recall how nervous I had been in Form 1 but it was heartening to hear his "well done" compliment.

And when it came to giving speeches of which I sometimes volunteered, he encouraged me to keep doing it. Like on one assembly in 2003 when I was in Form 2, he found me seated on the dais and inquired, "Are you the one giving us a talk today?" On answering 'yes', I could tell from his reaction that he was pleased. He must have understood that it was proper for a boy to hone his public-speaking skills while still in school.

As I have pointed out, I prayed on my first weeks at Starehe that Dr. Griffin would live to see me complete my studies in the school. It was a prayer God never answered because He called him home on my final year in high school in 2005. And his last words to me were "good luck in your exams" after we meet on a highway as I carried my desk to the assembly hall in readiness for a major exam, a few months before he passed on.

I was fortunate to play the piano during his funeral service that was graced by such distinguished dignitaries as President Mwai Kibaki and Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai who I noted didn't share the same dais with President Kibaki. She chose to sit on a space reserved for not so ordinary folks but again not for high-ranking guests. From where she was, I could see her glancing at me on the piano dais which I shared with Matthew Brooks, a musically talented young man from England who was then volunteering as a Music teacher at Starehe Boys' Centre and with whom I played the piano during the funeral service. And from the way Wangari Maathai kept glancing at me, I could tell she was like, "That black boy must be very talented to share a dais with a mzungu[1]."

As Dr. Griffin's coffin was getting lowered into his grave inside the school chapel, I had the honour of playing on the organ the sweetly-flowing theme of Mozart's Sonata in A. To this day, I still find myself wallowing in nostalgia whenever I play that sonata on the piano like I did yesterday evening after my leisurely walk around my neighbourhood. And Dr. Griffin still remains my hero who I am endeavouring to make proud of me as he reposes in heaven. So help me God.

[1] Mzungu is a Swahili term for a white man.


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Father's Advice to a Son

Photo of my friend Michael Njeru. I have displayed the photo here with his permission. Copyright © all rights reserved worldwide.

I love anything to do with a father's advice to a son. Among the great father-to-son pieces of advice I love are Abraham Lincoln's Letter to His Son's Teacher, the If Poem by Rudyard Kipling, the biblical Book of Proverbs and another ditty I came across ten years ago in one of Starehe Boys' noticeboards which read as follows:
"My son,
Stop gazing at me
And walk straight ahead.

I know there is no road ahead
But open your eyes
And walk through that fog of reality.

Keep running my son,
Keep running for into the unknown
You may stumble upon your fortune of happiness.

Ignore the mutilated bodies,
My son,
Ignore the easy pleasures
That appear and disappear
Like bubbles in a stormy sea.

Open your ears wide
And hear the message of the whispering voices,
Open your eyes
And avoid the ditches son.
Being alive is no easy task." [1]
That ditty has once again inspired me to continue doing my best with the faith that I will stumble upon my fortune of happiness like the right openings to genuine success. Or meeting Ms. Right - that wonderful lady I keep thinking about every now and then.

It has also motivated me to restrain my sexual urges by not yielding to them physically outside the confines of marriage. And not to eat too much especially at this juncture when I am striving to cut down my weight. Because to me, the desire for sex and over-eating are those easy pleasures that keep appearing and disappearing like bubbles in a stormy sea.

[1] If you know the author of this ditty, please let me know so that I can acknowledge him and link my audience to one of his books.


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The Parable of the Bamboo Plant

As I wrote in one of my past stories in this website, I befriended a blogger named Ngishili Njuguna after I accidentally bumped into his didactic blog which I found to be a gem of wisdom. He has long since withdrew the blog from the internet but I am glad I kept a copy of several of his articles that touched me. Let me dwell on one about the Chinese bamboo plant.

I learnt from the article that a Chinese bamboo seed stays underground for close to five years before it germinates. But once it sprouts, it grows to over 100 feet tall in just about six months. Why? Because in those five years before the bamboo plant germinated, it was actually developing the roots it needed to be strong and durable.

On reflecting about that bamboo plant growth process, I have discovered it bears resemblance with my life. How? Well, my life has been a struggle since I left Starehe Boys' Institute ten years ago.

I have struggled to be an early riser. I have struggled to write books. I have struggled to produce songs. I have struggled to be a cheerful young man. I have struggled to stop watching internet porn. I have struggled to accept people as they are and myself as well. I have struggled to rejoice in the success of others. And so on and so forth.

But all those struggles have not been a waste because I have actually been developing the roots of understanding that I need to achieve lasting greatness. Let me gratefully report that I have been able to unearth from those struggles blinding insights which I know will serve me magnificently if God gives me an opportunity to shine in this grand and beautiful planet.

And I am hoping He will. Once He does, I will become an overnight success that includes getting featured in high-brow media outlets and travelling around the world; just like the bamboo plant sprouts to great levels in a short time. That's all I am saying.


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