Benefits of Reading - Reflections of a Young Man™

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Benefits of Reading

This is a section of my room. Can you spot my home library? Of course you can. I just want to let you know I am an avid reader.

When I posted the other day a story in this website in which I displayed a photo of the 2006 Starehe Boys' Fire-fighting Squad, I received a feedback from one Charles Muriithi who informed me he was the 2001 Fire-fighting Squad Commander - that's a year before I joined Starehe. He went on to tell me that he is currently working as the DCIO of Turkana North.

I didn't know what the term DCIO stands for. So I decided to do an internet search with my browsing skills. And I eventually got to learn from a Wikipedia article that the term DCIO in the Kenya Police Service stands for Divisional Criminal Investigation Officer.

The Wikipedia article went on to briefly narrate how the Kenya Police Service works - something that aroused my interest. Like it said the service is sub-divided into the following departments:

  • Flying Squad
  • Anti-Banking Fraud Unit
  • Special Crime Prevention Unit
  • Anti-Terrorism Unit
  • Ballistics Unit
  • Anti-Narcotics Unit
  • Bomb Squad
  • Cyber Forensics
  • Forensic Department
  • Kanga Squad

I laughed out loudly when I read the term "Kanga Squad" because it sounds funny to my ears. But I quickly got serious to ponder about all the evils in this world that the police service fights against. O man, we live in a fallen world for shizzle. And the best we can do to cushion ourselves from those evils is by striving to be discerning and knowledgeable.

To be honest, there was a time I used to only read motivational books about how to be rich and successful. But I eventually discovered the books tended to make me unrealistic with such quotes as:
  • "Just do it!"
  • "If Obama did it, you can do it better."
  • "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve."
  • "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."
Such kind of motivational quotes do contain some element of truth but if that's all we read, we are bound to become unrealistic which will eventually lead to routine depression. We need to be street-wise by reading from a myriad fields of knowledge. I think that's why framers of school curriculum omit how-to-books from students' reading repertoire because true education is not about filling the mind with facts but rather, training the mind how to think.

So as for me, I decided to diversify my home library (see photo above) by including such diverse books as:
  • Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
  • Roget's Thesaurus
  • The New African Bible
  • Kingfisher World Atlas
  • Joy of Nature
  • Machiavelli: A Man Misunderstood
  • Glencoe Health: A Guide to Wellness
  • The Africans by David Lamb
  • Nelson Mandela by Martin Meredith
  • Your Body
  • AB Guide to Music Theory
  • Thomas Jefferson: The Man...His World...His Influence
  • Communication: An Introduction to Speech
  • Writers' Inc.
  • Diana: A Tribute to the People's Princess
  • SAT: The Princeton Review
  • Kufa Kuzikana (a Swahili novel by Ken Walibora)
  • Book of Wise Sayings
I have become wiser by reading that widely. Or as my fellow country youths would put it in Sheng, "Hizo vitabu zimenichanua." I am eagerly looking forward to adding more books to my home library once I start earning good money like by winning a lucrative advertising contract in this website of mine. So help me God.


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Life Skills

If you ask Kenyans how they are fairing in life, they usually respond in our country's main lingua franca, "Nang'ang'ana na maisha tu!" That's a Swahili statement which translates as, "I am just struggling with life."

And it's true Kenyans really struggle with life. Like I was on one evening talking to Prof. Joshua Kayima, a choir director at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, about a psychotherapy I was undergoing through sometime in 2011. He told me that I was not the only one suffering. "You see these people", he said while pointing at members of the choir he leads, "most of them are taking medication."

Ha! I laughed at the way my friend Peter Kamai wise-cracked on his Whatsapp status: "In this Kenya, you don't need an alarm clock to get you up in the morning. You just sleep and your problems will wake you up."

Aware of the power of words in shaping our lives, I have over the past two years avoided saying that I am struggling with life when asked how I am fairing because I don't want to struggle with life. I want to enjoy it.

To be honest though, there was a time I used to struggle with life especially the time I was undergoing psychotherapy as I have pointed out. But I am now beginning to enjoy it after practising the following life skills I gleaned from a magnificent and colourful book titled Glencoe Health: A Guide to Wellness:
  • Assist others when appropriate.
  • Find something that you can enjoy doing and that gives you a feeling of success. Make time to do that activity regularly.
  • Stop making life a contest. Recognize that there will always be people both more and less able than you are in all areas of life.
  • Aim for improvement, not perfection.
  • Build a network of supportive relationships.
  • Surround yourself with people who respect, approve and accept you as an individual.
  • Accept mistakes and errors as learning tools rather than as signs of your failure.
  • Reject any negative feedback from others that is intended to put you down.
  • Practice visualizing situations in which you are successful.
  • Whenever you look at your weaknesses, spend equal time considering your strengths.
  • Give yourself credit for all accomplishments or improvements, even the smallest ones.
  • Practice basic health habits, giving attention to your physical, mental and social health.
  • .....
  • Improve your mind - read a book, write a story.
  • Use your creative talents on a regular basis.
  • Get some training in an area of interest.
  • Make lists of your qualities, skills and talents. Read them often.
  • Avoid engaging in self-destructive behaviours to escape your shyness or lack of social success. Doing so will just make matters worse.
  • Do something nice for someone else. Do something nice for yourself.
  • Set some realistic, achievable goals, and work at them. [1]
Yes, I am now beginning to enjoy life thanks to those skills I gleaned from that magnificent and colourful book. And I can't help believe that I will soon succeed in all areas of my life and fulfil my dreams especially meeting my soul-mate, driving a classy car, building a resplendent home, having a colourful wedding and travelling overseas.

I advise you to also give those skills a try if you are struggling with life; you will be amazed at how wonderfully your life will change. You will start feeling high naturally with an added bonus of health and inner peace. Over to you!

[1] I have extracted these life skills from page 13 of Glencoe Health: A Guide to Wellness (Fourth Edition) by Mary Bronson and Don Merki, published in 1994 by McGraw Hill.


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People Need The Lord

This is the majestically vaulted main sanctuary of All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi which I joined in my first year at JKUAT. Photo courtesy of my friend Joyce Kayima.

As you might already know if you have been reading my previous stories in this website, I loved attending church at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi during my first year at JKUAT in 2007. I joined the church as a tactic of improving my chances of getting accepted at Harvard College which admits students who excel not only in academics but also in extra-curricular activities.

So for many days, I attended the church with high hopes that I would eventually fly to America for undergraduate studies at Harvard College which I imagined to be of the same high standards as All Saints Cathedral. I would at times gaze at the majestically vaulted main sanctuary of the cathedral and visualize myself doing the same at Harvard.

But it was not only my desire to study at Harvard that glued me to the cathedral. I also loved being part of the church's 9.30am English Service Choir, with which I sang tenor and played the organ, because of its spiritually enriching songs and its buddy-buddy monthly fellowships.

Of all the spiritually enriching songs I learnt in the choir, there was one that touched me most. It began as follows:
"Everyday they pass me by,
I can see it in their eyes,
Empty people filled with care,
Headed who knows where?

On they go through private pain,
Living fear to fear,
Laughter hides their silent cries,
Only Jesus hears,
People need the Lord,
At the end of broken dreams,
He's the open door,
When will we realize,
People need the Lord?"
So much was I inspired by those lyrics and their accompanying melody that I found myself singing them aloud to myself. I even sang them to my first semester room-mate at JKUAT hoping to change his Casanova lifestyle. Imagine he once brought a woman in our room in the middle of the night from a partying session and screwed her right below my bed where I was sleeping and from where I overheard their sexual intercourse friction noises.

But what I didn't realize back then was that I was the one who needed to heed the advice of those inspiring lyrics because of what I underwent in 2008. I was rejected at Harvard College; then I ignominiously dropped out of JKUAT and stopped attending church which led me to be forcefully admitted to hospital.

By the time I was getting discharged from JKUAT hospital in late 2008, I had grown fearful, hopeless and overweight which led to depression. I tried to resume attending church at All Saints but I found myself feeling so alienated and demotivated that I began to miss the days when I was full of high hopes. And then I would pity myself and wonder what on earth had happened to me.

My mother coaxed me to continue attending church at All Saints Cathedral by giving me bus fare to Nairobi but I would at times instead go sleep at Uhuru Park next to the cathedral where I was on one Sunday incarcerated for almost two hours for urinating on a fence. Eventually, I gave up attending church and for several years, I didn't sing or play the piano.

But I have now long since sprang back into good shape thanks to the Lord my dear God. He has guided me back to the path of eternal peace with His amazing grace. And all I can say now is that people need the Lord at the end of broken dreams. He's the open door for shizzle.


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