By Gabriel Dinda
John has lived in a fairly safe neighborhood in Uthiru for three years. Owing to his social nature, he is almost familiar with everyone in his neighborhood. He invites friends to his house occasionally to enjoy the company of each other. John hails from Vihiga, from a family that struggles to put food on the table. He travelled upcountry to visit his parents over the Easter holidays. When John was in Onjiko Boys High School, his late mum confided in him and informed him of how he was the ‘eye’ of the family. His siblings depend fully on his meager income which he earns from working in a consulting company based in Westlands, Nairobi.
From his work and by the fact that his house is a guest house, especially the guests from his rural home, he opted to have a big house foregoing the option to have a small house in a posh neighborhood. A big house would be functional enough for his guests and siblings. When he travelled home, there was no one left in his house. He locked the door and never thought of any eventuality. The caretaker of the area had also travelled to his village in Meru during this holiday.
After three days of enjoying the village peace and natural food traceable to the garden, John came back to the city to an empty house. His house had been broken into and all his household items, stolen. The house was gloomy as if to be apologetic to him for letting him down by not protecting the household items. John called me that evening and his voice was different, he didn’t start with ‘Bro…” as he normally does. On this day, he called me “Gabriel…” I felt something was unusual.
“They have taken everything…” John said with a resigned tone. “I ran to his house and nothing remained, save for his smile. While at it, I thought of how empty John remained. In his words, ‘the thieves left him totally naked’.
My friend Lothus lost all his academic certificates when he finished his undergraduate studies at the University of Nairobi. As he walked down to Machakos Bus station to take a bus to their home, the trolley guy he hired to help him carry the bag disappeared into thin air. And just like that, he lost all his academic certificates and other belongings he had collected to take home. He remained with nothing, literally.
It is at these moments that I think to myself when everything is stolen from you, what remains? Which is that skill that will remain when you lose your job or typically, you have “no title?” What will you remain with when the persons closest to you are no more? What is that one thing that you will remain with when all that can go wrong actually goes wrong? What will you remain with when you land in a new place, with no device or any tool whatsoever?
I suggest that we should dedicate our efforts to ‘this thing’ that will remain with us after such an ordeal. Most of our investments should be towards that thing. If you are a carpenter, be so good at it that when all is stolen from you, you will only require tools to pick up. Whichever job you fall in, invest so much in yourself that something will remain when all physical things are gone around you.
Take a moment and think of this a bit more. What is that one thing that you will remain with, when you are left “naked” like John or empty like Lothus?
Gabriel Dinda is the founder of Writers Guild Kenya