Never Underestimate The Power Of A Story; Your Story! By Jim India
One of my earliest childhood memories which has colossally molded my progress this far, is me in class three.
So, I had just moved schools from the village to the city, I could only speak my mother tongue and some rumors of what to me sounded like Swahili. I get into a class of forty pupils, all polished and with well-ordered handwritings, it is important that I mention about the handwriting because I am reliably informed by my class teacher then, that my scribbles could only be described as orthodox, I used to write across the page in a single ruled book! My worst fear was the Reading and Kusoma exam, I genuinely couldn’t read. Back in the village the teacher took the time to translate the test from English to dholuo to aid in our comprehension, in this controlled exam setting dear reader please note that I was number one all through my two years in my village school.
I was the envy of many and most parents used me as an example of the kind friends their children should have- I was the S.I unit for my age mates. My mother was a proud of mom of a bright and promising short boy with an abnormally large head that seemed to have a depression at the center, kids really made fun me and as if that was not enough, I had and still do have unusually tiny eyes for a ‘black king’ like me. Could this be the reason my eyes close when I laugh?
One day the older kids in the village school (Ayaro Primary) scared the heaven out me (I’m not the kind to use words like hell, my Sunday school upbringing does not allow me) they told me that they had noticed that my eyes had gotten smaller with time and there is a possibility that come the following day I would go blind, poor me! Who was I to question the wisdom of the old? After all they had crammed the “times table” and knew the answer to 9*9.
That afternoon as we routinely left school to go grab a plate or cup of whatever we could find home, I wept bitterly for my eyes. On my bare feet, ‘I love my school’ back pack behind me with my two books and my falling shorts held on my waist with my left hand as the right-hand wipes mucus off my face. The longest and most excruciating walk I ever made, I had anticipated that when I get home my mother would have a solution as she always did, my mama inquired of the source of my pain and when I had brought her up to speed with my current predicament and made her fully aware that she should embrace herself to raise a blind son, her rejoinder stunned me but also comforted me, she told me, just like Jesus, to rub mud on my eyes then go wash my face thoroughly with a lot of water and that if I do this my eyesight will be restored. True to her words I have not lost my eyesight close to twenty years later, then y’all wonder why my mother is my hero?
Anyway, back in my city school (Mathare is still part of the city right?) there was Big Bernard, Small Bernard and myself. Big Bernard was…. well, big, funny, strong, a talented footballer and always had five shillings for kaimati during break time which he would share with his many close friends. Small Bernard was, small, hardly showered or brushed his teeth, had no talent that I can mention other than the githeri eating skills he displayed during lunch breaks, coincidentally though he also had many friends who identified with him, most notably was a skinny boy named Edjigidio Macharia – yes that was his name, and he was a different kid, he made his five shillings for Kaimati like most boys his age in the slum, picking nails inside the dirty Nairobi River and selling them, a risky habit but one that he thrived in and he had his once white shirt now turned brown as a mark of his conquests.
The two Bernard’s controlled my class, you had to be loyal to one camp, but not me, I wanted my own crew, but I wasn’t brainy or talented as a matter of fact there was nothing desirable about me at the time, I had a torn short as my uniform with two wide patches at the back that if it were not for my sweater which I tied round my waist, would have revealed dry and not oiled at all tiny buttocks of a seven year old bouncing boy. I was also only fluent in dholuo insults (for all have sinned and fallen short-lest you judge me), so clearly I wasn’t going to fit in any of the two popular camps and neither was I going to have my own crew, such a sad and lonely life! The only person who could hang out with me was my fellow mshamba Geofrey (we are still best of friends to date), we made a resolution to be good at something-anything, provided we attracted all the attention to ourselves. Geofrey went ahead to mastered the art of break dancing and football, I stumbled upon public speaking, music and drama. And we were good at what we did, by the time we were doing our KCPE in that school Geoffrey was the class prefect and I had been the head boy. I was also the scouts’ leader and I had held several other leadership posts before that.
One incident at age seven changed my entire life. A desire to influence, to be followed. A refusal to fit into the crowd but to rather stand out. A journey of self-discovery, to know what I was good at, to accept that it’s okay to be good at something that is not considered cool, but to be so good at it that everyone desires it. It was a selfish ambition, but it’s one that I don’t regret ever having.
It is important for me to provide this context so that you can understand why Emerging Leaders Foundation is important to me, you need to understand where I’m coming from to understand where I’m going.
When I first engaged in the self-identity class on the first ABLI training, I was awestruck, I couldn’t believe that God had allowed me to go through so much and that it all added up to form my personality and lead me to my destiny. Sometimes we feel the need to adopt our current status and forget our past, we feel ashamed of where we have come from, and we fail to appreciate what all our experiences have taught us, and the values they have formed in us.
So own your story, however regular or unique it is, however hilarious or boring it is, own it! It’s your story, your experience, it’s part of who you are and the world needs to hear it. You are the only one who understands it, the only one who has gone through it all and made it out triumphantly. Our stories are still being formed, meaning the telling never stops.
I’m 24yrs and I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of my story. If losing my eyesight made me cry seventeen years ago, its making me laugh now, even as something else makes me shed tears now, I’m patient with my growth process, but I’m determined to tell my story at every opportunity to show that growth is inevitable, but mostly I tell my story to connect with you and for you to connect with me, and out of this network we are able to change the world and cause impact one day at a time.
Now that you know mine, tell me your story.
The power of story telling! I am just from watching and listening to Barrack Obama’s 2004 and 2008 speeches at the Democratic National Convention. How his experiences shaped him to the White House but more importantly how he connected his personal story to all the American dream of change. I agree. We each need to own our stories. Big thanks to Emerging Leaders Foundation the opportunity!
Thank you Wesonga and may you continue telling your story, nobody tells it better than yourself.
Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to seek out any person with some original ideas on this subject. realy thanks for starting this up. this web site is something that’s needed on the web, somebody with a bit originality. helpful job for bringing something new to the web!