THE FESTIVE SEASON

THE FESTIVE SEASON

100_1819

Caption: A sculpture depicting  the shepherds in the manger

Nothing awakens the child in me as the festive season. I only need to hear Silent Night  or  Joy To The World and the small girl in me lights up and is instantly transported back to her childhood. This is one place where I had felt loved, cared for  therefore safe and secure. I trusted my parents and myself enough to learn the basic skills  of life  from them until I grew up to take care of myself. I unashamedly admit that though I attended a church missionary- founded school, the true meaning of Christmas was lost in the festive activities until my late teens. I am sure I was not the only one to trivialize the season  among my peers.

The performance of the Christmas Nativity play at the end of the school year  would get me into the Christmas spirit. At home, the neatly trimmed hedge and manicured garden would  give the tell tale signs of the approaching Christmas. By the second week of December, the early Christmas specials would have been made available in some of the big shops like Drapers and Deacons in Kampala. One of our big cousins would take us to the city for shopping; a new shirt and trouser for the boys while the girls bought dresses and shoes. We would return to the city a number of times just to be part of the crowd of shoppers under the pretext that some of us  had not yet found what we wanted. We were always fascinated by the decorated Christmas trees in these big shops.

Later as we grew older, our favourite treat was joining in the Christmas carols and watching the Mayor turn on the lights on a giant Christmas tree in the  Mayor’s garden at the city hall around the 20th of December.

The best Christmas’  were celebrated at our village home, forty kilometers  west of Kampala. It was a big house surrounded by  rolling green hills, well maintained coffee trees and banana plantations that stretched as far as the eye could see. How we enjoyed roaming about in the wild! Our parents ensured that we learned to be useful about the house.

Decorating the Christmas tree was a ritual that was reserved for the girls. We started off  with choosing the right tree; large and tall, among the three or four overgrown ones from the hedge behind the house. This was followed by retrieving  the box of the old decorations from the store and adding them to the new ones.We would blow the balloons until our cheek muscles  hurt . The balloons would be  tied on the tree along with bells and ribbons. Many times , we would pause, step back to inspect our efforts and only when completely satisfied, would one of us  climb on a chair to place the golden star of David at the top.

Then early on the 24th, two or three cows picked from the herd will be slaughtered and the bulk of the meat would be neatly wrapped up in banana leaves and distributed in the village especially to the elderly. My father would insist that we delivered some of those parcels to the relatives in the village. The smiles and cries of immense gratitude have lived with me to this day. They taught me one of the true meanings of the Christmas season; sharing and giving with love whatever you have with the needy. This gesture always reminded me of how fortunate our family was.

On Christmas day ,we would wake up excited at the crack of dawn  and rush to the Christmas tree to check for the presents.  Always, there was a well wrapped up gift for each one of us and the helpers in the home. I remember the best present I was given was two books from the Heidi series. One of my brothers, a good swimmer, could not hide his joy when he was given a pair swimming trunks and a cap.  Many times we would wonder how our parents chose just the right present for each one. Perhaps it is true when they say that  Mother knows best.

We always attended the  8am service at the simple village church. The older ones would walk there except if it rained. Surprisingly, December was always a hot, dry month but then out of nowhere it could rain on Christmas day . The young ones would drive to the church with our father who  also loved coming to the village; away from the madding crowd of the city. It was a place of peace and quiet and it allowed him to spend  as much time as he wanted with us. He taught us to ride bicycles, how to harvest coffee and identify each head of cattle by its quirks. It was one place where he could be himself.

Christmas at this place was always busy. There would be more than thirty people in all, the family ,relatives , friends and a few invited ones from the village. The lunch itself was a real labour of love. A variety of mouthwatering dishes of  beef ,goat and chicken stews, roasts over open fires, accompanied by  bananas, rice, potatoes  and vegetables. Everything was cooked to perfection and thankfully we all ate to our heart’s content and we washed it down with Pepsi cola, the favourite drink at the time.

To amuse ourselves, we would play board games such as Ludo and Snakes and Ladders while the adults reminisced about seasons passed. Having worked in the colonial office earlier on, my father would always find time to listen to the annual Christmas message of Queen Elizabeth II to Britain and the Commonwealth.

It always surprised to us how such a day of fun would quickly pass. Such days were unforgettable. Since then I have celebrated more than fifty such days but I still treasure the memories of my childhood. Some of the rituals I carried with me when I got married . As I grow older, I have come to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas to a true believer that is the love of God  to mankind. God’s nature is love and on seeing that we had turned away from him, he sent  his only son to reconcile us to him. What greater love! It is not lost on me that as a Christian, I am God’s child  and it is my duty  to be like him, living a life controlled by love. Everything that I do should be done out of love, for love and in love.

This message should not be lost in the merry making and feasting  at Christmas time.

Merry Christmas to you all. May 2019 be a year filled with love, joy, peace, good health and prosperity.

 

 

 

Advertisements

A SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE

100_1742.JPG

 

On the 5th December 2018, I watched part of the funeral service of the 41st president of America : George Bush senior held at the Washington National Cathedral. It was a state funeral : president Trump and the four living former presidents of U.S.A and many other world leaders were in attendance. Bush senior was remembered as America’s last great soldier-statesman. I was struck by what Bush the son,the 43 rd president of U.S.A. talked about his father: “ He was the greatest father that any child would wish to have.’’ He explained away his late father’s humility, love and kindness as virtues born out of his close brush with death. His father survived a serious staphylococcal infection as a teenager and during World War 11 in 1944, as an US. Navy jet fighter pilot, his jet fighter plane was shot down by the Japanese.
“For Dad’s part, I think that his close brush with death made him cherish the gift of life.”
Cherishing life demands that you live your life fully- you wake up every day, grateful, thankful and ready to make the most of the day. You recognize that you have been given a second chance at life; you become determined to want to be more and do more with what you have for yourself and the community you live in. You want to be deserving of this gift since not everyone receives it. You start off by striving to know who you are: your strength and flaws and what is deep in your heart. Over time, you become true to yourself.

This reminded me that I for one had once been granted this rare gift. Twenty years ago, on a rainy day, my two children, a friend and I were involved in a serious car accident. I was the driver and I sustained a nearly fatal injury. I broke two of my lower neck bones. I was in coma for two days and on waking up the orthopedic surgeon explained what had happened to me. The first thing I did was to thank God for the miracle then I moved my toes. Once I realized that I could move them, my healing started there and then. I was extremely thankful and happy to be alive. Two operations on the neck and I was back on my feet.

I had cheated death by a whisker. Confronting my mortality and acknowledging it, I emptied myself of the old-letting go of what no longer served my journey and began to seek for who I was truly. I learned to be honest with myself and others and to be open to receive from others and give to them. I would say that I died to what I was and it allowed me to give birth to what I could be. I found myself in a new world while at the same time taking the trouble to grasp the meaning of my survival. I began to look for the beauty in each person I meet other than focusing on the negative. I accepted that I did not know many things and it opened me up to learn more and gain more wisdom. My main goal in life was to seek purpose and meaning then harmony and balance.

Having recognized that I could lose my life in an instant, I began to value it immensely other than take it for granted and do my best to make the most of it. This has helped me to claim my power and to express it in the world. My values in life changed completely: my faith, my family and friends became the most important things in my life. I had to redefine my relationship with people to live a life with a sense of purpose and meaning. The awakened genuine identity deep within me has made me more imaginative and creative. I do things from the heart and so far I have been creating life and things that emerge out of the truth about who I am. Knowing the truth about myself has taught me to love and respect myself and to go out and love and respect others.
I take an active role in creating a better world- serving and helping others, doing what gives my life meaning.

Looking back, my late father had a similar experience in his early 70s. He looked death in the eyes when he suddenly developed acute renal failure. A man as robust as a Muvule tree found himself lying helplessly in the Intensive Care Unit of the Teaching hospital. For over a month, he hovered between life and death while physicians battled to save his life. Miraculously he survived and thrived and was never the same again.
He accepted his mortality and from that time allowed death to guide him through life other than his ambitions and fears. He had recognized that life and death are two sides of the same coin and to enjoy life fully one had to embrace death. Accepting his mortality lead him to a new life- he took responsibility of the wrongs he had done and began looking for a balanced life where he could have success as well as spiritual development. He made the best use of all the resources available to him- people, time, money and things to create order in his life. Every day, he wore the apron of humility to serve God, people and his community. He considered the two months he had spent in the hospital as the best thing that ever happened in his life; he was empowered to find his uniqueness and mission in life. This enabled him to live out what was his own to do and make the unique contribution to the world.

He had died to his former self to be fully his own best. “It is as if I had died and was given a chance to return to the world,” he was heard saying many times.
Khalil Gibran said: “For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.’’
My father started preparing himself to die with grace by accepting all life’s losses including the death of his son, and disappointments. He died a happy and fully contented man twenty years after the close brush with death. He considered those twenty years as the best years of his life and believed that he could never thank God enough for giving him that 2nd chance at life.

Over the years, I have read numerous stories of survivors: survivors of the gas chambers of 1939-1945, survivors of the world wars, survivors of the Rwanda genocide, survivors of cancers, survivors of aeroplane and deadly train crashes and terrorist attacks. I have talked to my patients who at one time believed were dying only to be revived by the Antiretroviral therapy. They all consider it a miracle to have survived and are ever grateful for having been given a second chance at life. They were all stirred up to strive to achieve their inner potential. They have all gone on to live their lives in such a way as to confirm that the gift of a second chance was so deserved. Little wonder then that George Bush Senior is remembered as a man of great integrity and a loving father who put his family first after his God. He found joy in his faith and family and lived life to the fullest to the end.
As Joel Osteen the great evangelist says: “ I mean we all need a second chance sometimes.’’
And Zig Ziglar said: “ We cannot start over, but we can begin now, and make a new ending.’’
Have you or any of your closest relatives or friends ever experienced a second chance at life?
How did it affect your values and principles in life? How did it change your lifestyle?

Thank you for reading this post. Feel free to share it with family and friends.

 

BOUND TIGHT BY OUR EXPERIENCES

3dd (1)

This photograph was taken at the Equator, 72 kilometres along the Kampala- Masaka road, by one of us during our field trips in 1976. Among this small group are four Ugandans including myself, two Tanzanians including Vale(wearing sun glasses) and one South African.

 

Khalil Gibran, my favourite author once said : “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
My peers and I consider ourselves as part of the traumatised generation of Uganda. We joined the only national university of that time on the 2nd of July 1972 and the then Life President, Genera Idi Amin Dada expelled the Non-Ugandan Asian on the 4th August 1972. On the 17th February 1977, Janani Luwum, the then Anglican Archbishop,Erinayo Oryema, the Inspector General of Police, and Oboth Ofumbi, the Minister of internal affairs were brutally murdered by the regime. A week later we wrote our final examinations for the award of the degree of the Bachelor of Medicine And Bachelor of Surgery. In between these two events there was an explosion of violence that made Kampala and other towns incredibly stressful.

It was not surprising that our Class was the last international one by composition. The majority of us were Ugandans but we had students from Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Malawi. Time never stops so despite the political repression and killings, we developed a sense of safety, became very close and each other’s keeper. We lived our youth: we danced, partied and explored our surroundings, creating cherished memories.
On graduation day, 18th March 1977, we celebrated academic success, perseverance and comradeship. With the world at our feet, we went our separate ways to save lives and make a difference in the world around us.

Two weeks ago I happened to be in Nairobi , Kenya and took the trouble to look up Vale, one of my colleagues from Tanzania. Our surnames are alphabetically positioned close so we were always in the same group: we rotated through all the medical and surgical disciplines together, climbed down the then functional Kilembe Copper mines, under occupational health and visited the leprosy centre in Kumi , northern Uganda. We used to let off steam during the weekends by attending bachelors parties , and dancing the night away in night clubs around Kampala. During those turbulent five years at university, we had become like a brother and sister to each other.
We had not seen each other since graduation but thanks to the Internet and Social media, that continues to make the world increasingly digital. Our Class started connecting in 2016. It made it extremely easy for the two old friends to meet.

I found him waiting for me in the Lavington Café Java, where he had made a reservation for two. I spotted him straight away, a classy dresser; he was wearing a grey suit. He stood up to give me the real bear’s hug usually reserved for a long lost relative. He looked me over appraisingly,“ You have n’t changed much. I could easily pick you out of this Saturday crowd.’’
“ Neither have you. You’ve looked after yourself extremely well,’’ I replied, inspecting him from head to foot.
He looked strong and robust like the Muvule tree back home.
He pulled out a chair for me to sit and helped me through ordering the meal and drinks.He spoke in that familiar gentle tone that made me feel relaxed and secure in his presence just like the old days.
Our profession follows us wherever we go so I was not surprised when he informed me that he was managing one woman in early labour at the Nairobi Private Hospital.
“ That’s one aspect of patient management that the Mobile Phone has made many times easier,’’I said, cutting through the fish fillet.

As we caught up with our lives, the forty one years rolled back, leaving two young fun-loving students in their early twenties.
Our hair was speckled with grey, our faces had grown wrinkles but we were still as free-spirited as before.
He had put on weight and looked the true image of the professor he was. I had lost weight but had made efforts to look my best in a black and white Polka Dot jacket over a black dress.
In the forty one years, he had worked in Kenya, Malawi- where he had been instrumental in setting up the medical school. After twelve years he had returned to Kenya and was now in Private practice. He hoped to retire and return home: Tanzania, in a few years’ time. Fortunately for him, a daughter had followed in his footsteps as a doctor though she specialized in Public health.
Since both of us had lived outside our home countries, we had had to work extra hard to support our children through the formal and university education including the masters degrees.
In those years I had stayed on in Uganda but later followed my husband to Botswana. Our three children had declared at an earlier age that Medicine was not their calling. They hated it for its tight schedule and unpredictable outcomes.

“Since when did you become a pastor?’’ I teased.
He laughed, “No, I’m not. I’m just a good Christian.’’
Since forming our WhatsApp group, Vale without fail starts our day with a spiritual nugget. Sometimes he sends it out as early as 4 am! It carries us through the day.
As we inquired about our colleagues, it was disheartening to learn that we had lost a number of them during the 1990s HIV/AIDS pandemic and a number from natural causes.
“We were n’t the angels in the Class, we’re just too lucky to be alive and well,” I said abruptly.
“I’d also add that we’re also very privileged to be spending some hours together after four decades!”
He paid for the meals and drinks and later dropped me home. Amazingly he was still that perfect gentleman who opened the car door for me and got me safely to my door. For the professional man he was, he drove straight to the hospital to review the patient in labour. He did not know any better.

As I lay in bed, I could not help but ponder on how it had all begun and how we had arrived at this moment in time.
At graduation, we had equal opportunities as young doctors but the fact that we still lived in patriarchal societies controlled our destiny.
Vale as a man had lived his life-climbing the professional ladder to the top, fortunately he kept his family together and friends so he is not isolated. I as a woman who had chosen to have a career have had to juggle medicine and motherhood and being a good wife. I had to follow my husband to Botswana where the career prospects were better. Looking back, I am glad I had had the wisdom to understand that I could not be superwoman- trying to do it all. I slowed down and brought up our three children. We were products of our time: naturally I the woman was the caregiver while my husband was the protector of the family . Societal conditioning had endorsed it.
“How did you escape suffering from burnout and being maimed,” I asked myself.
“ I had the love and support from both families and my children became my friends

Now that I have returned home, I have become too frugal with my time. I’m unashamedly putting myself first: doing what I love and what I enjoy. I have learned to let go and to my amazement, I have found a new identity in retirement. I am claiming the wisdom, freedom and experience that come with age.
To my amusement and amazement, Doris Day’s number 1 hit of the 1950s started playing in my head, loud and clear.
Que Sera , Sera ( whatever will be , will be)
When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother what I will be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here’s what she had to say

Que Sera , Sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.
While you are reading this post, I have three questions for you:
Are you able to express your unique gifts in the world?
Are you engaging fully in the world around you ? How has cultural
conditioning and societal pressures limited you?
Remember that you have one life to live and that there is no perfect time or perfect weather so you just do what you have to do.

REVISITING MY YOUTH

When growing up in my village, my peers from the neighbourhood always preferred the meals served at my home while I preferred what was served in their homes.It did not stop there; as youths  now living in a world full of conflict and violence, our neighbour Kenya  apparently had all that we needed to experience the Paradise of our youth. The Uganda of the 70s was under the authoritarian rule of General Idi Amin. Typical of youths anywhere, I and my peers had an overwhelming sense of safety though still acknowledging and confronting difficult external realities of living under military rule.

Well aware that there is never a time in life when we do not have a child within, a friend and I made our first adventure of travelling outside Uganda just before we embarked on our long courses of Medicine and engineering respectively at the only National University of the time. Armed with innocence- openness, optimism and excitement, we took an overnight bus from Kampala to Nairobi. These were the East African Community days: free movement and easy monetary exchange of one Ugandan shilling for one Kenyan shilling. My young brother who was a student at the Directorate of Civil Aviation in Nairobi had warned us of the cold weather in Eldoret and Nakuru so we were well covered in sweaters over blue Jeans. We arrived in Nairobi by 6am and true to his word, my brother was waiting for us  at the bus terminal. Closing my eyes now I can see his sunny face with surprising clarity and detail! Tall and lean , with an Afro cut, he was wearing a warm checked shirt over bellbottom trousers and platform shoes.

There and then , we began our ten days of fun and adventure. Nairobi was a big city full of people. It  had wide , clean streets. The people were warm and friendly and not too much in a hurry; they were willing to offer help where they could.The public shuttles locally called ‘Matatus’ were foreign to us but by the end of the week we had got used to being packed like loaves of bread and their fast speed. I was mesmerized by the tall buildings like Hilton Nairobi, Kenyatta Convention Centre and Uchumi House. We looked on in envy as mini buses painted in the colours of zebras and giraffes offloaded and loaded tourists at the hotels. We lost count of the numbers. We visited the Nairobi National Park, the Giraffe centre, the Snake park , the biggest market in the city and the cultural centre : BOMAS of Kenya. My brother had many pilot friends who enjoyed letting off steam during the nights so we  became night revellers; dancing at the most popular places like Club 1900. We had very little to worry about so we shopped, danced, partied and had fun. By the end of our stay, I had fallen in love with Nairobi and would later come back many times over to create more memorable experiences. No doubt these were among the best years of my life.

Then I graduated, got married, became a mother and later looked for greener pastures in Botswana, southern Africa. For all the years I was in Botswana, I never visited my second home: Nairobi, I always passed through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in transit to Entebbe, Uganda.

Now that I have retired and relocated  home, I seized the first opportunity to visit Nairobi. Last week I attended the Women Doctors international Conference in Westlands, Nairobi. As I was driven from the airport, I was flooded with memories of my youth.  Many of these I have not recalled for a long time and yet they were as vivid as if they had happened yesterday! That is the power of memory!

I could not help but marvel at how Nairobi city has changed in those two decades. It is unrecognizable!

cITY OF SKYSCRAPERS

It is a city of Towers and skyscrapers and most of this expansion occurred in the late 1990s and has continued to today. I kept craning my neck to read the names of the towers: Britam Towers- the tallest, followed by UAP Old Mutual Tower, Times Tower, Prism Tower and I could not count those under construction. I had to admit to myself that I was mesmerized by the new towers and the highways. All the Nairobi landmarks of the 1980s and early 1990s had been dwarfed by these towers. My face lit up as I recognized one old familiar place- The Sarit Centre  very close to the conference venue. The Sarit centre was at one time the biggest shopping mall in Nairobi and the place to be and be seen.

Later in the week, accompanied by a friend, we walked through the city centre. Recognising the cylindrical Hilton hotel on Mama Ngina street helped me to get my bearings right. It was like being reunited with a long lost old friend. From there I could recognize other streets immediately. Despite the big crowds in the streets, I felt safe, secure and peaceful just like the good old days. I was thankful that the boda bodas– motorcycle  taxis had not taken over the city  as in Kampala.

They say that : “What the heart has once owned, the eyes cannot forget”.  I had to take a moment to view the city from the tenth floor of Movenpick hotel  mainly to identify the old and familiar landmarks like Nyayo House, Uchumi  House and Rahimtulla Towers.It was my way of proving to myself that I was in Nairobi! I also drove and walked through the Kangemi slum situated in the western part of the city. I noticed some changes too: some simple solid structures soared above the numerous temporary ones.

The full day guided tour to Nairobi National Park, Elephant orphanage, the Giraffe centre and Karen Blixen Museum and BOMAS of Kenya awakened the child in me. Each place had a fond memory tagged to it and seemed to embrace me with a hug. A visit to Kenyatta  National Hospital reminded me of the friends who had worked there.

The dinner –dance held at the Utalii College Hotel brought back memories of the rich and diverse Kenyan cuisine and night life. Unexpectedly, it also reminded me of my age: the one- time night reveller could not stay beyond midnight!

All in all, Nairobi still remains an amazing place with so much to enjoy.

I left Nairobi relaxed and young at heart.

Frank Kafka said : “ Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”

The radical change that the city had undergone confirmed to me that I still had the power to create a new life for myself by learning to be free – to let go of attachments: friends and places even life itself.

So next time I visit Kenya, I shall explore the city on my own and just be in the moment.

What about you ? Do you have any particular place which evokes vivid and heartwarming memories of any particular stage in your life?

I would be very happy to hear from you.

 

 

 

BE KNOWN AND REMEMBERED FOR GOOD REASONS

EBBE ROAD HOUSES.png

There is a big red- tiled house along Entebbe road , on the way to the country’s only International airport, that I have passed by  for over fifteen years. On many occasions it has been pointed out to me as the house belonging to an ordinary man who through sheer determination and hard work worked his way to the top. The story goes that from a mere porter at a welding workshop he struggled to build his own metal fabrication and design business. On more than two occasions, he had to start afresh but he never gave up. He acquired the necessary skills, became professional and built a solid business.

I think by now he is an old man but I only know his name and many times I have wished to put a face to the name! Then, just yesterday as I accompanied my sister to the airport, Kizito my long time trusted driver from the Airport taxi service pointed out another house to me. It is a four-storied commercial building, as good as new but looking empty and forlorn. “ That building has been like that for two years; the owner died and his children could not agree on how to run it,’’ Kizito explained with a heavy heart.    I found myself thinking about how each one of us lives and writes his legacy every day through our actions and interactions with the people around us.

Like the owners of those two houses, I have two different friends whose lives bring out the values and purpose of their lives. The first is none other than Kizito himself. His telephone number is among those written in my dog- eared notebook that I have kept for over ten years! It is one number that has been among my contacts since the Mobile phone became a vital part of each one of us. I did not know him before . He was recommended to me by a childhood friend as I was looking around for a reliable driver to take me to the airport for the South Africa Airways 7:00 am flight. I used to take this flight back to Botswana through Johannesburg for most of the time I lived and worked in Botswana. The check- in time was an, awkward 5:00 am. For all those occasions, reliable and dependable Kizito picked me from home, located thirty-two kilometres from the airport, on time. If anything, I sometimes delayed him! We have come to know each other well and whenever we travel together we take the trouble to catch up on each other’s lives. He dreams of owning his own transport company. Little by little, he is getting there. He took a bank loan to buy the Toyota Harrier that he is currently driving and is left with seven months of repayments. I was happy to learn that he ensured that he did not secure the loan against his small home.He is also doing his best to get his four children in the best schools within his reach. As a satisfied customer, I have recommended him to many other friends and true to his word, he has never left them wanting. I always remember him with a smile.

The second friend is Moses Kunene of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is another taxi driver who was recommended to me by Kalagi, my childhood friend who has lived in Johannesburg for thirty years. Worried by the violence in the country at that time, I needed a reliable and trustworthy driver to pick my children from the bus terminal and get them to Oliver Tambo International airport for a flight to Cape Town where they undertook their undergraduate education. Kunene has picked me from the airport and dropped me at Kalagi’s place in Pretoria, many times over. He has proved as reliable as they come. He shared his biggest dream of owning his own Safari Tours company early on and it has been  great joy to watch him grow as opportunities and choices opened up for the black South Africans. True to his word; he now owns a small tour company that ferries tourists around Johannesburg the ‘city of gold’ and Pretoria the Jacaranda city and the administrative capital.

He employs four other drivers but whenever I call, he himself shows up. He took me and my sister from Gothenburg ,Sweden, around the  main tourist attractions like Soweto and the Mandela Museum, the Apartheid Museum , and The Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO Heritage site, the Pretoria National Botanic Gardens and the Union Buildings. Kunene loves what he does and is extremely enthusiastic about his work. He has invested time, practice and money in his work. At the same time, he has been able to move his family of five from a shanty area of Johannesburg to Mayville suburb of Pretoria! What he considers as his best achievement so far is having guided his eldest son into a Business Administration degree course at the University of Witwatersrand -WITS, Johannesburg. The transformation has been remarkable! How I wish Kizito could tell me something close to this story for his family in Entebbe, Uganda.

These two men are ordinary, happy and optimistic people walking around with an attitude of gratitude. They treat their jobs with respect and give them the priority they deserve after their families. They make our world better by what they do and say. From the time I got to know them, they had clarity about where they were and where they wanted to be and were determined to find ways of getting there.

The real takeaway from Kizito and Kunene’s stories is that as we go about our day-to-day jobs, we are writing and living our legacy. We influence the present generation and the generations to come, long after we have gone out of this world.

Shannon Alder said: “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.’’

I for one have decided to write and live my legacy every day by whay I think, speak and what I do.

I would be extremely happy if you chose to join me in this endeavour. Together we can make our world a better place.

Kindly leave a comment about this post and share your experiences about living and writing your own legacy.

FINDING YOUR SENSE OF SAFETY

 

bLOG PICS

All the standard pre-flight safety demonstrations on board a big airplane take you through the use of an Oxygen mask in an emergency. The safety video clearly instructs the passenger to always fit her /his own mask before helping children, the disabled or any other persons requiring assistance. Simply put, during that limited time, your safety comes first. This cardinal air transport safety rule can be extended to cover our day- to -day living.

As Sonya Parker says: “Put yourself first. You can’t be anything for anybody else unless you take care of yourself.’’

She also tells us: “It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness as a priority. It’s necessary.”

For those of us who read the Bible, the second most important commandment given to us is: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’. But then how can you fulfill this one if you do not know how to love yourself! You cannot give away what you do not have.

So I have learned to love myself first before I love others, find my inner peace before I help others to find theirs, take care of my health before I take care of others and to forgive myself before I forgive others.

This has never rung so true for me as it has done during the first year of my return home after being away for more than two decades. As I try to get assimilated into the radically changed system, I find that so much is going on around me and sucking up my energy and focus. In this interdependent culture, numerous demands are made on me as a daughter, mother, family member, a woman, a professional, a member of my community and a citizen of my country. The chaotic state in my country adds insult to injury.

Time after time, I have had to stop and think about what the interdependent culture and anarchy does to us ; it places heavy burdens on many of us and we end up carrying too much for too long. This alone has dire costs to us.

I never forget that no man is an island. Each of our individual journeys is intimately interwoven with the journeys of our friends, our families, our co-workers. Every step I take in becoming more fully myself has a ripple effect that affects others and the steps they take affect me. So finding genuine meaning in our lives contributes to the renewal of our families and communities.

As I continue to have a deep conversation with myself in this environment I have come to realize that four options available to me:

  • I could choose to feel overwhelmed, paralysed and do nothing until I run out of time.
  • I could choose to take on as much as my shoulders can carry until I burn out.
  • I could choose to disconnect completely by turning away from it all.
  • Last but not least, I could choose to wear my oxygen mask first and then go out to engage in the world around me; effectively doing the small bit that feeds into the big picture.

To work my way through the tangle, I have gladly chosen to take the last option as it allows me to focus eighty percent of my time and energy on the twenty percent that gives meaning to my life. It is the only way I can live out my own deep and great story.

I know for sure that no life, no matter how successful and exciting it might be will make me happy if it is not genuinely my own.

If I chose to disengage completely then I would miss out on my own unique life task that contributes to the making the world a better place to live in. I bear this responsibility out of the legacy of all the heroes who came before me. I have never been the type who waits for things to happen to me; I have made things happen to me.

Maria Edgeware says: “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.’’

Delmore Schwartz always reminds us that: “Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn.’’

Let us fit our oxygen masks first then go out to be of service to others.

Thank you for reading this post. Kindly tap into your experiences and leave a comment about this post. I would be grateful if you shared it with your family and friends.

 

 

 

 

GIVING ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Man is a social animal ; goes about life making relationships. In doing so, he looks for acceptance, appreciation and acknowledgement. Being acknowledged makes people feel good about themselves and makes them want to do more for themselves and others. The super simple way of acknowledgement is usually expressed as ‘ Thank you’, and the highest monetary- tagged acknowledgment known to me is the prestigious, Nobel Prizes established by the Alfred Nobel ,the Swedish chemist who invented dynamite. Nobel Prizes have been awarded annually to men and women who have reached the most outstanding achievement in their respective fields since 1901!
The psychologist tell us children who grow up in homes where they are acknowledged for the good they do,grow up secure , confident and with a strong attitude of gratitude.
Cicero once said: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all other.’’ And the Dalai Lama said: “The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.”

On the 19th September, I attended the Funeral Service at St. Francis Chapel Makerere University , Kampala, for one of our finest,accomplished engineer and most practical scientist of our time: Dr. Moses Kizza Musaazi. In a church filled to overflowing capacity, speaker after speaker outlined and acknowledged the achievements of this humble genius. It got me thinking about the local proverb which loosely translated says:  ‘Acknowledge me while I am still alive for once I’m dead , I ‘ll never hear your praises and thank you for them.’ I wondered whether all of us gathered there had taken a moment to thank Dr. Musaazi in person for his outstanding achievements! At least his old school which he loved and served selflessly had awarded him its Merit Award for his creativity and innovation.

Like Okwonko, Dr. Musaaazi was a man of few words and could never have asked to be acknowledged. All that he was able to do especially reaching out to the needy in our midst by designing locally appropriate and affordable items like the Makapads, came from the heart. It was born out his appreciation for all those who supported him and enabled him to attend Kings College Buddo, by then considered as a school for royals and the chiefs’ sons and daughters. He never forgot his impoverished roots and that attending that school was the ‘game changer ‘ in his life. It opened up numerous opportunities, choices and new challenges including joining the Makerere University Faculty of Engineering as a student in 1971. He graduated as an Electrical engineer in 1975.
Since that time, in his simplicity, Dr. Musaazi has given to the needy without humiliating them or maiming them ; he empowered them to help themselves while he ensured that he himself never suffered burn out. He remained creative, entrepreneurial and worked very hard.

I for one was lucky to have parents who made me understand that acknowledgement was as essential as food and always brought out the best in each person. I have seen smiles that melted my heart when I said ‘Thank you ‘ to the women who clean toilets at the airports. They felt that they were being recognized that they existed and contributed to the smooth running of those big International airports!
In 1993 as my school celebrated 90 years of existence I wrote a simple poem about the headmistress during my time at the school. I was acknowledging her contribution in molding and shaping us into what we had become. Retired by then in England, she wrote to me thanking me for the appreciation.
I remember her telling me: “Incredibly touched by your poem for no one has ever written a poem about me.” I was touched by her words too!
One Hansa proverb says : “ Give thanks for a little and you’ll find a lot.’’

My late father had received an OBE – Order of the British Empire, from Queen Elizabeth 11 during the Coronation awards of June 1953 for his outstanding work in the Uganda Protectorate. He had gone on to win many other awards in his lifetime.
Amazingly, what he treasured most was his old school’s Award to him in March 1988- The Kings College Buddo Merit Award. During the launching of this award, four outstanding old students were acknowledged for their contribution to the development of Uganda. They were: Dr. Samson Kisekka who was then the Vice President of Uganda, Engineer A.P.N Waliggo who had once been a Prime Minister, Mr. Eridadi Mulira, a veteran politician and my father: Paulo Neil Kavuma. My husband and I accompanied him to this function. We had never seen him as happy as he was that day! Later when he went back to the school to give a lecture about his life and to inform the students of how the school had prepared him for his later role in life, he revealed that he treasured that Award so much because it was a symbol of recognition from his own! He died an incredibly happy man a year later.
William Arthur Ward said: “Feeling gratitude, and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

When it comes to giving acknowledgement, there is no better time than the present.
Last year, my Graduate class: The Class of 1977, organised a reunion in Uganda and among the events was a luncheon with our former lecturers at the University. They attended in big numbers and were all touched when we gave each one of them a Commemorative Plaque acknowledging them and telling them  that we were standing on their shoulders! Their laughter and words of acknowledgement are etched in my memory! It was a simple gesture that left the giver and receiver richer for life.
I am writing this post to encourage each one of us to stop taking people and things for granted but instead develop a habit of noting the good others do and thanking them for it. It builds people up and encourages them to give of their best wherever they are. While doing so, you also strive to give of your best without expecting rewards. We shall then create a better world than we found.

Thank you for reading this post. Kindly share with me your ideas  and experiences about acknowledgement and feel free to share this post with family and friends.