The Things We Take For Granted 11

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To live and enjoy your own life, you have to willingly understand and accept the reality of death.

This photograph of a  sweet,relaxed great-grandmother in her nineties was taken by Jane Nannono.

 

Two weeks ago I retired to bed around 11:00 pm fit as a fiddle. I was happy I had at least completed two of the big tasks I had  set out to do that morning. This was a great achievement compared to how things run around here.
To my great shock and surprise, by the time I woke up at 7:30 am the following day, I failed to lift my head off the pillow and my lower back hurt . A quick assessment of the body systems confirmed that I could take a deep breath easily, lift both legs and move them in various directions. I struggled for about fifteen minutes to sit up in bed .This had never happened to me before but then there is always a first time for everything. Finally I got out of bed ,walked to the bathroom and gave myself a long, hot soak in the bathtub. It helped to reduce the back pain. Knowing what I had lined up to do on the laptop for the day, I had to take some simple painkillers.

The nagging back pain demanded that I made an appointment to see a surgeon before the end of the day. By 6:30 pm, the surgeon was giving me a thorough check up then he tried to localize the pain along the vertebral column.It turned out to be muscle pain and we both agreed it had to do with the many frequent trips that I had made to the village during the last three weeks. He prescribed me some pain killers, an inflammatory gel and some physiotherapy exercises. For the following three days, I undertook the physiotherapy exercises but hardly worked on the laptop. I had first to get well to continue with the writing. This is when it hit me that many times we take things for granted: you think you would wake up the following day and get on with your to-do list. The time I spent home reminded me of my mortality and I seized the opportunity to read around life and death. It helped me to appreciate the progress of life from health and vitality in youth to infirmity and weakness in old age.

Life and death are said to be two sides of the same coin. Accepting the inevitability of death helps you create meaning to your own life. Close brushes with death, help you recognize how precious life is and you clearly begin to determine what really matters in life. You learn to give up and let go of everything that no longer serves your life’s journey. From this moment on, you live your life like a marathon runner who begins with the end in mind and then plans the race accordingly. The psychologists also tell us that all the losses suffered in life serve to prepare us for death. So we should learn to die well by developing the ability to accept all life’s losses and disappointments. If we learn this, then we stand a chance of enjoying living our lives.

Mark Twain said: “ A man who lives fully is prepared to die any time.’’
For a few of us, close encounters with death render us so powerless that we give up on life. The psychologists then remind us that what we deny in our conscious minds will possess us. It would take a lot of courage and counselling to get such people to own what owns them. Once they do this, they open themselves up to the possibility of living purposeful lives. They will recognize the greatest irony of life: that death is the source of life.
Kahlil Gibran said: “For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.”
Since then, the back pain has cleared and I have resumed my normal routine. Each time I wake up every morning and I am up and about, I thank God for the gift of life. As every gift has a responsibility attached to it, the gift of life demands that I use the time to become the best person I can be and to do much more for myself and for the common good.

Thank you for reading this post. May it inspire you to live a purposeful life. I would be grateful if you left a comment about it, shared it with family and friends. I would love to learn how close brushes with death transformed your life.

The Things We Take For Granted

There is an old saying :“ You do not know what You Have Until It’s Gone.” It reminded me of what I am missing most currently.
There are many things that I had always taken for granted until they were denied me or taken from me. Among these was order and discipline.
The psychologists define discipline as the ability to adhere and conform to the codes of ethics and behavior and the ability and stamina to concentrate and focus on what you do which is a fundamental quality to achieve success.
I grew up in a family where my parents like all parents of their time, instilled in us order and discipline in preparation for the challenges of life in the future. They passed on to us what they wanted to preserve in their culture: Unity, integrity,humility, discipline,fairness, humour,commitment, and hard work. They knew very well that order and discipline stimulated creativity potential and stimulated growth and development in an individual. I have no doubt they would have agreed fully with F.D.Roosevelt had they compared notes on parenthood.
“We may not be able to prepare the future for our children but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt. 32nd President of the United States of America.

They say that Charity begins at home but what I failed to pick from home, I was able to pick from the missionary school that I attended for my fourteen years of formal education. I learned order and discipline most as a member of the school’s athletics team, netball, and hockey team. Sports taught me self-discipline, punctuality, self –respect and respect for others, patience and commitment. I learned how to strive to win other than be a mediocre. Through self-discipline I learned how to get more done in the day by staying focused.
By the time I joined the medical school, order and discipline had permeated all aspects of my life. I was quick to understand that any compromise on discipline would slow down my growth and development.
I remember reading a quote about discipline by Katherine Hepburn, an American actress (1907-2003)
“Without discipline, there’s no life at all.’’ I have carried it with me all these years.

Later when I sought better opportunities and choices in Botswana , I was the richer. Botswana is an oasis of good governance and impressive economic growth. It is one country in Africa which has tried to preserve its old values of being community –orientated and of high ethical values along with democracy, development, unity and self-reliance. Here things flow smoothly into each other and the people conduct themselves in an exemplary manner. Seeing a government minister in a queue at the Automated Teller Machine or in a hospital is not a rare sight. From childhood, the Batswana are prepared as to how to become good citizens and have learned to work for the common good. For the two decades I lived and worked in Botswana, order and discipline remained with me and helped me to develop commitment to whatever I chose to do.

Fast-Forward and I am back where I started but now in a digitally connected world. According to the Uganda Population Census of 2014, 78% of the total population is under 30 years of age. Those living in the urban areas have phones and are globally connected. They mix things up to create something new without considering the consequences. Order and discipline are being compromised.
There is a lot of disorder and indiscipline around all of us. It causes distractions, frustrations and drains one’s energy. The tangled traffic in the cities makes working in such areas feel like a struggle or sacrifice. Every day you have to decide on which route to take or where to park your car for the day.
For those who have to cross the streets in the city, looking out for the boda bodas – motor cycle taxis which apparently can appear from any direction and suddenly knock you down also drains your energy. When you finally settle down to do your actual work you are less productive since you have already spent your best energy on the less important. The cycle continues throughout the year so your personal growth and development and that of the institution you work for tend to lag behind.

Situations like this make me cry out for the order and discipline that I have always known. You may consider me rigid and locked into old ways but at the back of my mind I know that I have to change a few things to survive and remain relevant in this rapidly changing world. The young generation must have heard of this phrase: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Even in this Information age, you thrive best where there is order and discipline. You start off by trying to manage what you can control under the circumstances. It is still plain and simple: Charity begins at home. You have to create order and discipline in your homes first and then move out to the work place and any other place where you have control. It is the only way you can contribute what is most important and give of your best.
Resigning to the disorder and the indiscipline is like giving up on life itself.
Find comfort in these two quotations:
“ If you dedicate your attention to discipline in your life, you become smarter.’’ Russell Banks, an American writer
“ I am , indeed a king, because I know how to rule myself.” Pietro Aretino, Italian Writer(1492-1556)

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading this post. May it inspire you to change what you can other than let the circumstances change you. I would be happy if you made a comment about it and also shared it with family and friends.

 

We Are Products of Our Time

 

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Three generations: Batswana. This photograph was taken by Jane Nannono.
Yesterday, 8th March, was International Women’s day. It got me thinking about the progress that women have made in the development of our country. Looking around I can see them almost everywhere: they  are mothers, government ministers, permanent secretaries, heads of corporations, universities and are in many jobs previously considered as men’s . It started in the early sixties when more girls were encouraged to access quality education. It increased their options in life by allowing them to take on jobs along their male peers. They found themselves having to work harder in our patriarchal society. Power and authority still belonged to the men. The period of rapid change in Uganda came after the July 1985 United Nations End of the Women Decade conference in Nairobi , Kenya. Those who had attended the conference lobbied the then government to adopt policies and programmes that would promote equal access to education, equal access to employment and equal access to adequate health care services.

By 1987,Uganda had a Ministry of Gender and Social Affairs and a woman in parliament representing each of the 39 districts in the country. By 1990, an affirmative action scheme that awarded female students an extra 1.5 points to increase female enrollment at the national Makerere University was in place. Makerere University established the School of Women and Gender Studies in 1991. Free universal primary education was established in January 1997 followed by free Universal secondary education in 2007.All these schemes are ongoing and are being regularly monitored, evaluated and improved. A few other locally appropriate ones have been added to ensure that the girl child stays in school for as long as it is possible. It will increase her options in life. I thank the government for all these local efforts for promoting gender equality.

It always seems to be running reasonably well until I travel to my own village to visit some relatives. Like any other developing country, 70-80% of the population live in the rural areas and still follow the traditional cultural roles: men lead and women follow. The women are the primary caregivers; looking after their husbands, children, the sick and the elderly. They attach great value to this role and find themselves consumed by it. They hardly get time to take care of themselves.

After the government has put in place what it can to advance and empower women and girls, we the women have to exploit this to the maximum. Any woman who has benefitted from the strategies of the last thirty years has to take the responsibility to lift up the emerging ones. It is our responsibility to teach these women their basic rights, human rights, legal rights and to be made aware of their needs and how to get them met. The women themselves and their children have to be healthy to participate fully in development. Their voices should be heard from their local villages to parliament. They have to be brought into the main stream of things.

You know as well as I do that the struggle to advance the women’s status is an ongoing process; the women of the United Kingdom won their right to vote in 1928, their representation in both public and private sector senior positions peaked in the 1990s and is now 32% far from the desired 50/50 split!
In a few Tennis tournaments, the female players still earn less than their male peers. Serena Williams, the global tennis legend is working hard to change this unequal pay.
Fellow women, we have to live the old adage: All for one and one for all while at the same time recruiting as many men as possible as associate members if we are to get where we want to be in our time.
The struggle continues.

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading this post. I would be very grateful if you left a comment about it and also shared it with family and friends.

 

 

 

 

Catherine: a trailblazer

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1st March 1936-22 October 2017.

On the 22 nd October 2017, Catherine Zawedde Kisumba passed away peacefully at her home in Muyenga, Kampala. She was an outstanding mother of four, a grandmother of three and a great- grandmother to two boys. Outside home, she was celebrated as the first woman pharmacist in Uganda(1960) and among the first in East Africa. She came from a privileged family; her father had been the finance minister of the Buganda Kingdom in Uganda. She attended the prestigious girls’ school- Gayaza High School up to Ordinary Level. She excelled as an all-round student but had a knack for mathematics.

In her quest to become a medical doctor, she had to transfer to a co-educational school- Kings College Buddo to study chemistry and Physics at Advanced Level. By then Gayaza High school was not offering those two subjects. After some months of uncertainty and teasing, she and her best friend Alex Sempa settled down comfortably. They both passed so brilliantly that they won themselves Buganda governmemt scholarships to study pharmacy at Bristol College of Science and Technology in the United Kingdom. Alex later changed to Human Medicine and graduated five years later to become the second Uganda woman medical doctor after Dr. Josephine Nambooze ( 1959)

Catherine graduated as a pharmacist, worked for some time then returned to Uganda in 1962. She was that unique person who had brains, beauty and modesty so it was no surprise that in the same year she got married to an old Budonian: Dr. David Kisumba who later became a professor and head of Orthopaedics. Much later in 1976, Catherine’s niece : Winnifred Kalagi Senoga, another mathematics wizard from Gayaza High School was among the first women to graduate from Makerere University Faculty of Engineering and Technology . She currently works with Eskom, the South African electricity public company. A year later, Sarah Nalumansi Senoga graduated among the first women engineers from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Catherine worked diligently as  a pharmacist in many hospitals in Uganda including Mulago, Gulu, Masaka and Bombo. She rose through the ranks to become a Principal Pharmacist and a tutor at the Pharmacy Technician training school at Mulago Hospital. After ten years of exemplary service, she joined the private sector. By 1980, she was running her own pharmacy: Equator pharmacy along Johnston Street in Kampala. For many years she was a member of the Executive Committee and Pharmacist Advisor of the Uganda Red Cross Society. She also represented the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda on the Committee on National Formularly.

I have known her for more than four decades. She was an extremely intelligent person, was passionate and terribly confident. She was every inch a pharmacist both at the office and at home. She was incredibly organized; everything had a place and there was a place for everything. She defined her image and statement and lived them then protected them jealously to the end. She carried herself with dignity and respect and was treated likewise.
At the Equator pharmacy, she always looked the part as the managing director and the staff always welcomed and served us with a genuine smile. It was very reassuring to know that whatever product you bought from the pharmacy was the real ‘McKoy’, be it the simplest cough linctus or cream for eczema. You always went back for more. She was a warm and loving person who cared about people and made them know about it. She valued her friends and was incredibly loyal to them. Adelina Lubogo her best friend since childhood can attest to this.
As a mother, her family came first; she nurtured, guided and sustained them with a lot of love.
Her greatest joy was when she served on the board of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda along with her daughter; Jennifer Nakabugo Kisumba. Jennifer is currently a practsing pharmacist in Los Angeles, USA.

Catherine lived her life with purpose; mentoring and tutoring many young girls and men. Throughout her life, she was always willing to give back to the two schools that shaped her. She gave of her time, energy, knowledge, skills and money.
In her last years, she was enormously grateful for what she had achieved in the fifty years or so but as a trailblazer she was greatly unsettled by the huge shortage of trained pharmacists in Uganda. Uganda has a population of close to forty million yet it has less than five hundred licensed and practsing pharmacists! This works out to one Pharmacist serving 100,000 people compared to the recommended World Health Organisation ratio of 1:1,000. However she was lightly comforted that Makerere University which started offering a 4-year degree course in Pharmacy with 10 students in 1988 was now admitting about 60 students annually. Catherine created her success, managed and protected it. Her success left indelible footprints for others to follow. She opened the way so it is now for the young ones to pave it with gold as they write their own stories.
The following two quotes are very relevant to us today.
“All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.”
– Jim Rohn (1930-2009) American entrepreneur and author.

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

Catherine, I had to share your story out of my admiration and immense respect for you. Thankfully, a part of you became a part of me.

 

Thank you for reading this post. Feel free to share it with family and friends. May it encourage you to give of your best wherever you are.

 

Two Of a Kind 11

I crossed paths with the second Eleanor or Erina as she was popularly called, when I got married to her nephew, Christopher, in February 1981. She was from the Tooro Kingdom on foothills of the famous Rwenzori Mountains- Mountains of the Moon, Africa’s third highest mountain. She came from a big family of twenty one children.

They all welcomed me into the family with open arms. Aunt Erina visited us often and we got to know each other at a deeper level. She had been a nurse for over fifty years, having been trained by none other than Dr. Albert Cook: the founder of the school of Midwifery and Nursing at Mengo hospital, Kampala. She had raised five children with her Kenyan husband, John Wainaina. She had many things going on in her life but her husband and children always came first. She was the heart of the home.

For most of her working life, she was stationed in Jinja barracks, eastern Uganda. Jinja is 80 kilometres from Kampala, the capital city. By then, Jinja had developed into the industrial town of Uganda and many people had migrated there to work in the factories. As expected, many of Erina’s relatives were among these migrant workers. She helped them settle in and up today, members of the second generation live in Jinja. A number still live in Aunt Erina’s rental houses. One good thing common to both Aunt Erina and her husband were their good hearts and spirits. Together they raised many children on top of their biological five. I remember among these was a Karamajong boy coming from one of the remotest areas of Uganda. He went on to excel in his studies and ended up in USA.

All the time she was in Jinja she helped people especially the women to take care of their health and to improve their social welfare. She taught the women how to make handicrafts- beadwork, needle work and crocheting for their own use and for sale to increase family incomes. She did all this with a cheerful heart and with the support of her husband. She was always calm, smiling and on the lookout for opportunities to help the needy. She never maimed those she helped for she ensured that she empowered them to help themselves. She restored their confidence and dignity. This stands out as the key element of her great legacy. She also had some business sense; she built shops and rental houses in Jinja and Makerere and a small bakery in Njeru near Jinja.

My favourite author: Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese- American artist, poet and writer said that: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.’’

She gave of her time, talents, skills, knowledge and money.

She finally retired to her home in Parklands, Nairobi, Kenya and opened it up to her big Ugandan family and friends, and from 1993 she opened it for her brothers and sisters of the Gospel Assembly church.She remained the glue of her big family until she died on the 24 the August 2017.  We all celebrated her long, rich, fulfilled life while our eyes were being opened fully to what we could do to carry on her legacy.

Erina my father’s sister and Erina from the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains in Tooro had a lot in common :

They treated everyone around them as they would themselves have wanted to be treated.

They respected themselves and were able to win respect from others.

They both gave without taking the receivers’ dignity away.

All they were able to do emerged organically and easily from who they were: simple women, passionate, compassionate, and hardworking and with big hearts.

They gave cheerfully and joy was their reward. For those of us who believe in the Bible, this is what Jesus Christ himself talked about when he said: “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.’’

They are still giving from their graves for they empowered their children and grandchildren, friends to develop an attitude of gratitude and a positive attitude about life to sustain them for life.

Taking my children as an example; they had the rare privilege at a tender age to be around both Erinas. They learned something from these two role models. They may not have been attentive when listening to them but they watched them go out to do good for others. The sixth verse of the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Proverbs in the Bible says : “Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their lives.”

In a country like mine where people are driven by desires and are controlled by money, the young generation needs more Erinas as role models. They will teach them that we depend on each other and will motivate them to do better and to want to give more.

May this post inspire you to use whatever you have to make a difference wherever you are.

Thank you for reading this post. I would like to hear about your experiences with people who have big hearts and high spirits.

TWO OF A KIND

I have been around for several decades and among the most generous people I have known are two women from two different worlds. By sheer coincidence they were both called Erina and both lived for more than a hundred years!

The first Erina I knew was my father’s young sister: she only had primary school education but by the time she died at 104, she was popularly known as Erina the teacher. For the fifty five years I knew her, she lived in Mulago village, Kampala just a stone’s throw from Uganda’s biggest and referral hospital.The day my young mother delivered me in the Private maternity ward of that hospital now developed into the paediatric wing of the Uganda Cancer Institute, Aunt Erina waited patiently until I screamed my way into the world.  She was to do this over and over again for all her nieces and nephews in her family of seven siblings. As we grew up we thought her home was a sort of “waiting place” for mothers-to – be who came from far. For over thirty-five years, the antibiotic prescribed to patients  for most common infections was in the form of injections – Procaine Penicillin Fortified. The patient would go down to the hospital once a day in the morning for five days and sometimes longer. As expected, all our relatives who were given  this treatment and came from far, stayed at Aunt Erina’s home to complete the course.

She was of the Ngo – Leopard clan and had married in the Mbogo- Buffalo  clan so it was no surprise to us that the patients found in her home were a mixture of those groups and some friends. In today’s jargon I would say that the Password to enter her home was Ngo! There was always a big kettle of about seven litres boiling water for tea on a wood fire. As for the meals, Aunt Erina always added four extra portions for the unexpected visitors. I cannot count the number of times my sisters and I carried hot meals to different patients in the Mulago hospital wards. When my father was operated on for a perforated acute appendicitis in the early 70’s, Aunt Erina was seated on a bench near the theatre as he was being wheeled back to the private ward on Christmas day!

When I was about thirteen years old, I had my first real understanding of my own mortality.One of my friends called Rhoda, went  for holidays in the village. While there, she was bitten by a snake and had to be referred to Mulago hospital. Her mother was Aunt Erina’s friend so as soon as Rhoda was admitted , Aunt Erina was informed. She dropped everything and went to be with her friend. Unfortunately, Rhoda died within a few hours! Her mother was too distraught to accompany the undertaker as he returned Rhoda’s body to her home village. Without any hesitation, Aunt Erina accompanied the body and Rhoda’s parents followed later. Aunt Erina made sure that we attended Rhoda’s funeral – it was her way of teaching us the meaning of death.

When my father helped his sister to have piped water in her house  he was not surprised to learn that most of Erina’s friends had pleaded with her to collect water from her house for a nominal fee. It saved them going down to the well almost a kilometer away.

Early on in her life she had joined the Young Women’s Christian Association(YWCA) and would attend all the trainings and workshops offered there.After the  Nursery School Teacher’s course, she opened a Nursery school  in her sitting room. It grew so fast that she had to buy land and start a Primary school nearby. The school still stands today in Old Mulago being run by Erina’s daughter –in –law. In the mid-sixties, YWCA focused on increasing family incomes by encouraging women to form clubs where they lived. Through these clubs, women were taught to make a variety of crafts for sale.  Aunt Erina took to it like a duck to water and before long women in her club were weaving sisal bags, making beads from natural seeds, table mats from the bark cloth and crocheting table cloths. She became a remarkable tailor and financial manager in her own right.

A few years later she teamed with another of her kind , Mrs Mary Kiwanuka from the western side of the city to open the first handicraft shop: Tusitukirewamu , ran by women along  Kampala main Street. Aunt Erina made some money from the crafts and used it to build some small houses for rent. They were quickly taken up by some of the many workers of the hospital.

She always tried to find out the needs of the people around her other than giving them what she thought they wanted. She was therefore able to connect and relate to these people. She paid school fees for many needy children in the family and her village. Without her realizing it, she became the heart of her village. She is most remembered today for helping people to help themselves.

When I look back at her long and rich life, I consider myself incredibly privileged for having known her. She was one person who woke up each morning to be intentional about giving. She gave just to give when she saw a need. She first gave to her family then widened the circle to touch others.  She gave her time, attention, care, advice, encouragement, support and money. No doubt she was the Capable Wife that King Solomon talked about in the last twenty-two verses of the 31st chapter of the Book of Proverbs.

She continues to give from her grave through the seeds she planted in her own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and her numerous friends.

I can never be as generous as she was but her life was exemplary to many and each time I reach out to give gladly, I am honouring her memory.

Thank you for reading this post. May it inspire you to love unconditionally and to give gladly for this is the closest you can get to being godly in character. Feel free to share this link with family and friends.

 

 

 

TRUE FRIENDSHIP 11

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The Table Mountain, a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town, South Africa.  The photograph was taken by Jane Nannono.

 

Amazingly, I did not know what kind of children my husband and I had brought up until our second son called me in the night some years back. He was by then in his second year of a master’s degree in structural design engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. By habit, I never answer the phone once I go to bed. This particular phone rang insistently forcing me to wake up and to check who was calling. It was my son in Cape Town and the time was a few minutes after midnight.
“Mama, I’m terribly sorry to call you at this time of the night.”
My heart sank and I started breathing hard. He continued, “I’m with some Police officers and a friend at the Table Mountains……
“ Are you in trouble?’’
“No, Mama, I’m safe and sound. Unfortunately, my Mozambican friend‘s young brother has not been seen for three days……”
It was becoming increasingly difficult for me to let him finish a sentence. “Why are you at the Table Mountains at this awkward hour?”
“My friend’s brother has been depressed for a while, the last calls he made to his brother and roommate at the university have been traced to the Table Mountains.’’
My hair stood on end on and a cold shiver went down my spine.
My son continued, “My friend was in my undergraduate class but now works in Joburg. He flew in today to follow things through. He needed someone to drive him around and to accompany him where he had to go. I’ll catch up with my lectures later.” He sounded guarded.
“ Have you found the brother yet?’’
“No. His phone is off.’’ He was obviously worried and frightened.
I was touched by my son’s deep- felt concern. “Thank you for being an all-weather friend.
Please keep me updated.’’ I said , almost whispering.
I said a silent prayer for the missing brother, his brother and my son.

As expected, I could not go back to sleep. The call got me thinking about friendship. My father had great friends whom we looked upon as relatives only to learn later in life that they were just friends!
One quote had come to me then: “ Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.’’
And one proverb in my local language when loosely translated says: Tell me who you walk with and I ‘ll tell you who you are.’’ It emphasizes that friends influence us in greater ways than we can imagine.

We take our children to school not only to acquire knowledge but also to develop the right attitude about life, and have a great aptitude for work and to make friends. My best friend and I and most of my long lasting friends befriended each other during our school days, donkey’s years ago!
The American minister and author Robert Fulghum made the same observation when he said that he learned all life’s lessons in Kindergarten. In his book of short essays (1986) his first essay is entitled :All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. He listed the lessons that he learned in the American kindergarten classrooms. No. 1 on the list is Share everything – this includes sharing your heart. And number 13 of the 16 on the list : When you go out in the world, hold hands and stick together.

My husband and I always advised our children that when choosing their friends they should look for the goodness in their hearts. We also advised them to choose friends who were smarter than themselves; these could help them get to where they wanted to go.
Later I came across this quote by Tennessee William (1911-1983) a master American playwright: “Life is partly what we make it and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.’’

That same night, I also remembered vividly how my children’s school friends used to gather several times in a week round the corner of our house to play cricket and football. Among the group were boys from Botswana, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, India, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia , Eritrea and Ethiopia. I watched over them from our house. They could come into the house one by one to greet me and collect drinking water, a piece of cake or a fruit. As a mother, I felt terribly comfortable with this arrangement for I always knew where my boys were so I just made sure that there were plenty of home-made scones, cakes and juice.
Fast- Forward in this Digital era, most of those friends are still connected on Social media.

Our children must have been watching us going out to help others and also seen the many friends who used to come to our home for medical advice and help. Most likely this is what inspired them to become ‘all weather’ friends to their peers. King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived tells us in his Book of the Proverbs: “Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their lives.”

Much to my relief, following that chilling night, my son rang at dawn to inform me that the missing brother of his friend had been found alive at the Table Mountains and admitted to a hospital. After some weeks of treatment and counselling for depression, he settled down to complete his degree course. My son and his Mozambican friend still visit each other in Johannesburg and Cape Town. They have continued to be there for each other.
This quote by Ernie Banks(1931-2015) the American professional baseball player holds true to them as it does to me: “ Loyalty and friendship , which is to me the same, created all the wealth that I’ve ever thought I’d have.”
They say that the best way to make friends is for you to go out and be a friend.

Thank you for reading this post and may it stimulate you to go out to make and retain friends. Please leave a comment about it and feel free to share it with family and friends.

 

 

TRUE FRIENDSHIP

This topic has always been close to my heart. I consider myself very blessed to have the number of true friends I have. As I write now I am reminded of David and Jonathan’s great friendship in the Bible. They made a sacred promise to each other: to be loyal to each other and if either of them died, the surviving one was to extend the same loyalty to the other’s family. In Greek Mythology, two best friends from Sicily: Pythias and Damon demonstrated the same loyalty to one another. While visiting Syracuse, Pythias talked badly about the king and was arrested then condemned to death. He asked to be allowed to go home and bid farewell to his family then return to be killed. Damon offered to stay in prison for him until Pythias returned. Pythias took long to come back but Damon was sure that he would return out of their strong bond of friendship. Just as Damon was being led out to be killed, his exhausted friend rushed in to take his place. It surprised and impressed the king so much that he spared Pythias’ life and went on to keep both men at his court as advisors.
Friendship is about loyalty, affection, honesty, mutual respect and trust.

In the late 80s, I remember watching the film entitled Lace based on a fiction novel by the British writer Shirley Conran . Four well- to- do girls attending a finishing school in the Swiss Alps became best friends. They did most of the things together and mastered the art of covering for each other. They did it so well that when one of them fell pregnant and later delivered the baby; you could not tell who among them was the mother. Their mantra was: “Through thick and thin.” The French girl had difficulty in pronouncing this so for her it became: Through Sick and sin!’’
There are two best friends that I have known since childhood now well into their eighties. Whenever you see the first one, the second one is just round the corner. Sadly the youngest died last October leaving the older one totally lost. Whenever I meet her at a function she tells me that her best friend is not replaceable and that she feels as if a part of her missing.

My best friend and I have been each other’s best friend since we were thirteen years old! We were attending a missionary primary boarding school. We are now grandparents. We have nurtured each other and created situations that have helped us to grow and develop. Each one feels valued and cared for. This has enabled us to nurture relationship with others. Over the years, we have become accepting of each other without fearing to be swallowed up by the other. We have learned from each other to give without expecting anything back and when it comes; then each one opens her heart to receive from the other. We have guided, comforted and supported one another through thick and thin.
We have similar backgrounds, similar principles and values. We have many unwritten laws between us about money, dating, punctuality, and parenthood. At our age, we have come to a point where each one can anticipate the other’s need and sometimes the answer. When our last headmistress retired to the United Kingdom, she would use either address to send us her annual Christmas message to all old girls of the school. She told me that she was sure that whoever received the two, would gladly deliver to the other friend!

The bond we have has always awakened a healthy sense of loving and caring and has helped each one to recognize and develop her talents and abilities. It has given us the confidence and strength to go out to do and give more to others.
My best friend knows me more than myself and has remained the ‘constant’ in the equation of my life. Her family and friends became mine and mine became hers. Each one of us feels safe and at home with the other. She is one person I know for sure who wishes others achievements, great abundance and freedom. Like all survivors, we have both extremes of the same traits. Depending on the situation, we can choose to be terribly serious or terribly funny. We have been able to get away with a number of things.

It has not been plain sailing, there  are times when we have bruised and neglected each other. We have taken this in our stride by comforting and supporting one another to learn from the mistakes and grow.
We have lived through decades of civil strife in our country but amazingly, we have learned and grown from the many challenges and problems that we have had to face together and as individuals. Each one of us learned early on to love and nurture, respect herself before reaching out to nurture the family and the community. We have always set limits and boundaries first to protect one’s self and then the two of us.
A mountain of well-kept photographs keeps the cherished moments of our friendship of over fifty years, close. We have photographs of the two of us together on confirmation day, graduations, weddings, births and baptisms of our children and their graduations and weddings.

She has enriched my life beyond words while I tried the best I could too. She has never been too busy to help me; she has inspired me to go out and do more and give more. When we choose to give we give fully and completely so we find it easy to say no if we know we cannot give of our best.
We shall continue to nurture, support and inspire one another while at the same time thanking God for this fulfilling, lasting relationship that has shaped our characters.
Some quotes about genuine friendship:

“Friendship is always a responsibility, never an opportunity.’’ Khalil Gibran
“ A perfect white, round and smooth pearl is a rare find. Whoever finds it is made very happy.” Jane Nannono

Thank you for visiting my Blog. I would like to hear about your experiences of true friendship.  Feel free to share this post so as to encourage others to cultivate and nurture true friendships.

 

Parent-Child Friendship

Two days ago, I travelled about one hundred and forty Kilometers southwest of the capital, Kampala, to attend the funeral of the mother of one my friends. I made the effort to be there for him for I have experienced the pain and heartache of losing a parent. My friend had to travel from New York where he has lived and worked for forty years. Thankfully, he and his wife were last here to check on the mother in November last year. I shudder to imagine him receiving that crushing call announcing her death. He must have felt too devastated to think clearly and that journey must have grown longer than it normally is.

As his friends gathered for the funeral, I could not help but remember my best friend’s kindest gesture at my father’s funeral. She arranged to bring a tailor at our home to take our measurements for the traditional attires that the female family members were to wear at the funeral. The tailor also came with some samples of the materials stocked in her shop. My best friend never asked me-she just did it and it touched our hearts immensely.

I watched the friend from New York go through the journey of burying a parent and as tribute after tribute sang of his mother’s great love, affection, nurturing, kindness and commitment, I was once again reminded of my father’s funeral some years back. He was a good friend to me. I was happy to note that like my father, my friend’s mother had enjoyed responsible friendship with his son and other children. She had loved her children unconditionally, valued and cared for them. They all felt safe and at home under her care. As a responsible friend, she had ensured that she did not maim them. She loved and respected herself first then went out to do the same for her own children and all the children she taught as a trained teacher of her time. She set limits and boundaries to all of them; thus empowering them to be self-sufficient. By the time she died, my friend and his siblings were functioning well on their own.

She never lost herself as she met their needs since she had also set limits and boundaries on her own side and guarded them jealously. Like all good mothers who give without maiming and give without burning themselves out, she died radically thankful and celebrating her whole life. I have no doubt that her last prayer was: not ‘please’ but ‘thank you’ just like a guest thanks his host at the door.

My favourite author Kahlil Gibran(1883-1931), the Lebanese born American writer and philosopher distilled the significance of a mother down to this quote:
“The mother is everything – she is our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery and our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness. He who loses a mother loses a pure soul who blesses and guards him constantly.”
Sam, your mother was all this and much more. You will be able to move forward standing on what she left in you but not what she left for you. When everyone goes home and you are left alone in your thoughts, you will remember your mother as a blessing. She lives on in you and in all those who passed through her hands.
May God rest her soul in eternal peace.

 

Pointers Along The Path

At the end of each year, we stop and process the year to prepare ourselves to face new experiences. By now, each one of us has set realistic goals and has started on the process of achieving them.
Well aware that we are Works in progress and that Rome was not built in a day, each one of us requires a lot of determination, commitment and courage to achieve the set goals.
Over the years, I have come to understand that focusing on doing a few things right every day will keep me on the right path of achieving my big goals. We create what we focus on and what we focus on grows.
Among the things I do consistently are:
• Decluttering- I need to declutter my home, work space and life itself. I have to get rid of what does not serve me anymore. Clutter distracts me and weighs me down while decluttering helps me to be neat and organized and helps to create space in the mind. At the work place, I have to declutter my desk regularly to create order. Less clutter enables me to focus and be more productive. In today’s digital world, we receive a lot of unnecessary information on both our computers and telephones and the essential information has to be organized into some files. This information clutter demands that I declutter both the computer and telephone more often. Having too much stuff, too much information or too much to do can cause stress.
• Time management
Time is a limited resource and has to be managed effectively. The most successful among us have acquired the best time management skills. They have control of their time and therefore are able to focus and be more productive. They do not rush through things so they tend to make good decisions and even save themselves time to relax and unwind. Their good time management skills teach them self-discipline in other areas of their lives.
• Being real
You begin by being honest with yourself and then extend it to others. Being honest with yourself helps you build the confidence you need to win in life. You can easily admit when you need help from others. Humbling yourself to ask for help is essential for your growth and maturity. Being honest with others is key to being trusted by them and in building strong, lasting relationships.
• Keeping Healthy
Knowing very well that I need to be healthy to express the full range of my unique potential within the environment I live, I take responsibility for my own health and teach others to do the same.
I make informed healthy choices every day to maintain a state of physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing. Adopting a way of life that lowers the risk of being seriously ill or dying early requires me to make small changes that ensure that I maintain a healthy weight, eat healthy meals, exercises regularly and visit my doctor and dentist for regular checkups.
This quote by Denis Waitley reminds all of us the importance of health and time in our lives: “Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they are depleted.’’
• Maintaining an attitude of gratitude
I have to start by appreciating what I have and making the most of it for my own good and for the good of others. In this fast-paced world, I have to stop and take time to find joy in what I have accomplished. I have to give thanks for the small successes or wins which finally add up to my big vision.
When growing up, I used to take things for granted but as I grew older, I understood that many other people contributed to what I became. They did so by doing small things that made my life easy and many of them continue to do so to this day. I needed to show my thoughtful and heartfelt gratitude to them consistently and frequently. This has helped me to maintain a good relationship with family and friends and to acknowledge their role in the achievement of my big goals and personal growth.
An attitude of gratitude warms the heart of the giver and receiver and makes us better people.
Getting the above five things done right gives me the confidence,energy and discipline to follow my big goals through and finally make my vision happen.
Mark Gorman’s quote emphasizes the importance of having a vision in life: “Not all dreamers are winners but all winners are dreamers. Your dream is the key to your future. The Bible says that “ without a vision(dream) a people perish.’’ You need a dream, if you’re going to succeed in anything you do.
So keep dreaming big and working relentlessly towards making it a reality.

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