How is February coming to an end already? I am shook! << Speaking of, are there any slangs you hate/find ridiculous and end up using them as a joke only for them to stick? Mine include ‘bae’ and now ‘shook.’ Yup, I am cringing as I type but here we are!
The past couple of months have been a rollercoaster. One day you have inexplicable joy because your person who has been out of a job for over two years has finally signed an awesome contract then out of the blue a wave of depression hits. You are half way into a sip of pina colada celebrating the gift of another year for your loved one only to receive news of the loss of another. I have asked “life kyeki?” <What is life?> silently and out loud, more times than I can remember since this year began. Some highlights have stayed with me nonetheless.
Moses* called me at the end of last month. He invited me to speak to a group of recovering addicts under his care. It was a busy time and I asked him to slot me in close to the end of February; Wednesday last week to be exact. I forgot about it. As the day drew nearer, I began to panic. What did I know about addiction? What could they possibly learn from me? Who made me an authority on any subject? Would they be able to tell that I was a fraud, preaching hope while crumbling inside? SOS!
Incidentally, I met Moses at a talk last year. He belonged to a mentorship group whose leader invited me to speak. I was told to expect 15 or more people. I walked into a well set up room complete with a podium and ‘high table.’ Only 5 people showed up. It was so bad that we each had to pack the snacks which had been prepared for a bigger group. BUT; It was also one of the most fulfilling sessions I have ever facilitated. The small group was so eager to learn, they took notes and kept flipping pages. I was so pumped, I just went on and on. I chose to sit with them in a semi-circle and encouraged them to interrupt at any point. They did! It was doubly awesome because my friend Ritah joined in. We had plans later that evening and she offered to attend the talk as well. Her voice was a great addition to the discussion because she had experience as a volunteer. I did not have to give all the examples. She was right there to pitch in.
After several attempts, asking Monsieur Google to help me plan my talk, I decided to relax. Each time I have spoken from the heart, it has worked out just fine. I would do the same for this one too.
I got there almost an hour early. This gave me time to catch up with *Cathy who is an employee at the organisation and ‘relax.’
This Christian non-profit supports individuals to overcome addiction. The residential program lasts a period of one year. During that period they are equipped with life skills as well as knowledge of the scripture.
I was told to expect 16 men between the ages of 16 and 50. My audience comprised of 14. I asked each of them to tell me their names and something about them, preferably something they like to do/something which makes them happy. Most of them mentioned football, cooking (pleasantly surprising) and God. I wasn’t ready when this gentleman’s turn came. He was arguably the oldest in the group. He calmly said. “Henry. I am a father.” 5 words, simple yet heavily loaded. For a few minutes I drifted off imagining how he got here, what his children thought and how he felt ‘hanging’ with teenagers in the same space. When I eventually snapped back, we were on to the last introduction. The next exercise involved them writing their biggest, boldest dreams on a sticky note. What they would do if they had limitless resources. I later jumbled them up and let each one read someone else’s dreams.
Almost all of them mentioned their intention to do more for a vulnerable group, from orphans to the elderly and recovering addicts. *Daniel called out “Esther, you haven’t told us your dream…” and that was the perfect intro for my story.
I spoke about my journey and openly shared about the 9,876,421 road blocks I have faced, I shared countless testimonies and told stories within stories. It was actually pretty mentally and emotionally draining going down memory lane. My audience was mostly quiet except for *Daniel and his neighbour, Aaron. They kept mumbling, taking notes, and I even saw a high 5. I thought to myself, “I am either really interesting or these guys are working on their own happy project.” Nonetheless, I continued, trying to engage everyone the best way I could. Finally, it came to an end, and I asked for questions or comments. Walala! I was NOT ready. First of all the pair that seemed busy throughout asked like 15 questions all on their own and then the rest. I had a 5pm meeting, meaning I needed to set off by 4.30 or so. I quickly realised it was going to be impossible to leave. I sneakily texted Kristine to let her know I would be late then gave these men my full attention. Their questions were deep, some of them silly, as if testing my sanity. All of them were engaging. I quickly noted who the ‘class clowns’ were. Henry did not say much else
Just as I thought the questions were coming to an end, Daniel asked “Can you please look at our proposal before you leave?”
Me: You mean you have written and completed a proposal during these 2 hours?
Him: *laughs* No, we started planning this 2 weeks ago and you came right in time.
This explained his questions about vision, mission and general organisational structure during the talk. I agreed to look at the proposal.
Finally, Jesse put up his hand. He had picked up on a part of my story where I mentioned difficulty in getting volunteers, discerning who is there for the right reasons and maintain friendships. He read a Bible verse in Colossians (Col 1:15-18) and encouraged me to focus on God and not people and just as he was concluding Tom opened his Bible and to reiterate read “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Col 3:23) *Martin then added Proverbs 4:18 “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” I was overwhelmed but they weren’t done yet. Jesse asked if he could pray for me. They all stretched their hands and he started to pray. I had mentioned my struggle with insomnia briefly and here he was bringing it up. Jesse prayed for my family, friends, past, present and future, like an old friend or even a sage. The tears that I had controlled up till that more moment could no longer be held back. In that moment, I surrendered the baggage I had carried to this house and felt much lighter. By the time the ‘Amen’ came, I had forgotten where I was.
Everyone who needed an extra word, came over after the talk.
Jesse recommended a book.
Rodney offered to cook for me on his day off as a thank you. (I believe they earn these after 3-4 months)
Jeff asked me to check out a home for street children he helped set up.
Eventually, I sat with Daniel and Aaron to go through the proposal. Daniel’s energy constantly at 100 “I did not finish school so I am not good at writing, but I am a good talker. My boy here does the writing.” (patting Aaron) I read through and talked them through the alterations. They are looking to seek permission from the organisation; to do some work within their community. They hope the organisation can contribute half the start up capital and they (students) can fundraise the rest. They want to use their spare time to clean homes, fumigate, garden and other related activities; to utilise their time and energy plus make extra income. It was quite humbling.
I invited all of them to our annual football fundraiser #5AsideUG slated for March 10th. I was worried about it because they have to ‘earn’ their days off and there will be alcohol sold at the event. I asked the administration to weigh the pros and cons then get back to me.
Cathy sent me a message a couple of days ago. The students are looking to put together a football team and contribute. I explained that my invitation meant that they attend at no cost. She said they knew that and wanted to contribute the little they could regardless. *Sniff*
I hope they can make it, if only to have some fun, a connection with the real world and bear witness that dreams do come true.