Love Vessels

When I wrote this post, I had no idea a huge curveball was hurtling towards me. This was on Saturday 13th March. Come Monday, I took my first-ever Covid-19 test after an exposure in the workplace. Since going back to the office in January (after many months of remote working), I have been extremely careful, following all MOH guidelines and I was sure the test would be negative, and this was just a formal exercise to tick the box. Shock on me!

The following day, I received an email that changed a lot of things. POSITIVE, the report screamed at me! I read it several times to be sure I was not misinterpreting negative for positive. It didn’t help that the laboratory sent ten other emails with the same report, which of course I had to open to read just in case they had realised their mistake and were resending the “correct” results (Lancet Laboratories, I have a bone to pick with you)!

My medical history places me at the center of those most vulnerable to Covid-19, comorbidities, they are called. You can therefore imagine my worry, despite the fact that I had no symptoms whatsoever. But the objective I had set for myself in that post – to write on this blog, everyday, for the next two weeks – provided just the right opportunity for an escape. I had time to reflect on many things, which gave me content for the daily blog posts. I thank God for His grace and mercy that have followed me through those days; remaining asymptomatic throughout! Twelve days later, here I am writing the tenth of the ten posts I committed to. I am glad, I did not let the Covid-19 positive result curveball knock me out, and by God’s help I was able to optimise on the opportunity it presented.

I empathise with many people who have not been as lucky and have had to endure serious illness, even death, from Covid-19 infections. My prayer is that God heals our land from the coronavirus. May we find physical, psychological and spiritual healing that we so desperately need. Most importantly, may you and I be conduits for delivering this healing. The calls and messages I received from family and friends while in isolation kept me going. To know that someone cares and are concerned for my wellbeing was a soothing balm to the soul. I intend to pay it forward. The best we can do however, is to follow the MOH guidelines. Many of us are unknowingly moving around with the virus. You could be asymptomatic but if you do not mask up, you risk infecting someone who may not be as lucky as you are. Show some love for your neighbor and mask up. Properly, I might add.

Following today’s lockdown announcement in five counties, life is about to get harder for many people. If you are in a position to help someone, please do. Businesses that had not fully revived will be further affected. Incomes for many households will continue to dwindle. If coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that life is fleeting.

Live not as though there were a thousand years ahead of you. Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

As long as you have breath in your body, do not take this beautiful gift called life for granted. We spend so much time feeling sorry for ourselves, being selfish, crying over little things, that sometimes we forget what we have isn’t permanent. We forget what we have been blessed with and how quickly it can be taken away. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. What good is holding onto material things? What good is putting off what can be done today for tomorrow? What good is holding grudges? Nothing will last forever. Except the feelings we spread and the love we give. Our time on earth is limited – make every second count. Do not be afraid to become love in action. Be a vessel of love.

Let’s share some love!

Kirk Franklin’s My World Needs You has been on my mind today.

Every heart in the world, God, needs you to rescue
Storms have come and torn our hearts in two
We need you
!

Potent Love

I was watching the Lost and Found musical-drama series with my daughter today and the words “potent love” from a song the young musicians on the show were practicing caught my attention. I had to google the lyrics of the song later but that’s besides the point. According to the dictionary, potent means something or someone with great power, authority or effect on another. It is about wielding force, authority, or influence, none of which denotes an active, positive experience for the recipient. That’s very different from my understanding of what love is. Potent Love? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Then President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania died. Okay, he died yesterday or even before that according to some sources, but his death was breaking news today. A lot has been said about him. How he started off as the kind of leader Africa needed. For a region bedeviled with major corruption scandals, we applauded his no-nonsense stance on corruption. We cheered when he ordered civil servants to earn their keep. We whispered “bless you” when he cancelled extravagant public spending. We ululated when he told off foreign investors who wanted to have the upper hand in Tanzania’s development agenda. For the better part of his first term, it appeared the light had shone brighter on our neighbors with President Magufuli carrying high the beacon of hope.

Lord Acton once wrote: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.” By the end of his first term, there was noise from our neighbors of crackdown on dissenting voices and curtailed media freedom. And who can forget his stance on not allowing teenage mothers back into mainstream education? His re-election in 2020 amid claims of fraud and intimidation had us shaking our heads as the all-too-familiar narrative was retold.

But his poor handling of the Corona virus pandemic will unfortunately, be what the late president will be most remembered for. The world may never know the actual Covid-19 statistics in Tanzania; as Magufuli made sure the country remained an outlier, having declared it Covid-19 free way back in June 2020. He called Corona virus a devil (which I agree it is), but to say it cannot survive in the body of Christ; that it would burn instantly, was idiosyncratic.

Or was it potent love? Love that turned a blind eye to what was best for his countrymen. Love that could not accept anyone else’s opinion. Love that had to have its way. Love that killed. Love that is the opposite of the best definition of love there is:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

May President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli R.I.P. My Tanzanian brothers and sisters, we join you in mourning a great son of Africa.

There’s something eerie about these lyrics…

I like who I like
No matter what you say
I say be real or die
You’re nothin’ if you’re fake

I don’t sugar-coat it
They love me or they hate me
Yeah well, my folks
They done tried
But they can’t even save me

They say the ground’s waiting for me
But I got a good heart, they don’t know me
I get away with too much
Running out of my luck
But I’m just living off of no fear, no hate

Potent love (pour it, pour it up)
Potent love (pour it, pour it up)
Potent love (pour it, pour it up)
Potent love (pour it, pour it up).

The Year of the Corona part 1

Gather around children I tell you a story.

The year was 2020. It started off on a very high note. The beginning of a new decade. “Twendi-twendi” we called it. The entire world was upbeat and the new year celebrations were up several notches compared to previous years.

As we celebrated, we were oblivious to the strange happenings in a Chinese city called Wuhan. You see, on New Year’s eve, the Chinese authorities reported a mysterious disease that started in some wet market in Wuhan.

“What’s a wet market?”

My dear, I cannot remember what exactly it is but the place probably rains a lot. What I know is that they sold all sorts of animals there. You find an animal you’d like to use to try out a new recipe, you point at it. They slaughter it live-live, put it in a bag and you take it home to cook as you wish. It could be a dog, a snake, bats or even rats.

“Ewwww…a snake?”

“But Grandma, rats are ok to eat, aren’t they? Mama cooked some last week. They were delish!”

My dear children, back then we did not eat rats. Some guy started telling people to eat them instead of starving and we ran him out of town! How could he? Just because he was rich and could afford edible meats was no reason to condemn others to eat rats! The nerve of him!

Now where was I?

“You were telling us about the wet market.”

Oh yes! They were strange, the Chinese people. Still are…Do you know they called 2020 the Year of the Rat? Imagine that! A rat? I still cannot see anything good about rats! Tell your mama to have none of that stuff in the house when I come to visit!

Rats and bats and snakes were getting cut up and served on dinner tables in Wuhan while we continued with party after party oblivious of the storm that was coming our way. Many of us had never heard of Wuhan anyway. So January came and went.

“Grandma, did you celebrate your birthday that year?”

You clever boy! You remembered Shosh’s birthday is in January! Yes, we had a great party! In fact, I remember it was your mum who organized it. It was a surprise. Even your great-grandma was there.

“Shosh, you said party after party. How many parties did you have?” 

Oh! It was just the one. But there was a song that some guy sang and it became a hit after the governor was arrested partying and dancing to it when he should have been hiding. Will you let me finish the story?

By the beginning of February, we were hearing more and more about Corona and COVID-19. But it was still far off in China and we thought there was no way it would get to us. We heard they closed off the city of Wuhan and were using robots to deliver food to people in their houses. They had also built a large hospital in just ten days where the corona virus patients were being treated! The Chinese people maybe strange but they are also very clever! Did you know they are the ones that build the railway line that runs from Mombasa to Kampala? And that road to Thika. And the one that loops over Westlands. Oh! I think they built all the major roads you see today. The sad thing is that we are still paying for those roads. You will pay for those roads. As will your children. And their children…

Anyway, I’ll tell you something else. Even back then in 2020, Kenyans had travelled and lived all over the world. It was therefore not a surprise to learn there were Kenyans living in Wuhan. Maybe they are the ones who taught your mama to cook those damn rats! We heard they were locked up there and were begging to be allowed to come back home. We prayed and prayed for them and begged the government to bring them home. And home they came! Not just from Wuhan but from other countries too. You see, that’s why I always tell you home is best. Wherever you go, always remember home is where your Shosh is!

“Shosh, I will always come to visit you!”

“Me too!”

I know. I know. Just don’t go to Wuhan. They might lock you up in your small apartment and then we can only communicate on those gadgets of yours!

Anyway, because people were still travelling from one country to another, Corona travelled with them. Many countries started reporting increasing COVID-19 cases. Some countries were overwhelmed and the hospitals could not cope. Corona was declared an emergency of international concern on 30 January and soon it was being called a pandemic, which meant it had spread all over the world. On 13 March, the first case was confirmed here in Kenya. It was a young lady who had come from the USA.

“Where cousin Ava lives?”

Yes. That’s the one. Two days later, they were three, then seven, then fifteen cases. The numbers kept rising each day and by April Fool’s day, which no-one remembered to fool about, there were 81 cases! Three people had also died from the disease. It was a somber time. Everyone was scared. You didn’t know who had the disease and who did not. We were told anybody could gerrit!

“Shosh, last year on April Fool’s day when Ava came to visit, she froze my phone with a spooky screen that really freaked me out!”  

I remember. It is because you are always staring at that thing. It is not good for your eyes. If you don’t want to have my kind of eyes when you are still young, you need stop looking at it all the time.

Back to the year of the Corona, we were told to wash our hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer to stop the spread of the virus. People had to be taught all over again how to cover their noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing. Touching the eyes, the nose, or mouth was a sure way to get the virus. This was very hard for many people who like to pick their nose or cut their finger nails using their teeth. But the worst was yet to come.

Soon, we were using terms such as social distancing to avoid close contact with other people. You couldn’t hug people or shake their hands. In the supermarket, tapes were used to mark out where a shopper could stand and only a limited number of shoppers were allowed at any given time. Going anywhere was discouraged and people were to stay home as much as possible. People started buying things in bulk to keep for themselves. There was a shortage of tissues and sanitizers!

“Tissues? How come?”

I have no idea. Maybe they thought since they would be home most of the time, they would overeat and need to use the toilet more often!

“Hahahaha…!” 

Then came the curfews and lockdowns. Everyone had to be home by 5pm! Only essential service providers were exempt. And before you ask who those are, your Shosh was not one of them. I stayed home. To flatten the Corona virus curve even as my tummy curve elevated. For more than two months, I could not visit your great-grandma in the village. She was all alone and very sad. And scared. We all were.

Did I tell you schools were closed indefinitely? Oh yes! Children stayed at home for almost one year. I remember your aunt was in her final year of high school. No-one knew when they would ever go back and sit for the final exam. The guy in charge of the education ministry kept changing his mind as the Covid-19 cases increased. Some time in August that year, there was hope as the cases started to decline. He said schools could open in September. Then boom! They started rising again. And he said maybe January the following year, then October, then January again! It was all so confusing. Some students started misbehaving because they were bored and had nothing to do. Some got babies.

“They got married?”

“You are funny. You don’t have to get married to have a baby. Shosh, tell him!”

That’s it! I’ll finish the Corona story another day. You mama comes tomorrow to pick you up. Remember to ask her about when is the right time to have a baby. For now, you need to get ready for bed. Go on to the bathroom and brush your teeth. Remember to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, do not touch your face ovyo-ovyo and for goodness’ sake, cough into the crook of your elbow!

Goodnight!

MS Transnight

I’m not sure transnight is a proper English word, given the annoying red wavy lines dotting this article as I type. There’s transsexual, transgender, transatlantic, transcultural, but transnight? However, if we take the prefix trans – meaning “across” or “beyond”, then transnight claims its rightful place in the Cambridge English Dictionary. Plus, the word has been used so many times in my circles that it has acquired a meaning that needs no explanation. Yet, for the avoidance of doubt, it’s what some people, especially high school and college students, do when they spend an entire term or semester doing everything other than what they are supposed to do. Sooner rather than later, they realise exams are around the corner and that tomorrow is indeed today. To make up for lost time, they visit the library, or wherever the books and notes are to be found, even stealing from those who attended lectures and actually took notes. They collect whatever resources are available, and determine to read the entire night in preparation of the exam two days away. For the more daring ones, a basin of cold water comes in handy. With feet dipped in the cold water, in the wee hours of the night, not even the devil himself would make such a person doze off! It’s Strategy 101 – Trans-nighting: How to master last-minute study!

On my part, I was the model student – never had to transnight. For the most part, I attended my classes without fail, took notes, did assignments, revised throughout the semester and was ready when the exams were announced. Yes, I was Ms Goody Two-Shoes! Honestly though, I learn best by listening and hearing, remembering things the teacher said, how they said them, including what was emphasized. Class instruction makes up for a lot of what my memory retains. Apparently, there’s a name for such learners – auditory learners they are called! I wonder whether this has any correlation with the fact that I ended up as an auditor? Anyway, I was never an all-nighter or trans-nighter. My high school experience favored me and got me onto a path that appreciates the importance of a good night’s sleep.

Back at St Anne’s Secondary School, the nuns of the Precious Blood Sisters order who ran the institution, had a strict timeline for lights out. 9.45 pm it was for everyone – no exception even for the candidate class. The lights went out and the Matron made sure everyone was in their bunk bed. Until the following morning at 5.30 am – and not a minute earlier. At least seven hours of sleep, which in case you didn’t know, research shows helps you focus better; protects and strengthens your memory; and reduces interference from external events, thus better memory retention. I couldn’t have been in better hands during those teenage years for I sure loved my sleep. The number of times I got into tiffs with my mother during the holidays for oversleeping are just too many to count. Let’s just say I strongly believe being able to oversleep is undeniably a blessing!

In campus, the time organisation strategy continued and worked well most of the times. Away from the discipline and order of the Catholic nuns, I still managed to maintain many of the values they instilled –  perhaps the most important being respect for other people’s time and their work. Therefore, I attended lectures faithfully at a time when the pull for other non-academic related matters was at it’s strongest. I literally lived the Ecclesiastical Teacher’s mantra – To Everything There Is a Season. Including sleep…

With the exception of a short period in my life when certain medications made me an insomniac, and I had to take further medication to help me sleep, I have always been able to sleep like a baby. Until COVID-19 happened. My pre-Corona sleep routine was pretty solid. Sleep at 10 pm, wake up at 5 am on week-days. Sleep between 11 pm and midnight, wake up at 8 am on weekends, unless there was a function necessitating an earlier rise. But ever since this quarantine started, I have lost track of what a routine looks or feels like. I tried the first days. Woke up, did some stretches, breakfast, got ready to start a day at my home office. That must have worked for three days max!

The problem started with staying up late, watching a movie, reading a book or even writing a post on this very blog. After all, I do not have to wake up early. This meant sleeping in the next day, which culminated on the day I woke up at mid-day! You wake up feeling disoriented. There’s someone talking too loudly and despite the advantage of dark, heavy curtains, there’s still some light desperately trying to slip through! You are hungry and when you finally drag yourself out of bed, you are not sure whether you should have breakfast or lunch. The irregularity of it all has also messed up my brain – some days I cannot tell which day it is and worse still, sleep when it comes, is very fragmented.

Productivity is also impacted. Which is how I found myself working non-stop on a report that I should have completed days earlier a week ago. I had found time to do so many other peripheral things but work on that report. Now it was due and trans-nighting was the only way out! I sat at my desk from 8 pm and when I finally rose, it was 6 am! An experience that had me moving around zombie-style for the next couple of days! Sleep debt or sleep deficit is real – made worse by all the other quarantine effects that disrupt sleep.

Which makes me wonder about the disconnect between intentions and actions. We often have the deepest, best intentions, which is why many of us make New Year resolutions and other wonderful plans. You resolve to lose weight and get in shape only for the couch to gain greater appeal that is beyond irresistible. You plan to reduce your debt levels and save more money, but the trials and temptations on the internet with its targeted adverts is more than you can overcome. You plan on stressing less, then COVID-19 happens! Ok, that last one isn’t due to your actions but still…I do not make New Year resolutions but 2020 was going to be my cruise year. Google MS Symphony of the Seas and just agree with me that this pandemic is a real dream-killer! But I digress…the point I was trying to make is that we resort back to old behavior even when we still hold the best of intentions. Why is there a huge gap between our intentions and actions? Is it our human nature to want to hold off for later the work that needs to be completed now?

Somebody suggested the answer lies in a single word – tomorrow. Yet, the irony is that there’s really no tomorrow. In many cases, tomorrow is just a mental dumping ground for the things we would rather not deal with today. For the student, he/she would rather go out today with friends and transnight tomorrow. And as I have learnt, there are so many interesting things to do than get a report done. Instead of boarding MS Symphony of the Seas, I am boarding MS Transnight, which is why this post that I started yesterday is being published today past 2 am! I just hope I’ll disembark when COVID-19 and it’s quarantine cousins find another universe to inhabit. As Poet Kahlil Gibran once pointed out, “Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is but today’s dream”. I will remember my transnight days but dream of a world free of COVID-19!

 

Over The Rainbow

In many cultures of the world, the rainbow signifies hope. It is a promise of better times, the dawn after a dark, weary night. The quiet after the storm. Growing up, I knew the legend of the pot of gold that lay where the rainbow touched the ground. The only misfortune being that no-one seemed to have reached there! Still, we celebrated the appearance of the rainbow and as little children, that was just the sign we needed to get out and continue with play!

In the Bible, the rainbow is first mentioned in the events following Noah’s flood in Genesis chapter 9. God gave us the rainbow as a promise that He would never destroy the earth with floods again. He said, “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13). The rainbow is thus a reminder of God’s promise and faithfulness.

COVID-19 is perhaps the toughest challenge many of us will deal with in our lifetime. When we are told to brace for tough times ahead, it is difficult to imagine what that might look like. Someone has said that a pandemic is like an oil tanker – it continues to move forward long after you hit the brakes! If we are to believe this and the reports that we are only in the first wave of many waves of infections and that a vaccine is only likely sometime in 2021, COVID-19 is indeed a huge storm!

With systems of work, education, finance, religion and domestic lives slowly grinding to a halt, it is foolhardy to not expect every aspect of our lives being affected. It’s predicted there will be high levels of emotional distress, violence and food insecurity the world over, not forgetting increased number of orphans and vulnerable groups as the disease hits hardest the main bread winners.

In the midst of this gloom, it is difficult to see beyond and picture a rainbow. China, being the source of this virus and the first to record a return to near normal after lock down is definitely not painting a rosy picture, particularly when it comes to the treatment of Africans living there (this we shall revisit)! But in all honesty, will we ever be able to socialise and interact as before or will this virus forever redefine our interactions via technology?

Yet, the human spirit is resilient. It combines hope, will, perseverance and strength even when we cannot clearly see the path we’re on. When confronted with what William James famously called “a blooming buzzing confusion”, humans rally their inner strength and somehow organize the chaos into a reasonably stable and meaningful state.

The “chase the rainbow” initiative that is believed to have started in Italy, which has been severely affected by COVID-19 is just one of many ways even children are showing resilience in the face of the pandemic. Across Europe and other parts of the world, children and their families are painting and drawing multicolored displays along with messages of hope. Social media is also abuzz with messages of hope. I particularly like one I received that said: “When this ends, may we find that we have become more like the people we wanted to be, we were called to be, we hoped to be. And may we stay that way – better for each other because of the worst.”

People are already seeing beyond the COVID-19 clouds and over the rainbow. Something better is coming our way. Yes, it is difficult to understand how and when, but we can rest assured that there’s a rainbow after this storm.

Over the Rainbow is a powerful song that has sound-tracked history since it was written for the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. It offers hope and consolation to people in extreme circumstances. It helps envision a place where there isn’t any trouble (or at least less trouble). A place just over the rainbow. Many artists have covered the song but my favorite remains the original Judy Garland’s version. You can listen to it here: Somewhere over the rainbow

When all the world
Is a hopeless jumble
And the raindrops tumble all around
Heaven opens a magic lane
When all the clouds darken up the skyway
There’s a rainbow highway to be found
Leading from your window pane
To a place behind the sun just a step beyond the rain
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
And the dreams that you dream of
Dreams really do come true
Someday, I wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where you’ll find me

 

The Quintessential Leader

What would Jesus do if he walked the earth today like he did over 2000 years ago?

That question came to me as I listened to Queen Elizabeth II address the UK amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It occurred to me I have never heard her speak (don’t ask under which rock I’ve been living!), but most importantly, her message of hope was just what, not only the British, but the entire world needs!

Some of her statements brought tears to my eyes (don’t mind me, I am tearing up very easily nowadays). “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”

“We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us.”

Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.

This is despite the fact that her son and heir to the throne, 71-year-old Prince Charles has been reported to have the COVID-19 disease; and the government is adrift with the hospitalisation of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

There have been other stories of leaders stepping up and responding appropriately to the crisis. The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo’s briefings have won praise for ‘wisdom and competence’. The state of NY with over 20 million residents is hardest hit by the virus and the governor’s own brother has not been spared. Back here at home, our very own Health CS, Mutahi Kagwe, has been hailed both locally and abroad for his solid crisis leadership. I am sure there are many leaders fighting this pandemic that we will never hear about, just as there are many that have retreated to the comfort and security of their mansions, suffering from paralysis of inaction.

Which takes me back to my initial question. What would Jesus do?

On 12 March 2020, just a day before the first Corona case was confirmed in the Motherland, I gave a speech at a Toastmasters meeting titled “Lessons From The Quintessential Leader”. My project had the simple objective of identifying my primary leadership style(s) and thereafter delivering a 5- to 7-minute speech to share some aspect of my leadership style or leadership styles in general. I replicate that speech below;

What’s your Leadership style? Democratic? Altruistic? Authoritative? Affiliative? Bureaucratic?

That’s the question I was supposed to answer in my Level 2 Visionary Communicator path. I was eager to discover this wholesome truth! I completed the questionnaire and the scores surprised me! My highest score was on the Democratic style and the lowest on the Bureaucratic style. I’ll tell you why this was a surprise. For one, my children would strongly disagree! Mum? Whose first answer to any request is NO?! How democratic is that? Secondly, I am an auditor by profession. I mean come on, which auditor worth their salt sits you down and tells you, “Let’s deliberate on this matter”! Aren’t they all stringent followers of the rulebook? Very bureaucratic, so to speak?

I discovered, however, that I’ve been either of these two styles and anything else in between on various occasions. I thought about the greatest leaders we are all familiar with. The likes of Martin Luther King Jnr, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Wangari Mathai etc. All these individuals have numerous leadership traits we can learn from. But what’s their specific leadership style? I opined that the most important thing is not to try and fit them in a certain box but to emulate the traits that make them great leaders.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ and to me He is the greatest of the great. Religious and spiritual beliefs aside, no one in history has been discussed more, had more songs and books written about or inspired more artwork. In a span of only three-and-a-half years, Jesus trained twelve of the most underwhelming individuals to lead His cause once He was gone. And none can deny the tremendous growth of that movement, 2000-plus years on!

I admire many leadership traits about Jesus, but I’ll tell you of only three.

First, Jesus led from the inside out. What do I mean? In his book, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell refers to Law #6, The Law of Solid Ground, which simply states that “Trust is the Foundation of Leadership.” To build trust, a leader must exhibit Competence, Connection and Character. In other words, Character makes Trust possible. And Trust makes Leadership possible. While we have no account of Jesus’s physical appearance, there is a whole lot on the content of his character. And that character was remarkable. People trusted him, and therefore they followed and continue to follow him.  Leadership truly is an inside job.

Second, Jesus was a Servant. Today we hear and read a lot about Servant Leadership but unfortunately, we see very little of it in action. In fact, there is a school of thought that servant leadership is itself an oxymoron. Yet, Jesus was the ultimate servant, willing to even wash His own disciples’ feet. He taught them, saying, “Whoever wants to be great must be a servant”.  Leadership is about others, not you.

Third, Jesus was a great story teller. Everyone loves a good story and Jesus knew the power of a good story. Storytelling is quick, powerful, natural, refreshing, collaborative, persuasive and memorable. Jesus told many stories in the form of parables and I’m sure most of you, if not all, seated here today can remember at least one parable. In leadership, storytelling is an effective tool when setting a vision, inspiring an organization, defining culture and values or explaining who you are and what you believe.

In conclusion, I still believe I am right to think leadership isn’t about this or that style, but rather the ability to adjust and be flexible enough to move within the spectrum of leadership styles as the situation calls for it. To quote John Donahoe “Leadership is a journey, not a destination. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process, not an outcome.” This means we learn and adapt as we go along. I am learning every day from the very best – the quintessential leader, Jesus Christ!

Short and sweet, if I may say so myself!

For many leaders across the world, the hour of reckoning on their leadership journey has come with the COVID-19 outbreak. It is unfamiliar territory and while no-one can be expected to have all the answers, we expect them to ask the right questions, which will in turn ensure focus on the right areas. In doing so, they must lead by example, put the interests of the people they lead before their own, as well as inspire and persuade with stories of hope amidst all the angst.

Now, can you picture Jesus here and now in the fight against COVID-19? Would He even be fighting it or would He already have rebuked it like He did the wind, thereby calming the storm? How would He respond to all the suffering brought about by this pandemic? How far would His compassion go? What stories would He tell to make us better understand what’s going on?

These questions led me to a great truth. Jesus may not be physically walking the earth but He is here, represented by His followers. For those that believe in Him, it is mine and your job to do what He would have done was He physically here. We are His hands, feet and mouthpieces. What am I doing? What are you doing? Am I and are you imitating your quintessential leader?

 

 

It Is Going To Be Okay

I have been chewing on Sherly Sandberg’s Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience And Finding Joy. It’s the kind of book you keep going back to for its nuggets of wisdom especially at such times as we are currently living in. Therein, I came across Nietzsche’s quote: He who has a WHY to live, can bear with almost any How. I have never heard about this guy with a hard-to-pronounce, kinda Russian name (note to self, google him) but that quote was profound. I have so many whys to live for, the fact that I am only halfway through my life not being the least of them. In the midst of Corona, can I find the hows to navigate this challenge?

In my last post, I confessed that I was feeling rudderless. Lost. Sad even. Can I get over these emotions to enable me emerge on the other side of hope, power and joy? It is not all gloom all the time, but my over-active mind often leads me to despair and forget all the lessons that have propelled me in the past. Just the other day in the month of February (seems like moons ago), I led a Toastmasters meeting themed “When Things Fall Apart”. Oh! You should have heard me quoting Pema Chodron, author of the book with the same title. I was full of it, ending with the quotable quote: The most important thing to remember and the easiest to forget is: “You’re going to be okay.”

Talk of preaching water and drinking wine! I will be quick to admit that my heart and mind are often out of sync. My heart wants to see beyond the gloom but my mind is often fixated on the numbers being spewed by CS Mutahi Kagwe, which are now bearing exponents! Not forgetting the negative messages in circulation.

I have been reading a lot lately. Getting lost in books has always been my best relaxation strategies and working from home has accorded me the much needed time to enjoy at least two books per week, as well as many online articles.

In a recent article, the Harvard Business Review interviewed David Kessler, author of Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief  on how to manage grief during the Corona pandemic. He talked about the five stages of grief. First, there’s denial, which was evident early on: This virus won’t affect us. Then comes anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. Then we switch to bargaining mode: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? Then sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed. And the sixth stage according to his new book is finding meaning. I guess the jury is still out on the meaning we shall find behind this Corona madness.

Clearly, I am hovering in the sadness stage. I don’t believe I have gone through the anger and bargaining stages but I’ve definitely been at the denial stage. Before March 13, as was the case with many Kenyans, Corona was a problem for other nations. While I was not so naive to think the virus does not affect Africans or that GOK was making a mountain out of a molehill for the millions of dollars in donor funding, it did seem to be a far-fetched problem. Even when the President announced closure of schools, I wondered why and thought the children, especially those in boarding schools were better of there! Thank God nobody asked for my opinion!

Kessler does make the point that the grief stages aren’t linear and may not happen in the order as stated above. Personally, I rarely get angry, choosing instead to avoid the situation or find other coping mechanisms. COVID-19 and its repercussions have yet to make me angry. While there is boredom and I do miss my usual activities and routine due to the quarantine measures, I don’t see myself rashing out at anyone or anything. But then again, Corona is a new phenomenon for everyone. Maybe I shouldn’t speak too soon lest this quarantine be the straw that broke the camel’s back!

Anywho, these grief stages reminded me of the SARAH model of change, which defines the stages majority of people go through as they adapt to change. They include shock, very closely related to denial. Then there’s anger (with all the changes humans must contend with, is it a wonder there are so many angry people in this world?). Next comes resistance (read bargaining), then acceptance and finally hope.

You see the pattern here? Grief and change may well be twins. As humans, we go through the same emotions when dealing with life-altering events. My employer has just come out of a huge corporate merger and many of the employees were and are still grappling with the change. Then Corona saunters in and disrupts things even further! Over and above putting faces to names of colleagues you must work with everyday, learn new systems and processes, I must also learn how to use tools like Zoom and WebEx to manage my telecommute. Not forgetting the risk of loss of livelihoods as companies cut back. I am definitely overwhelmed but not angry!

Which means I need mechanisms to build resilience and learn to live in this space at the door of acceptance and hope. Accepting and hoping that it’s going to be okay. That I will get through this. To learn to live peacefully in this tenuous space.

In an earlier book co-authored with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Kessler wrote:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

The Corona virus is mine and your opportunity to write our names on the wall of beautiful people. People who will, when this danger is passed, be described as stronger than all our fears combined. A people who will grieve their losses without forgetting to live with grace, dignity and love in every step. A people who will not lose hope but will fight the enemy of their time with all their might in order to leave a better world for future generations.

Writing this filled me with hope. That I am going to be okay. That we are going to be okay. True, there is turbulence ahead but we can weather it. Why? Because beautiful people do not just happen. They are made. Made by their resilience in times of loss, failure, sadness; from being to hell and back.

I am hopeful of a world surrounded by beautiful people. Therefore, I know it is going to be okay.

How Long?

I am bored out of my mind. Bored of waking up and strolling from one room to another and back, while avoiding the bedroom and kitchen. I am bored pretending to work remotely while I am distracted every five minutes with something else I would rather be doing. Like check my phone, check on the girls, read one more paragraph from Option B, get a cup of tea, check whether that’s a knock I heard, move those shoes from the doorway, go pee, check the fridge, make a shopping list! As you can well imagine, all these things lead me to the rooms I want to avoid. Once in the bedroom, I will find a thousand and one other things that I can do. And don’t get me started on the damage that comes from visiting the kitchen, and the fridge for that matter!

I started writing this post at 10 am, after a long hiatus since I bothered with WordPress, which I will not even attempt to explain. Then Bikozulu’s post came in. Soon after, my grocery delivery guy called, then I noticed a Toastmasters magazine, then my daughter came in requesting for help with some  Business Studies question. All this while still trying to write a report. It is 2pm as I write this second paragraph. I sure hope to finish the post before the end of day otherwise I’ll have to rewrite it!

I wish I knew this will be over next week. Or next month. Or the month after. But I don’t. In fact, nobody knows. Not the government as ably represented by the CS Mutahi Kagwi. Not the NIS, CIA, FBI, KGB or Mossad. Everyone is in quarantine. And in quarantine, it is difficulty to think sanely beyond a few hours. In quarantine, you concentrate on the here and now. How to keep yourself safe from the virus and hopefully live to see another day.

Forget what the Club Quarantine experts are saying. I have watched enough videos. Read enough articles about how to stay sane and thrive while under quarantine. It is not working. Not for me, anyway. I feel rudderless. I feel trapped. And I thought am an introvert. Quarantine should be easy, no?

I have lost my trail of thought and I am hungry given it’s past 4pm. I hope to take a neighborhood walk, Zoom in with some friends and attend an online piano class later in the evening. It is not for lack of trying but still…

How long?