The twelve-pound mass sitting between my shoulders was deep into meditation, savouring the kindness with which life had meted its normally ugly face on me. Tasting life free from its scourges of daily violence and empty pockets was something that I was greatly proud of. Having good friends, a roof over my head that I now called my home and a decent paycheck at the end of the month was not something that, even a pride-filled lunatic, would take for granted. Always appreciate the small things you have and never let success get into your head, were the words of my mother when I was barely a teen. She must have known that somehow, I would end up becoming a gem. They always know, don’t they? Half-way through my musing, a strange sensation tickled the pit of my stomach. I was happy, I thought. But not as idyllic as it appeared on the surface. Going to the glamorous locales with my friends surrounded by a bunch of hotties and dancing in a wickedness that would even leave the devil embarrassed, my life had begun to lose meaning. If anything, the sensual dances and illusion of a happiness that was non-existent led to at best, a hollowness in my heart and at worst, a pungent smell inside my pants. Absurd as it may sound, I always found myself the following day at Jesus’s feet singing songs of praise to Hosanna, thanking Him for dying for people like myself, who were consciously feeding their souls with emptiness.
I was a good boy. Didn’t drink, didn’t smoke. Classic teetotaler. In fact, I had never wrapped my head around the fact that someone would like something so bitter. The thought of being in a frenzy was enough to make alcohol and I keep a safe distance. But I have to admit that I loved women. I loved the fact that they often made me aware that I was funny and of good company. I loved their heavenly smiles and the aura that came with it. I loved that they told me that I was cute, making me end up looking like a deer caught in the glare of an intruding pair of headlights because I just didn’t know how to respond to that. Women were the only reason I accompanied my friends to those glamorous locales. Otherwise, I would have stayed at home either caught up in a web of thoughtlessness or checking what grapevine was awash in the social media sphere. The reason for me going to church was to assuage the guilt of the previous night sins. And I hated it. I hated that the glitz had me hide under a screen that led me to believe that I had life by the scruff of the neck. The awareness of my hollowness made me want to give life meaning and draw a little, if not all, satisfaction from it. So my friends and I decided that instead of going for our escapades, we would visit a children’s home, oblivious of the fact that the experiences we would get there, would be worth more than anything money could ever buy. Well, at least for me.
It was my idea. Seth never gave a hoot about charity or even children. He was the classic ladies’ man who absolutely cherished that he had the looks to sweep ladies off their feet. He’d often spit romantic verbiage and girls would be at his feet. It was almost like he had a voodoo or something. In that charm, however, lay subtle hints of a cold-hearted man. He hid his disdain for women and talked, in the hidden dungeons with the boys, of how he’d never get married or have children. He had agreed to the Children’s Home visit because I had insisted. “A weekend with some bunch of babies? Probably not something I’d do but I will anyway,” had been his response. “Tell you what Seth, sometimes you talk like you miraculously fell off from the sky,” retorted Tom. Seth wasn’t the kind to show even an ounce of empathy, and it never looked like it bothered him. Tom was the silent type who took his time to respond or even speak about something. Whatever came out of his mouth was well-calculated, probably passed through a sieve of after-thought after after-thought. It wasn’t a surprise that when he replied, uninvited, to Seth, the latter squirmed like a teenager. Tom’s two cents were always laced with wisdom. Ham, on the other hand, was the bullish type; tall, broad shoulders and a husky voice. He was the one who’d save our asses in case a fight broke out. A lemon-face from Ham would draw meekness from whoever was spoiling for a fight. The only bad thing about him was that sometimes he gobbled down his throat a bottle too much. Being huge and almost always helping out during fights had transformed him into a compassionate fella. Big-compassionate-fella didn’t have qualms about visiting some Children’s Home. “It is something that I have always want to do,” he’d said it with his own mouth.
The next weekend we were at St. Thomas Barnados Children’s Home in Langata. Immediately I set foot inside the compound, an instantaneous feeling of ingratitude crept inside my body fizzling through to the deep echelons of my soul. I realized that not everyone knew who their parents were. And that sometimes, what it takes is an act of nobility to realize just how lucky you are to have what you have. If that wasn’t going to at least fill Seth with a little empathy, nothing ever would. The atmosphere inside the compound smelt of flowers- crisp and inviting. It was almost as if saying, welcome to the awesomeness that will make you revel in the satisfaction that little kinds of compassion feeds. And boy, we fed more than a spoonful of that delicious meal.
Hanging out with the kids and playing with them drew me back to the days when we’d play as kids. The only difference was that they’d still be confined to that place where they called home while during our time, everyone would go back to their own homes. It made me wonder if the kids ever felt like the confinement was like a prison of sorts. Probably not. They were lucky to at least have had the chance to have a roof over their heads with three meals a day considering most of them had been abandoned by their parents. Why someone would consider abandoning a child is a question only those who do that would have an answer to. One of the kids came up to me and called me dad. I guess they called men who came around fathers. At that very moment, a tear fell inside my stomach (you’d never see me cry). It was angelic but emotional to hear someone call me dad. That kid hypnotized me, much like a child meeting their idol. It was weird but gratifying to get a satisfactory sensation, unlike other weekends where we’d spend money on booze and things that now looked like they mattered little. I realized that sometimes, once in a while, spending money on a worthwhile cause was greater than I could imagine.
When we were leaving later that evening, the matron decided to have a word with us. “Listen here guys, I know you are young and there is the tendency to be adventurous and what not. Chase your dreams first. Women will always be there in plenty.” We looked at one another and thought, “Mate, we’d come here to have a good time with the kids but look, we got something else as a bonus.”