I am blessed to work in an environment that allows me to travel across the country every so often. But this blessing has slowly turned into a burden. Every time I visit the remote parts of this country, I am reminded of the things that I so often take for granted.
If you live in the capital city, it is possible that just like me, one of your greatest concerns is how to beat traffic every morning and evening. So we have developed predictable times that we have to live our houses in the morning and our offices in the evening and if the is altered in the slightest way we know the consequences; our day is “spoilt”.
In the city, some of us are happy with our careers, our relationships and our status in the community. Most of us are still trying to get there and this then becomes a reason not to sleep well at night. We stay up in our comfortable beds thinking and planning our next move. How we will make that sale and make that commission, how we will “turn the other way” and make some money or how we will change jobs to get better perks.
Slowly but surely, we get caught up in looking out for number one; ourselves. We fight to get to the top at whatever cost and we keep fighting to stay there. We are in a race against ourselves and against imaginary competitors. For some, it a personality trait; that’s just who they are;competitors. For others, it’s all we know to do to survive. So far it has been very rewarding for some but for most of us, it has left us broke, bruised and broken.
The problem with this kind of life is that we never know when to stop and celebrate our achievements. We are always going after the next big thing, the next big contract and the next big job only to find out that there is another bigger thing, another bigger contract and another bigger job. We keep going, not seeing that with every win, we are losing something else.
For some, its our health, while for others its our families, our friendships and other things that we once considered valuable. Soon, we find ourselves successful but alone, leaders with no followers, shepherds with no flock and fathers without homes. For most of us, its impossible to go back to living the simple satisfying lives we once did. We have created an image, a brand, a façade that we are not willing trade for anything else.
I believe in success, but not at the expense of family. I believe in success, but not at the expense of my own health. What is wealth if it makes you a stranger to your own children and spouse? What is wealth if in its pursuit, you burn out, your body shuts down and money cannot fix that? Success too, has its rules and parameters.
Every time I visit the remote places of our beautiful country, my mind and everything that I have learnt “in the city” achieved over the years is “reset”. I meet people who are genuinely happy yet they dont have much. Families that are more content regardless of the different difficult situations they are in. They are always willing to share the little they have with anyone else even strangers.
They live simple lives; no extravagance. Everyone seems to know what they need to do. When the sons get home from school, they first take the cows to drink water at a nearby river before going home to milk them. The daughters will fetch water and help their mums cook and clean. The fathers will make sure there is food on the table. Nobody needs to be told what they need to do; everyone knows their role and they are happy to do it.
Sadly, there is another side to this story; I have been to places where young girls carry the scars of rape and in most cases by close relatives. I have seen graves of young men who have either died from getting involved with gangs drugs or harmful cultural practices. Homes have been burnt down due to community conflicts. Women and children have been left to fend and protect themselves as men look for greener pastures for their animals.
I have seen young children carrying more water containers to school than they do books. I have seen desperation make parent force their children to leave school to go and prostitute themselves to foreigners in clubs and at the beach. I have seen a family of 13 children live in a mud house the size of your six by six bed.
I have seen a man wail as he narrates how his goats, the only life he knows starved to death. I have seen a boy’s face literally light up by giving him a bottle of drinking water. I have seen fathers, old fathers beg for half a bottle of drinking water. And to think how many times we flush our toilets with clean water. How many times we leave our taps dripping for days, how we watch rain water flow into sewers. For us, on a bad day we have water rationing for a few hours .For these communities, they go for months even years without seeing clean water.
There is nothing as sobering as seeing how other people make a living with so little. When you see these communities, you want more hospitals with better equipment and personnel. More schools with more teachers and more police stations with better equipped police officers. You want public servants that actually sit at their workstations and serve. You want justice to be upheld. You want children to grow up in a better environment and parents to see fruit of their labour. You want to see change and you want it now!
In light of the issues these communities deal with everyday, your problems become a luxury. Nothing is ever the same again.
Your own expectations and those of your leaders change. Every now and then, all you want is a better country. It frustrates you when you see leaders failing their citizens and citizens failing to hold themselves or their leaders accountable.
That is all you want. A little change.