The New Year (2019) morning found me jogging in Gilgil. I prefer jogging because of its flexibility. I mean I can jog for one hour or twenty minutes, I don’t pay any instructor to tell me which muscle to tone, which weight to lift and what time to start and end the exercise(s). I am my own boss. Which is also dangerous because sometimes you may not gather the strength to get out of bed, in that cold morning to go run in the woods or on the road, whichever terrain you are in. And that is how you negate on your new year resolutions farther down the year, and by December, you have gained so much weight you start adjusting your trouser buttons (any victim here?) because your clothes are pretty new and you will feel wasted if you went back to the boutique to buy bigger-waisted trousers (others call them pants). So, you look at yourself (or your photo) on Christmas Day and you feel anger boiling inside for letting yourself slide down that slippery path of getting fat deposited in the wrong places in your body over the months – your spouse may have complained (or pointed out) that your tummy was extending exponentially, which adds to the anger. The decision to change this trend depends on you by the way.
Gilgil is a township in the larger Nakuru County in Kenya. While some of us have only interacted with the single dusty street along the Nairobi-Nakuru (Nyahururu) highway, you will be shocked to learn the vastness of this township. There are areas inhabited by pastoralists, others have mansions sprouting every other day. Though many see it as a dusty piece of nowhere, the place is cool and rains twice per year. And there is plenty of (piped) water there. Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) and National Youth Service (NYS) have barracks and training camps there respectively, and you may not experience the type of thuggery like it is in Nairobi. I think its one of the few places in the country where you can set up your business without being asked for ‘protection fee’, or being threatened that it would be shut down because you have not paid goodwill of up to several millions (I still have issues with those charging goodwill arbitrarily even for new buildings which have had no previous occupancy – that is outright theft). I think it’s a nice place to retire and set up your business. The air is also very fresh for the morning or evening run/jogging.
Back to the New year. I happened to attend the morning mass at the Parish church. The congregation was eccentric, as happens when the Lord gives you the opportunity to experience His grace for another 365 or so days, even though you disappointed Him in the last year. You cared not for the sick and the homeless, you wound up your car window when you saw beggars approaching you for some coins, you neglected your parents back at home, you mistreated your juniors at work, you arm-twisted the HR to give a better bonus to your ‘girlfriend’ at work, you came home late severally and didn’t help your daughter in her homework. But God forgave you, though you still carry the guilt with you (maybe because you may have some doubts with His forgiveness and wonder if one day you will do something wrong and then He will say: “remember that on Thursday July 12th 2018 you came home drunk and emptied the stomach contents on the carpet. And by the way you never gave your promised contribution towards the purchase of the same carpet as you had promised on Wednesday 14th September 2016.”)
The presiding priest was jovial, and he gave us this story which was drummed to be the theme and guiding philosophy for this year. You may have heard this story being narrated in different forums and in different ways;
“A certain farmer had orange bushes in his farm. When they were beginning to ripen, he noted that monkeys from the nearby forest had invaded the farm. Most of the produce would go to waste if nothing was done. Efforts to chase them during the day became futile because they would wait patiently in the forest until when he returned to his farmhouse, then invade the farm. The damage for that short period was so much the farmer felt he would not break-even at the end of the season. Break-even point is a situation where you make zero profits – your expenses equal to your income to the cent. Where would he get money to pay for his son’s school fees, feed the family and save for a rainy day? These thoughts made him come up with a plan to eradicate the monkey problem.
He designed a trap and placed it on the path where the monkeys passed as they headed to the orange bushes. The following day, the monkeys noted that something was different and avoided the trap. The farmer’s son however used that path, saw the orange bait at the end of the trap and stretched his hand to get the orange. He was trapped in the process. His wailing and screaming, calling for help made his father rush to the scene. He was shocked to see his son trapped. He then shouted to the son: ‘Achilia!’ which loosely translates to ‘Let Go’. The trick of the trap was that so long as you held on to the orange, you would not succeed in releasing your hand from it. The moment you released the grip on the bait (orange), you freed your hand, you became free.”
See, the priest did not tell us what the farmer did to the monkeys eventually, though he said that they were also listening to the commands from the father and when one of them was caught by the trap, the rest told him: “Achilia” of which he let go of the bait and was free.
This should be the guiding phrase this year and beyond. To Let Go of all the hatred, jealousy, looking down upon your juniors, corruption, fraud, walking with a halo around your head, thinking that you are indispensable, pulling the ladder once you reach the top, constant nagging, and all that which makes life difficult for your fellow human being. And you will be free.