I don’t write about politics on this blog because I do not consider myself a politician. I have often confessed that my future is public service. Some people confuse that with politics so I’m asked if I want to run for public office. I did want that in a past life. I have always been interested in how our country is governed because I know that my life is meant to unfold in this great nation. That concern increased when I got into my 40s. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities to serve so far. Despite the long hours, being paid with parking and mandazis not to mention the siasa that comes with public office, it has been rewarding using the position to positively impact people’s lives and communities.
I even applied for my first job last year and yes it was in government. I didn’t get it but it was a bold statement of where I want to spend my energies. John F Kennedy challenged the American people to contribute in some way to the public good. His famous quote could well be applied to Kenyans too. “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country’’. I’m currently enjoying the public service space I am in and looking forward to other opportunities in the future. Meanwhile, I continue preparing and positioning myself the best way I know how. My friend and mentor, Mike Eldon reminded me that public service doesn’t necessarily mean the public sector. I like that twist because it doesn’t limit me to serving in government only. Maybe that’s a good thing because I think I’m a better worker than I am a politician.
This week we laid to rest two men who have influenced the path this nation has taken. Simeon Nyachae and Yusuf Haji both with distinguished careers in public service that span the three regimes independent Kenya has had so far. They passed on at the prime age of over eighty years. As I read the path their lives and careers took It felt like they had accomplished so much compared to the years they lived. It is like the more we do with our lives the more time shrinks. The dailies documented their journeys well and one could easily think these senior citizens lived in those biblical ages of a hundred and twenty years or more. Maybe this are the modern-day father Abrahams he he.
Of course, public office has its trappings and like most of us, they had their shortcomings and made some poor (or unpopular) decisions along the way. We will not throw stones here because to some degree we all live in glass houses. It was clear from their life stories that their contribution to this nation far outweighed what they took from it. Their eulogies consist of one achievement after another. Success begets success. Life seems to offer you more opportunities when you show what you’re made of. Tony Robbins put it well when he said, “people who succeed have momentum. The more they succeed the more they want to succeed, and the more they find a way to succeed.”
Consistency in their private and public worlds was also evident. Simeon Nyachaes’s children and work colleagues spoke of how he was a strict disciplinarian and that influenced how they turned out. The same was said of Yusuf haji. The benefits of consistency in how we do life at home and work are clear from the lives of these two gentlemen. Mzee Haji’s courage and bold leadership is seen in his sons, Noordin Haji, Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecution, and his brother Abdi Yusuf Haji, for his heroic actions during the Westgate mall terrorist attack in 2013. I’m sure Mzee Haji died a proud father to such outstanding sons. They (Nyachae and Haji) both held themselves to high standards and expected nothing less of their colleagues and family. That’s worth emulating.
If my baby sharks can grow into such courageous and compassionate citizens then I will have considered mummy shark and me successful. Let’s be careful how we live folks. Our kids watch more of what we do than hear what we say.
Retirement also didn’t seem to feature in these two lives either. It was forced on them by age and illness. It saddens me when I hear folks in their 50s and 60s saying they’ve retired. Yet I know of much older folks living active and fulfilling lives. Retirement should be when we breathe our last like Nyachae and Haji did this week. Haji even joined the senate when his peers were hanging their boots. That resilience must be what president Kenyatta saw when he picked him to chair the Building bridges initiative. When we retire early we deny the world the talents deposited in us by our creator and the wisdom gained over the years.
Folks, what will be your legacy? Remember the space you occupy on earth is the rent you pay for being here. Fill your space. Go flat out. Save nothing for the next life. And if you fail at least fail forward. These wazees weren’t held back by setbacks. And they were many I’m sure. They swiftly took on the next opportunity or challenge and gave it their all. They had a never-say-die attitude.
Oh, the exhibition at Enashipai last weekend went well. Got some good publicity and I loved experiencing this new space. I’m now more excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. It was definitely worth the jump.