Many of us folks in our 40s are products of the 8-4-4 system of education. I remember my teachers often repeating to us that honesty is the best policy. It was drummed into our medulla oblongata (as one Mwalimu liked saying)  that above all virtues, choose honesty. I have seen many schools with quotes extolling honesty brightly painted on their gates as the school motto. This discouraged us from cheating and even when we did we were lousy at it so we often got busted. The repercussions that followed were dire. It was assault camouflaged as discipline. We would even be punished for thinking about lying. I believed my teachers (and parents too) had supernatural powers to read our minds. I’m trying hard to instil that fear of God and parents in my baby sharks. The struggle continues. I realise though that they apologise fast and own up to their misdeeds easier than we did back in the day. I’ll credit the mzungu (British) education system for that.

I reminisce over those years in primary school and how school and parents moulded who we are today. I talk about it as those many years ago. I recently had an encounter that left me referring to my past as juzi tu. Again at the risk of sounding like a golf ambassador, this epiphany happened on the golf course. My buddy Chris and I had a game in the middle of the week. Just before we teed off I hear my name called out behind me. I turn and see this senior citizen saying hello. He looked like he was straight out of a movie with Morgan Freeman. Wearing this cool kofia, a chain around his neck and expensive stunners to match, he politely requested if he can join our game. We obliged. I have found senior citizens to be great company. Their stories are both rearview mirrors showing where we have come from and spotlights to guide us on how we should tackle the future. It’s like spending time with an examiner as he gives you leakage to pass the exam of life.

Once we got comfortable with each other I couldn’t resist asking my new friend about his life. I liked his vibe and his general demeanour made me feel his was a story I couldn’t pass. Small talk led to conversations about his childhood and how he ended up in Nairobi. I was curious how he left the village to work for a multinational yet there was no LinkedIn or Twitter back then to connect us. I assumed he was one of the few who went to Makerere university so the mzungus offered him a job after graduation. I was wrong. So then how did you get to work for Standard Bank of South Africa in the 60s? I asked perplexed. That’s when he shared how a random act set the course of his life.

This mzee was in form 4 in 1961 at some school deep in Ukambani. Since it was before Kenya’s independence, the headmaster was a mzungu. One day he was hosting his friends (fellow mzungus) for a party in the school (imagine staff room as the venue for a bash with one of the teachers as the DJ hehe). How life has changed. The headmaster and his pals had such a good time that one of his guests dropped his wallet and left it behind. They were not drinking tea. I dread to imagine what our education CS would do to a headteacher having a bash in his school, especially with booze.

My mzee friend happened to be at the scene of the party the following day, I assume probably to clean up. He came across the wallet probably stashed with British pounds sterling. To many young men, this would be manna from heaven, take the cash and disappear. He instead picked the wallet and delivered it intact to the headmaster. So surprised was the headmaster that he introduced the kijana to the owner of the wallet and even asked him (it was more like a demand) to give the young student a job. My mzee pal had no idea the owner of the wallet worked at a bank. Without hesitation, he asked the boy to report to Nairobi as soon as possible. Settling down in Nairobi is a story for another day.

That one act of honesty set in motion a chain of events that led to my new friend living a life he probably never imagined before. He went on to tell Chris and me how he evolved in his career spanning a few decades up to the point that led to his retirement which now looks like an endless vacation to me. His long life has had many defining moments but what stood out for me was finding that wallet and handing it over to the headmaster back in 1961. I couldn’t help but wonder what if he kept the wallet to himself? Or what if he never saw it? Where would he be today? Many times we shortchange our lives when we go for instant and short-lived gratification instead of taking the long boring road. Short cuts often cut short our fortunes in life. He did acknowledge though that his father was an honest man. So he just did what he knew. A classic example that our kids do what we do more than what we say. Beware those small eyes. They are hawk-eyed on us.

At the end of our round of golf, I was challenged to keep doing the right thing even when it doesn’t seem or feel right. Folks if honesty is a stock trading in the stock exchange of life I’d highly recommend we buy it. Once acquired it will yield dividends for a lifetime. And if you have picked someone’s wallet and kept it, you still can make amends. Return it. You never know what blessings you will unlock.

Now I have a vivid image of how I want to look and live when I’m 83. I’ll admit that I was envious of his position in life. Thanks, mzee for sharing your story with us. I’m glad we invited you to join our game. I feel Chris and I picked a wallet of sorts by doing that. The job must be round the corner now hehe…




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4 thoughts on “Lifetime Dividends.”

  1. Mike Eldon says:

    Lovely story, so well told!

  2. Sam says:

    Honesty is the policy and integrity is a virtue!

  3. Mwangia says:

    Always my principle, always my thought.
    Honesty will always pay back, and if not gladly I know I did the right thing.

  4. MG says:

    And the older I get, the more I see value in this truism. It’s never the big stuff like how clever or smart one is…it is the values that carry us through life.

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