Christmas is again upon us and people around the world are busy with their preparations to welcome the festive season in style and glamour! Christmas is a time for family reunions, for family bonding, renewing friendships, exchanging gifts and going on holidays.
Parties have become a big part of Christmas celebrations. There are parties in the office, community organizations, among friends and business associates. It is almost impossible to turn away invitations thus attending parties during the Christmas season has become a social obligation. While parties are fine, the essence of the Christmas celebration, family reunions, somehow gets lost in all the excitement.
So, let us ponder on one simple question; when was the last time you rang home?
Home, is not a destination for many; it may be where our parents live and to some, home is where you trust the toilet seat. But when was the last time you visited or made a phone call home to check on your family members?
Recently, I was standing by our local bus terminus waiting for the rain to subside and catch a bus home. My attention was struck by this old lady hawking fruits. Plums. Red Plums.
What struck me was… why on earth was this lady, who was arguably over 80years old, hawking fruits in Nairobi CBD instead of be tucked away at home basking in her pension?
With so many thoughts crossing my mind simultaneously, the lady quickly walks to me and addresses me in native local dialect; kamba. I quickly cut her short in swahili to signal I didn’t understand what she was saying.
Her swahili was impressive for her age. She explained to me that she was selling red plums and prunes: world healthiest fruits packed in small neat packages. Each package was going for 20 shillings.
At first, my mind was racing where she got such fresh plums since google tells me they only do well in high altitude. Kenya plums are round, red and small — looking to a European rather like over sized cherries — and have a sweet, but tart flavor. Plums are one of the rare Kenyan fruit which are highly seasonal — blink twice, and they are gone until next year.
We picked up a conversation and she was very open and yet candid. She told me the fruits are ferried from Limuru, about 21miles away, every morning and she has to roam around the CBD under the scorching sun to at least make a sale. She further disclosed that on this particular day, she had only sold three pieces with only 60 shillings to show for it. By the time we were having this conversation, it was 5.19pm.
My instincts were still disturbed so I became inquisitive. I asked her if she had any child, or children, who ought to be taking care of her. Her face instantly changed and the cheerful smile she was wearing turned into a sorrowful and an irked one. After mumbling something in her local dialect, she disclosed to me that her four children had abandoned her in the village over 10 years ago, after securing stable careers in the city. For 10 years, she had never laid eyes on either of them nor heard from them; even a phone call. The closest she had ever come to one of her children, is through her neighbor’s son who says her second born is an online sensation.
My heart sunk seeing her eyes turn moist. Why would anyone abandon their parent at the village, travel to the city and live life largely whereas your mother struggles to afford basic commodities?
A closer look at her revealed an exhausted woman living on the blink of despair and depression… but the pawns of hunger couldn’t let her be. She had to do something to fend for herself as her children lead successful lives in the city. Her old shoes were full of mud, signaling that she had walked a long distance. Her skin was frail and her lips were dry. She had not taken any meal by then. Maybe even for days.
I don’t even like plums but I felt obliged to buy them. At least she was not begging for money. She had got something to sell. I reached for my wallet and dished out a thousand shillings’ note and gave it to her “Shika hii nunua unga na sukari mama”… (take this and go buy maize flour and sugar, mother)
She hesitated to take the money. I wasn’t even interested in taking the plums. I insisted. She took it, tied it in her handkerchief as a knot, then spat on her chest (a sign of blessings in the African tradition)
I couldn’t help but think about the old lady all evening. Neither could I help think about the children.
Here you are. Educated and settled. Good job. Good health. Stable. You can even afford some luxury. Imagine the amount of money you splash over “entertainment” over the weekend yet your parent/s , or guardian/s, are in the village. Destitute. Desperate for you. You don’t ring them. You don’t visit them. You don’t want to associate yourself with them.
It cannot be underscored enough that life is short and fragile. Some of us live as if we are immortal. Few of us will be prepared for the exit, even fewer of us will have reached our utmost potential by the time we die.
Think about it. Would you be satisfied with your life if you learnt that by this time tomorrow, your family will be planning your funeral?
This festive season, whatever you are doing, wherever you are. Stop everything and call home. At least let them feel that sense of identity. You owe it to them.
Tell them how you love them because it might be your last chance.
Written By; Steve Maina – Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central