Category Archives: the way i see it

Prized possessions

What is your most prized possession? Is it some earthly possession, or God? Whatever it is, if you lost it would you also lose your faith in God because the loss would really take a toll on you? In church, about two weeks ago, the priest said, “If God is not your most prized possession, then you need to pray hard.

The basis of this was a reading we had that Sunday. It was from the Gospel of Mark, where a man approached Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do to attain eternal life.

“You know the commandments”, Jesus answered him. “Do not commit adultery; do not kill; do not lie; honour your father and mother; do not covet your neighbour’s wife or property…”

“I have been following all those commandments since I was a child”, the man replied.

Jesus looked at him happily, “That is very good. Now go give out all your possessions and come follow me”.

At that, the man seemed suddenly downcast. He was a very wealthy man. The Bible doesn’t expressly indicate whether the man agreed to give out his wealth, but his expression could give someone a hint.

“It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven”, Jesus told His disciples. Furthermore, he told them that anyone who gave up his family and possessions to follow Him would attain eternal life.

That reading might be very discouraging to many people, especially those who are so attached to their material possessions…and most of us are. Pretence aside, I would love to be so wealthy, therefore personally I find the thought of being poor awfully discouraging. It’s even worse for someone who is already wealthy to lose their wealth because being poor really sucks.

Growing up, my family and I have found ourselves in situations where food was barely available, so we’d go hungry for long periods. Funny thing about that is, it was never for lack of money that we slept hungry; but it was because for reasons I’ll never be able to comprehend, dad never prioritized our food.

He’d uncaringly spend his money on beer and his own food, which he ate out. So while we were crying because of how hungry we felt, dad was coming home full, drunk and in a foul mood that had him raising hell on us the entire night.

I have never doubted mom’s love for my sisters and I. She’s the one person I know who has single-handedly sacrificed so much so we could be where we are today. When we were starving and she couldn’t feed us because she wasn’t working at the time, I saw how dejected she was. So while I’m all for going to heaven, I also know it’s very difficult to function on an empty stomach… or to just survive without basic needs. It is hard!

Hunger and poverty are the primary reasons some people from very humble backgrounds get into all sorts of unimaginable evils, because man’s inherent instinct is that of survival. While in reality there are people who commit crimes purely for the basis of satisfying their own selfish interests, I also know there are some people, with good intentions, who do wrong things out of desperation for themselves or their loved ones; for instance, a jobless parent who steals money to take their sick child to hospital. While this is still wrong, it is also not hard to understand what drove them to commit such transgressions.

In light of this, I wouldn’t imagine Jesus was condemning possession of wealth. The way I see it, He was condemning the acquisition and hoarding of so much wealth when there are others suffering. I usually imagine how beautiful the world would be if the haves would benevolently donate just a small percentage of their wealth to those who don’t have.

Every time I come across a child or person living on the streets, my heart breaks. It feels especially distressing when there’s nothing I can do to alleviate their suffering. I imagine this is what Jesus was trying to address.

Given how the world works, there will always be people who have, and those who don’t have. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that all affluent people will go to hell while the pecuniary ones happily walk through heaven’s golden gates.

It’s all about our intentions, which God is already privy to. All we need to do is follow the precepts of Christ, and be humble and kind. This is the surest way to go to heaven. After all, the two greatest commandments are to love God above all else, and to love one another. That’s how we go to heaven. It’s not simple, but it’s not impossible to accomplish either.

Advertisements

If wishes were horses… Part 2

Seeing dad bail on my big sis in a heartbeat reminded me of this very cool dad I met during my judicial attachment two years ago. He was the second witness in a civil case, where his daughter had been the victim of a hit-and-run. Since they were claiming damages, the defendant’s counsel was trying to prove to the court how the expenses cited under special damages had not been necessary.

One of the items in contention was a wheelchair, where the man had purchased one for his daughter after seeing how she was struggling to walk with crutches. The defence argued that the wheelchair had not been prescribed by the doctor and therefore wasn’t necessary; furthermore, they argued that, it had really been needless for him to hire a nurse and three personal tutors for his daughter.

I don’ know if my better judgement was clouded by the tender loving care this man seemed to have for his daughter, but I was of the opinion everything he got her was a necessity. The accident had her physically incapacitated for a year and because of that she missed a whole year of school. The way I see it, any loving parent would incur all those costs and more for their child, whether it was prescribed by a doctor or not.

“I do not need a doctor to tell me what to do for my daughter”, he argued unapologetically. “I’m a parent, and it’s my duty to ensure my daughter has her needs taken care of”. My heart melted. There I was, all grown up, but wishing I could have had such a dad. A dad who would always make my sisters and I feel loved and protected.

All through, dad has always made us feel like he got us accidentally. I always doubt he was ever ready to become a parent. Looking back at the things he’s done, I usually feel he’s never had what it takes to be a dad. For instance, when each of my sisters and I turned thirteen, he started regarding us with so much suspicion, always insinuating we were sleeping around.

Funny thing is we’d never given him any reason to think of us that way. Consequently, we stopped bringing male friends home because then he would erroneously assume those were the ones warming our beds.

Even in his constant drunken rumblings, he expressed his disappointment that we didn’t get knocked up before finishing school, as that would be the surest way for him to kick us out, so he wouldn’t have to put up with us anymore. Given a choice, I’m pretty sure he would have opted to not have us.

In addition to this, he’s always said he wouldn’t want us back in his house once we’re married…and seeing as he’s never been a loving husband to mom, we’ve always been afraid of getting married because if God-forbid we ended up with someone like him, we’d end up feeling trapped again, and for good this time.

Based on this sad life dad has subjected us to, I hate to think there are people out there leading miserable lives because they don’t know who their parents are. Sometimes I usually imagine, if I didn’t know who my dad was, I would be living a very troubled life, thinking how better my life had been if I knew him.

Well here’s the thing, sometimes our parents might turn out to be a huge disappointment, and a far cry from what we imagine they might be like. Take it from me. My dad’s always been around when my sisters and I were growing up, but he was never the kind, loving dad we hoped he would be.

I have this friend who lost her dad when she was around nine, and she told me she usually feels their lives would have been better if he hadn’t passed on. I remember feeling like she was looking at the grass on the other side and thinking it was greener. Sometimes it is…but sometimes it’s not. I guess if wishes were horses I’d have a loving dad…

If wishes were horses… Part 1

Sometimes my life makes me question the way things work…for instance, I have this friend who’s been raised by a single mom. Though I never tried prying, I put one and one and together and I sort of figured out how she ended up ‘fatherless’. Her mom’s a staunch Catholic, and her dad’s Muslim. Given that I almost got into a relationship with this Muslim guy I really liked, I understood why such a relationship would be laden with insurmountable hurdles…

Given the nature of both faiths, it would take huge sacrifices by both parties for the relationship to work. Then there’s the pressure from family, where they come with impossible demands, like for children to be raised in their faith and not the other… it could be an impossible relationship. Long and short of it is, my friend ended up without so much as a surname.

Though she normally wears short dresses and skirts, she occasionally dons hijabs, especially during Ramadan. It’s actually one of those instances that had me probing into her wardrobe. Then she went on to explain to me that though she was raised Catholic, she feels more Muslim; and true to that, though her names are Christian, her signature is a Muslim name. The first time I saw it I presumed that would have been her surname had her parents ended up married.

Interestingly, it’s her story that discouraged me from ending up with my Muslim sweetheart. Though at the time we were very close, slowly it dawned on me that in the long run things would get very complex… one of the basic differences in our faiths that posed a challenge from start was that in Islam marriage is a contract, whereas in Catholic it’s a sacrament, where two people are joined together till death.

Additionally, there are other sacraments like baptism, where it’s highly advisable for infants to be baptised, to rid them off of the original sin. So I found myself constantly wondering how we would resolve all the challenges arising from our different faiths if we ended up together… our children would be the ones to bear the brunt because they would be caught up right in the middle.

Then I thought of my friend; she could have been the fruit of a very strong love, but somehow she was caught in the middle, where I get the feeling she really yearns to have a present father in her life. I’m not sure I made the right decision, but I didn’t want to subject my children to all that.

My friend is one of the many people I know who grew up ‘fatherless’ and who seem to feel their lives would have turned out much better if their fathers had stuck around. However, knowing my dad and the life I’ve lived, I would beg to differ with her. Sometimes even when a parent sticks around, it’s not always a guarantee they’ll do good by their kids.

With my sisters and I for instance, we did grow up with our father, but I wouldn’t know where to start if I was to enumerate the pain and anguish he’s put us through.  Earlier today, he got into a heated exchange with my big sis. Thing is, when our small sis was opening school he gave her incomplete school fee, so my big sis made an arrangement with the school to have the money paid in instalments.

However, given how my dad’s mind works we could not tell him the money could be paid in parts because that would make him slack off next time since there would be no pressure to pay. Since she is a research assistant in her Alma Mater, she therefore told him she had a lecturer from her school loan her the money to clear the balance and dad agreed he was going to pay it back.

However, given that he was supposed to pay up today, he said he didn’t have the money. Distraught, my sis told him she was going to get in trouble with her lecturer, and the words that left dad’s mouth had me wishing I had a better dad. “Tell him you don’t have the money. He can have even go ahead and call the police on you”, he barked pitilessly. And I found myself wondering what kind of a father wished for their daughter to get arrested.

Interestingly, when he was arrested last December for drunk driving he was very quick to call mom so she could go bail him out. Then, he was so afraid of being locked up, yet today he didn’t seem to have any issue getting my sister arrested. I genuinely felt let down, because for some unfortunate reason, whenever dad has to come through for us; to act as a loving, protective father, he bails in a heartbeat; without the slightest hesitation.

War, a dream thief: Part 2

The fourth interviewee was a youthful rapper. He explained to the two boys reporting what rap is, since they had never heard of it before. Rolling his jumper’s sleeves up, he explained that someone should be free and at ease. When they got the drift, he asked them if they wanted to join in and he taught them a few lines.

Much later in the interview, the rapper performed, joined by the boys, a young girl, who was also a reporter and another young man who sung the chorus. The lyrics were sad because they talked about how no one would pay attention to the music with the ongoing war. Their background only accentuated their plight. They were standing in what seemed to be the remains of what was once a huge building before it collapsed; and, one could barely see the floor beneath them as it was all covered by debris. It was an ominous scene.

The two boys visited a children’s ward in a nearby hospital. If it weren’t for the fact that the wounded occupants of the beds were manifestly young, the first impression one got was that the patients were soldiers who’d been injured during battle.

One patient was a young boy. He explained to the two young brothers that he’d undergone 13 surgeries: 11 to reconstruct his arm and 2 on his thigh. When asked whether he was afraid of airstrikes, he reflexively bended his knees, bringing them up to his chest. He said he was so scared of them that every time he heard them he would cover his ears with his hands. It’s not so hard to understand why he was so petrified… he lost his brother in one of the attacks.

Another boy showed an extensive scar right across the middle of his head, explaining that a flying shard cut him so he had to be stitched up. The scar left a hairless patch on his head. Right next to him was a girl crouched on her wheel chair. She couldn’t walk because her leg was in a cast. Furthermore, she stretched her hand, revealing a missing finger. My heart ached…

As I looked at those children, all I could see was helplessness… how callous the world could be. These were fledgling human beings, who had so much potential… but all their dreams seemed to be going up in smoke… they were not even assured of seeing the next minute, with the constant airstrikes.

The boys’ next stop was a refugee camp. People there were living in very unsanitary conditions after being left homeless by the airstrikes. The children there were not even going to school. It was horrible. Bad as the situation was in Yemen generally, the two brothers realised they were living in much better conditions because they still had a home.

A four year old girl was the last interviewee. She was seated on a swing that was suspended on a tree branch. She was alone, looking so forlorn, which is not typical of a child who’s out playing. The two young brothers were in the company of a girl, who I imagined couldn’t be older than ten. She carried a big beige teddy bear under her arm.

When they got to the little girl, the older girl gave her the teddy bear, just to pep her up. Her interview tugged at my heart strings most. When asked where she lived, she pointed her finger toward the direction of a pile of rubble. Every one of her family members had been killed in the missile attack.

Hidden War in Yemen

She took the three reporters to the debris, showing them what were once her mom’s clothes and cooking pots. One got the feeling she was still trying to comprehend what had happened. Though she was not crying, she seemed robotic, which was very ‘unchildlike’… the war had done that to her.

When asked whether she had anyone to play with, she shook her head, saying she had been waiting for her little brother to grow up. She explained his baby brother had also been killed. The reporters, curious to know how she had survived, she explained to them that she had been out there on the same swing when the missile hit their house. That’s how she narrowly escaped.

She further explained that before her dad died, she heard him calling out, “Nadia”. That was her mom. After everything had calmed down, she went to check what had happened and she saw her mom’s hand dangling from the debris. I was moved to tears.

This four year old girl had, in her very short life, been through what most people only see in horror movies. Her uncle had taken her in… however, after such a traumatic ordeal, I can almost bet life will never be the same for her, no matter how much love and comfort her uncle affords her.

In my very humble opinion, no person, leave alone a child, should have to go through such a traumatic experience, especially taking into consideration that the situation could be avoided. The war in Yemen is not a natural disaster that cannot be prevented.

Most of us take peace for granted. We go to bed at night and wake up to the beautiful sound of birds chirping… however, what I saw in that documentary made me realise that peace is a blessing. The people in Yemen barely sleep, and when they do, they are woken up by deafening explosions. Some never make it out of their houses alive…

When I’m feeling down, the hope of achieving my dreams keeps me psyched up and I get the strength to push on. So it was heart-wrenching to see so many dreams go up in smoke… people were not feeling motivated enough to do things that made them happy, because just as the satirical writer said, it was impossible to be happy when they were surrounded by death.

War, a dream thief: Part 1

Children should be given the space to grow; and playing is a huge part of that. Additionally, as they grow up, they should be encouraged to dream; because truth is, a child can be anything they set their hearts and minds on. This is what every child requires… an environment where their dreams are nurtured.

But imagine this: a world where a child is happily riding on his bike, and as he enjoys the cool breeze on his face, a missile hits a nearby building, sending shards of glasses into the air. Some shards fly right into his head, injuring him severely.

In pain and panicking, the child cycles back home, trying to save dear life. He’s almost out of breath…When he gets back home, he finds a pile of debris where their beautiful home once stood. Death is in the air… Horror-struck, he jumps off his bike rushing towards the rubble… hoping to find at least a family member… but as he slowly realises, when the house caved in, it came down on everyone who was inside, killing them all. He’s all alone now, in the big scary world…

Sounds horrifying, right? Well there’s this documentary I watched on Deutcshe Welle News last week. It was highlighting the plight of civilians in Yemen, and their experiences were harrowing. It had me thinking, most of the time we take peace for granted…

In the documentary, the reporters were two young boys, possibly around the ages of ten and seven. They were interviewing some people, asking them if they wanted to send a video message to the European Union, to request them to help avert the war in Yemen.

War in yemen

The first interviewee was a woman, branded “Miss War”. When asked about the origin of her name, she explained that there’s usually a photo of her where she’s carrying a bundle of firewood on her head, holding it in place with one hand. In the other hand she’s seen holding a yellow water jerrycan. She depicted the resilience of the Yemeni woman.

The second interviewee was a satirical writer, who said he doesn’t write anymore because it is hard to make jokes when people are surrounded by death. His young son, who seemed six or seven joined him. The two young reporters asked him if he was afraid of the constant bombings, and he said he was not afraid anymore, explaining that where they used to live before was far much worse. So now he’s sort of used to it.

The dad explained further that he has a bike, which he rides even when there are ongoing bomb blasts. Whilst admiring the boy’s courage, I couldn’t help pitying him; he’s gotten accustomed to the feeling of imminent death, that could rob him of his family and everything else he holds dear; including his own life.

That reminded me how much I hated watching news when I was a child, because they brought stories of various places ravaged by war… and that was just too much grief for my fragile mind to absorb. Sadly, these children were living in the actual war, their surroundings, so macabre… and they couldn’t escape it…

In his video message to the EU, the satirical writer was filmed dribbling a football. He said that in Yemen there are good people who’ve been caught up in the war and who are losing their lives every day. Furthermore, he said that Yemen is made up of three things: people, earth and history… But with the ongoing war, it’s losing all of the three and if the war doesn’t cease, there will be nothing left.

The person taking the video panned their surrounding; there were many collapsed buildings around them, plus there was this massive hole on one part of the tarmacked road. The scene seemed like it was cut from an Avengers movie, where the city’s destroyed after a gruelling battle between the superheroes and an almost invincible villain of the piece.

The satirical writer further said that Yemen needed theatres and stadiums. These to him were uniting factors, where people could come together and have fun instead of turning against each other. Asked, by the two young reporters what the cause of the war was, he said no one knew exactly. Even the attackers did not know why they were slaying people.

The third interviewee was a female painter. Most of her paintings were images of the bombings and their casualties. One of them was an eleven year old girl. She was lying on the ground, dead. The painter explained to the two boys that the young girl was heading to school, where she had an exam at eight, when a missile hit a nearby building. Some flying shard hit her, injuring her fatally.

My heart bled for that young girl… maybe she was nervous about having to sit an exam, but at the back of her head, she was encouraged by the thought that she was edging closer to achieving her dreams… she could have been anything she wanted to be…but just like that, her life was ended prematurely. And worst part is, the one who fired that missile might never even know what they did… they killed an innocent child…to them, she’ll just be part of the huge, unidentified collateral damage.

 

Of finishing law school and dreaded goodbyes: Part 2

That evening I teared up all the way home. When my small sis opened the door she noticed how puffy my eyes were. “Did someone hurt you?” She turned my face sideways, scrutinizing it for slap marks or something of the sort. “I’m gonna cut a b*@!h,” she cursed. She was too concerned I might have gotten hurt to notice what I was carrying. Then I laughed, and she relaxed a bit.

Stealthily, I placed the gift bag on the nearest couch and thankfully, she headed to the kitchen to check on the food. A while later, my big sis came and I told them what had happened. By then the tears had stopped, though I could tell it wouldn’t take much for them to start again, since that sluice-gate had been officially opened.

Their reactions when they saw my portrait were not so different from mine. Though they didn’t cry, I could tell they were as moved as I was. “You have amazing classmates,” my big sis remarked. “Now we forgive them, for everything they put you through”.

Like I had told my classmates earlier, being nice is a choice we constantly make, even when we find ourselves pushed to the corner. Serving my class for four years had not been an easy task. Sometimes I had to deal with malevolent lecturers, and sometimes, it was just some difficult colleagues giving me a hard time…sometimes I came so close to throwing in the towel… and my family was there to see me through the motions.

One of the gifts I received was a custom made ‘thank you’ card. It had thank you notes from several colleagues and as I read the sweet messages, the tears that were already welling up in my eyes started flowing again. My class had made me feel so appreciated on such a grand scale… and the feeling was inexplicable.

I’ve gifted people severally, and I know how much time and effort it takes to find the perfect gift. One has to understand someone’s tastes, and preferences… and my classmates did that for me. That thought made me feel like I’d never stop crying.

“We gave you that portrait, so that everytime you look at it, you’ll remember how awesome you are,” my friend who had organised the surprise had told me. I knew I would never be able to thank them enough… and that saying about family, ‘Family’s not always blood. It’s the people in your life who make you feel loved and cherished’, came to mind… from law school, I had also acquired a new family. I went there, not knowing anyone, except for one friend, who was the school’s student leader… and as I left, I knew hundreds of students, who were now my family. I sincerely felt blessed.

The last few classes before we went to sit our final exams felt like our last bonding moments, and I couldn’t help the wave of nostalgia that engulfed me. I’ve always hated goodbyes… and after the surprise my classmates had treated me to, I knew when the time finally came, I would have the hardest of times saying goodbye to these people who I’d spent the last four years of my life with. Thankfully I had exams to keep my mind preoccupied, so I never got much time to think about the looming goodbye.

Eventually, we sat our last paper, but before we did, guys were reminded to hang around for a while because we were going to have a cake fest. Our professor, whose paper we had last, was invited and as he was about to cut the cake, he requested that I join him and my co-rep. Guys clapped and cheered, and as they dug in, that sad feeling that this would be the last time we were gathered in one class together hit me…

There was so much cake, and on a normal day I would have had a ball eating to my fill; however, nostalgia capped my appetite… I just had a tiny piece. Eventually, my friends and I left… on my way back home, I knew I should be happy that I had finished ‘the’ law school.

The workload over the years had been intense. I didn’t have a social life, and almost all my Christmases I spent reading… so this was an achievement to triumph over… Nonetheless, my feelings seemed to suggest the contrary. I felt happy and sad… excited and anxious… and the ‘not so happy’ feelings felt dominant.

The morning after, didn’t feel any different. I was still feeling pretty nostalgic. When I checked my phone, I found a very sweet text from my co-rep. He has never been the mushy type, so getting such a text from him, wasn’t an ordinary occurrence. He was thanking me for always having his back… his sentiments tugged at my heartstrings and I got all mushy. But I wasn’t gonna cry again… I cautioned myself.

When I checked my email, I found another sentimental mail from this classmate who was very quiet and laidback. He was also thanking me for making their life in law school simpler…before I could talk myself out of tearing up, tears were already flowing down my cheeks. That is how Saturday ended… with my classmates calling, texting and sending mail to thank me for being the best class president ever.

One thing I told one of my friends when he texted me was that, it’s true what they say, ‘Kindness begets kindness’. Therefore, if my classmates felt I was so humble and kind, it’s because they had been kind to me. I simply gave back, what they gave me.

So now that I’m done with Law school, I thank God profoundly, for the four years I’ve been there. Other than the legal knowledge I’ve acquired, I’ve made friends… acquired a whole new family… and above all, I have learned first-hand, the value of kindness and humility…

5th Blog Anniversary

A couple of days ago, I woke up with this funny feeling that I had forgotten something important. However, much as I tried to remember, nothing of significance came to my mind. I figured it was something about a special date; so I started a simple elimination process: my small sister’s birthday – check; mother’s day – check…

I looked at the date to see if I had forgotten a friend’s birthday, and still… nothing. Frustrated, I stopped trying. I reckoned if it was something important it would come to me eventually. I was right in deed. Some minutes later, it dawned on me; my blog’s 5th anniversary had just gone by, unacknowledged. I felt guilty for forgetting such an important thing.

Granted, I’ve been so busy with school work now that I’m literally counting weeks before I finish law school. Nonetheless, I still faulted myself for forgetting it. So now, about two weeks since my blog’s anniversary (8th May), I thought it’s better late than never. Therefore, today, I celebrate this blog’s 5th anniversary.

And what better way to do it than to celebrate every single person, who in one way or another, has helped keep this blog alive. I thank you all for always stopping by to read my posts. I am immensely grateful for your patience and understanding… especially when  I take ages to reply to your comments. It’s never intentional really. In all honesty, I usually feel so bad about it but when I’m so tied up with pressing deadlines, I find myself without much of an option.

This blog wouldn’t have survived this long without you all. I am profoundly grateful. I celebrate you all today. Thank you!

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my dear friend Melinda. We met on this vast blogosphere and she’s really encouraged and inspired me on a very personal note. She’s been through so much in life and somehow, I draw strength from her resilience. God bless you so much M!

So as I celebrate another milestone in my life, I say THANK YOU! Memoirs of aly (the way I see it) wouldn’t be alive today without you all. I send you all so many warm hugs.

Happy blogging!