A continuation from an earlier post.
By: Rev. Fr. Derrick Eyram Senanu (Priest- In- Charge, St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Begoro, Kofuridua Diocese.)
A NEW DAY HAS COME
I arrived at the House of Mr Amevin (The man whose shoe I polished). It was a clean house without a stain on the paintings or cabinets at hidden places. Upon knocking on the door, he came out wearing a carefully ironed shirt tucked into some blue jeans trousers with blue sneakers to match.
The man’s appearance was impeccable. He gave me the impression that he employed one of the sophisticated formulas of Maths in dressing. I asked myself if he was going out that is why he looked all dressed up like that, but upon entering the house I realized almost everyone there looked all dressed up. It was for them a normal way of presenting yourself.
I looked my best with all that I have in a tattered school bag behind me. I came to see that even my best fell short of how the man expected me to look like. Though he said nothing, I could feel the words coming from his eyes towards me. Perhaps knowing where I came from, he was patient in teaching than in scolding.
Everyone welcomed me with a smile and a well-calculated handshake. Quickly, I learnt my first lesson, this house and the people in it are clean and very careful with dirt. When I was ushered a room that I was told was mine, I just knew I was not worthy of the place. Everything in there was clean and even after bathing I could still feel the room was well kept than myself.
Mr. Amevin later sent one of the servants in his house to bring me food in my room. It was a meal of life. It was like a feast for thousand people put before me alone to eat. That day ended with a feeling I have never had – This is a good place to be. I never saw Mr.Amevin until the following day.
At 4:30 am, I heard a knock on my door, I was not sure if it was real or I was hearing things that did not exist. The first day in my new house and already I am hearing voices? Well, I did not bother because I thought to myself, it was too early for anyone to be awake.
The knock came again and this time, after the knock my name was called. I woke up quickly to attend to the door only to find Mr. Amevin all dressed up just like I saw him the previous day when I arrived. My heart missed a beat. What on earth would someone be doing at my door at 4:30 am all dressed up? When did the person wake up? Where is the person going so early? Well, Mr. Amevin just asked me to follow him. As if I was under a spell, I could not find my words to ask a question or complain, I just followed. He was ready to show me around the house and of all the time he could do that he chose 4:30 am.
When I got out of my room, every other person in the house was awake and all dressed up. He first took me to an altar he had built in the house where he prays every day. Secondly, he led me to a portion of the house where he does little exercises to keep himself physically strong, then finally he took me to his library.
After showing me these places he added, with God you keep your spirit strong, with exercise you keep your body strong and with books you keep your brain strong. Finally, I had the courage to ask, but Sir why not wait until morning before showing me around.
He laughed and said it is dawn here, but it is morning in other countries, if you need to be ahead of people you must be the early bird whereby you don’t just catch the worm, you also earn the respect of the late birds. Choose therefore to operate from a different timeline. Mr. Amevin softly added some belief that every leader must have a follower, well I believe that if someone admires your way of life that person is undoubtedly your follower too.
Just when I was wondering why he was telling me this, he just said well you have started admiring me so you have become my follower and that makes me a leader. I laughed out when he said that but he quickly told me to bring my voice down and that it was still dawn, but I reminded him that it was afternoon somewhere else. At this, we all gave a big laugh.
After a few weeks of being in the house of Mr. Amevin, I came to the conclusion that this man was a great man by all standards and indeed he was God sent.
THE DAYS AFTER
He changed my name and called me Courage. He insisted that a change of name was important for a reason he promised to tell me one day. So my name was changed from Derrick to Courage.
One day, after lunch, he told me, Courage, you are no more a child. I was only 14 years old and this man was saying this to me if I am not a child what am I? I thought to myself. He explained that I am young, but not a child. Some are old but not mature, some are dead and gone but are remembered and honoured. Others too are alive, but the living thinks them dead because their life gives value to nothing.
I sighed and explained to him that I now get what he was saying. When Mr. Amevin begins to get philosophical it becomes difficult to ask him anything aside just listening and nodding. So, for the fear of breaking the ‘long-lecture,’ I just listened with the countenance with one who understood all that was being said though I didn’t get him. Eventually, he said something that I could easily relate to at the end.
He concluded on the note that whatever path you follow after the age of 12 is your personal choice and you can’t blame anyone for it. I didn’t agree but who was I to ask him a question to interfere the ‘long-lecture’. In my confusion, as if to make me angry he added more confusing statements like ‘take lessons from the life of people and use the lessons to make your own life better’. He further added that make your choices and blame no one at your failures.
I just thought to myself, is this man aware I am just 14 years old?
Instead of ending all the things he was saying, he continued and explained that do what is right by your teachers and elders for even if you think them, enemies, remember they have walked your path before. On that note, he promised to take me to school the following month. After that, he walked to his room without any further words.
Hmmm, A street boy, a mentor and father who speaks to me like we are colleagues and I understood everything. With all these going on in my mind and the thought that I would start school soon, I knew that it was time to put my heart and mind in order. It was time to prove that my life was worth the savings from the street. It was time to take what is ‘mine’ from this life because Mr. Amevin in one of his long-lectures told me life offers all of us same opportunities, while some prepare well to grasp the opportunity, others don’t prepare. They just settle for anything. He summarized this in these words. ‘If the sun is shining so bright why would you not open your windows, but choose to be in the dark and light a match stick?’
WHO WOULD BE MY FRIEND?
Love was a god I could not serve until I met Mr. Amevin. Having seen so much as a 14-year-old boy right from my village to the life I had on the streets, I thought to myself, for some of us life could never be good for us. I found strength in hatred and envy of those who have made it.
Back on the streets nothing gave tears to my eyes like the sight of a couple driving their children in their cars, these things make me wonder, but what have we done to live? Why are we paying a debt we know nothing of? I found no answer, but my guts convinced me that it was a useless quest to understand life. Be the best of what you are good at where you find yourself and leave an impression on the people you meet. With these thoughts lingering in my mind, I went to bed, saying to myself that I will fight my fears and hold on to the last bit of my hope.
Morning came, evening came and that was the 4th day in Mr. Amevin’s house.
On the 5th day, during the night of that day, I said a prayer invoking the spirit of my ancestors and my forefathers. In that prayer, I told my ancestors that if they will only wait for me to pour libation to them without helping to make my life any better, one day there would be no money to buy them a drink. While the gods remain silent in the affairs of my life, they must understand that if they do not help me succeed, the last drink is around the corner.
That night I could not sleep, I had dreams upon dreams. It was clear they were not happy with me and the content of my prayer. It was clear from the many dreams that they needed their drink at the end of the year no matter what.
When I woke up from sleep that night I put these words down to guide my own understanding of life. We gave power to The Exam Council the day we became students. We submitted our frailty to the hospital on the day we got sick. Once you decide to open a job, you must learn to understand that even the silent customer has a say in your business. No camera has the ability to capture the future to the present, nevertheless, it can give a good account of the past in the future. So it has been and perhaps forever. Life is harsh, but that is half of the reality because life is also tender but many do not live long enough to tell their whole life story.
While I was saying all these things to Eleanor, I realized she was yawning and it was time to call it a day for her. Besides, she listened to me for close to an hour without any interruption and that could be boring. While I ended what I was telling her, she told me she would come by my end to listen to the rest of the story. At that, we parted ways.
When I left Eleanor’s place I went straight to the cafeteria to get myself food to eat. For a while, the only thing I had an appetite for was my books. Anytime I joined the rest of the students for breakfast I ate well enough and carried the rest of the bread abandoned by others with me to my chop box. In the course of the day, I ate that and water. I did this often. I didn’t want any part of my textbook to be a surprise to me during exams so I had to create an “extra-time” for myself.
Coming from the streets, I knew what hunger was. It was my ability to determine the terms of how to honour my stomach that helped me save money to buy a radio and later the tools I needed to start my shoe polishing business. Just because the food was available did not mean I was about eating with both hands. I was not about to feed my tummy like I feed my brain with books. Besides, hard work ends with a, banquet and I would be crazy to feed my tummy before a banquet. Once I had something to eat, I went around saying my goodbyes to teachers who really touched my life. When I was done with that I went to thank the kitchen staff and security personnel for their contribution towards making our stay in the school peaceful.
They were surprised but honestly, I had to thank them.