Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Sunday, 11 August 2013

It is not where you is where you finish.

There is an African saying which can literally be translated as: 'where you are born, may not be where you are bred'. An equivalent that comes to mind and is more American: 'where one starts is not one's destiny.' A man who works as the janitor and environmental officer for a sports stadium in our neighborhood had on one of those T-shirts emblazoned with the words: It is not where you is where you finish. I approached him during an intermission before one of the teams playing soccer resumed.

I approached him and told him that saying on his T-shirt was a loaded statement. I read it out loud and he said ‘true that’. I waited for him to explain further but he was clearly busy cleaning and picking all those strewn plastic bottles. That gave me time to think. I also over heard a medical team ruminating over the very saying. I was seating next to the medical camp tent.  I decided to write something short about it. I got out my note book and drafted my short essay. I decided it would be around my personal journey and throw in a spiritual quote or two.

I came to USA from the trappings of a near middle-class to a refugee who had to start from zero. I did join university to read further.  I also enrolled in a volunteer program to help other immigrants to assimilate in USA life. One of the reasons why I was at the stadium was to give morale boost to members of our program who were also part of the international soccer and cultural exchange event organized annually by this city where I live.

In order to look at this statement I had to approach it from how I spend my days. I chose to look at 3 important days in my life. The days are: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Yesterday gives us lessons and prizes. Today gives us responsibilities and tasks. Tomorrow gives us expectations and hope. It is important to deliberate on today’s responsibilities and tasks. These are the ones used to gauge or weigh us. It is these that build into the final measure expected of us. It is these that build the bigger picture.  So, what I engage in today makes up the things expected of me.  This is what fulfills me and in turn it is how I may fulfill others.  It is how I come into other peoples’ lives or them into mine. 

Jesus talked in length about us ‘minding our today’ zealously. There are many Gospel passages in which His disciples show us this. The Lord’s Prayer is one such example. I do choose Luke 12: 22-40. In this long passage we meet Jesus talking about readiness, responsibility and dependability.  We all have small tasks to do today; we may not be owners of big factories or industries. We may not be citizens in USA yet we are living within the USA borders as immigrants, aliens, or on a visitor's visa, or asylum seekers. We may actually be left in charge and on behalf of a richer well placed owner. Our task is to do the will of the owner and be accountable accordingly. The owner my ask of us to conduct ourselves as law abiding peaceful persons or any other positive task. That is the task of today. Today may repeat itself tomorrow and tomorrow it becomes yesterday. We need to learn to link the days seamlessly. We need to engage in our tasks to completion. That is what we shall be measured for. That will be our finish point. We have to uphold mindfulness, an attitude to be positive, vigilant and readiness to produce results. That will give us a good finish. We may have started haltingly as inexperienced persons but we need to finish as experienced competent persons. I now know, if I left Africa and came to USA and am so raw now, I need to work so hard to navigate through. I should not feel sorry for myself. I need to use the opportunities here to be a far better person. It is possible and it will be. One day, I shall be able to say that my life in USA changed me and made me look deeper into my strengths and use the strengths to make me a better person. I want to be a scientist, philanthropist, naturalist and writer.

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