As siblings called him dad, pops or buda depending on the dictates of the situation. His office colleagues called him Sir James. Sir Jim was a strong choleric with a towering intellect. He taught us that nothing comes to you except by hard work. You could get passed him with very few things, but the one that could never pass was laziness. I am glad he folded in me the principles of hard work, diligence and self-reliance early in life. They have taken me to the top of my career.
Mr. Akhwale was not my ideal father figure. He was not a personable man, but what he said made a lot of sense to others in the office. I thought it was because he was among the oldest employees in the firm and knew a thing or two about football. But he did have a heart for a young man who had just landed in the accounts section on his first job like a lost puppy in cell with Vikings. After observing, my meek existence in the hostile environment where everyone spent everything they earned, he came up to my desk one day and pushed a set of forms in front of my face and said “fill these”. I had no care of what the forms were about. I just wanted him away from my space. I left the company two years later with $150. The money saved for me by the cooperative. If Mr. Akhwale had not given me those forms I would have left with absolutely nothing! My financial father taught me that it is a good thing to have a job, but it more important to prosper from your work. Since then I religiously reinvest 20% of my earnings and create wealth for myself and family.
My grandfather Enoch, was born of the soil. We didn’t talk much because we did not speak the same language and lived in different times. We hardly met even though we were related. But after I dug his grave, graduated from college and took up my first teaching post, I began my own journey into the world. Later I came to realize the meaning of his last words to me – wherever you go and whatever you do never forget God. A spiritual father is really a misnomer, but in the crisis of life and if you will remain sane, I would rather you had one. Every time I come to the end of reason I go one step higher.
Then there was Sande. In him a mighty man you will not see. At least not a celebrity. But to him all that mattered was that I be sincere even if I was sincerely wrong. As a youth I needed someone to believe in me for me. That was important to me then. He taught me to hold on to my dreams, admit my failings but rise up with integrity to be all that I could be. He taught me never to lose faith. For without faith no man can be. Everyone needs a mentor.
Mwangura was as unique as they come. When I met him 20 years after I departed from his classroom he not only recognized me but called me by name and asked after my brother. A classroom is nowhere to meet a father, but he abruptly settled me into the math class and forever framed my paradigm of success. He never rewarded us for being the best in class. The only competition you will face in life is to better yourself. To earn his respect, you had to do better in the next test.
My sixth father was a white man. Hawkins did not know me except for what I presented on a paper CV. But after he interviewed me in the parking lot he made me the manager of his business and promptly left for Europe. To this day I don’t understand why anyone would do such a thing, but that meeting established my lifelong career. I am still feeding off the challenge he placed before me. He said to me- you are stepping out of a Jumbo jet and boarding a biplane; there will be turbulents. Life has taught me that both planes fly. Do it anyway!
My seventh father MacMillan is a man who would gain nothing from standing with me or speaking for me. He believes I have something to offer the world has yet to see. I am still looking. No, this is not a happy father’s day message. It is about my fathers whose impact on me is still working on me 50 years on. To be a father is a special thing. To be a father is; to give a name, to bear the blame, to seek out, to draw out, to challenge, to mentor, to teach, to be strong and stand with the weak. It is to take a risk, to believe and be a bridge to another man’s future and make an eternal difference by touching a life where it matters. Munroe never knew my name, but he had a heart for the third world. By him I expanded my mission to Africa. Another father passed on this year. Dodman did not do anything special. But always did what needed to be done when it needed to be done. He was reliable. I want to be that when I am done. Be a father to someone.