Proverbs 22:6King James Version (KJV)
6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
I have a collection of Injili songs on my PC that I will play for hours on end on random days. Not the hip urban gospel, but rather the more traditional ‘Songs of Praise’ styles, the likes of Ev. Anastacia Karanja. Now, whenever I go out after these sessions, I have noticed some neighbors throw me that ‘Is your mother visiting, because no other way could you be playing such’ look.
But The Rose does not even know where I live. I just have it in me to like these songs, from tene.
In the year of Our Lord 2001, I was quickly getting sucked into the ways of Catholicsm. Not that The Man Beater would have loved it that way, but I was in a Catholic school and they were hell, or is it heaven-bent on instilling in us the ways of Hail Mary. (Back then we used to call her Holy Mary)
And that is how I found myself in the St. Mary’s school choir. We would dance all the way from the back of the church to the altar every time mass was taking a different turn- from the priest’s entrance to offertory to the sermon and communion. You should know what I am talking about if you have witnessed Catholic mass.
Suffice to say that I sucked at every single thing we did on that aisle. That I was a funny looking kid did not make things any better. Now, I have never been a fan of pique clothing, and my folks never made any better effort in that department.
So you can picture me, a small malnourished-looking boy in tiny faded shorts and an oversized, overstretched sweater with big, funny dusty shoes to boot. Cap that with a pair of socks that packed at least a tonne of dust on the white stripe from playing football on a grassless pitch even when we had a one-minute break and you have the full picture of me. Those socks also had a tendency of sinking into my shoes with every step I took, by the way.
Now picture that boy dancing to ‘Shukrani zetu Baba/ Muumba bingu nan chi/ pokeaaa’ and you will understand why the girls from the neighbouring Sacred Heart primary and secondary were always dying of laughter whenever I took to that dance floor. I have never taken a walk longer than from the back to the front of Consolata Mission Church, Kyeni. And I have taken some long walks in my life, mind you.
And they were bad, those girls. Their way of mockery consisted of thunderous clapping at the end of the dance, but I am The Man Beater’s son; I learnt sarcasm early. Also, that took a big hit on my self-confidence, but I took it in my stride. After all, I could always hide in the crowd.
Until one day when the nun in charge of co-ordinating mass picked me to sing the Responsorial Psalm. Alone. In front of everyone….three schools of not less than eight classes each, their teachers and the priest who always occupied that throne in an oh-so-god manner.
From the moment I was picked on Tuesday- mass was on Thursday morning- to the end of that mass, I did not breathe. The one breath I took at the thought of the reality of the matter at hand settled in my bony chest and my flabby belly and turned to ice. Practice did not help.
Thursday. I said to the good nun, “Teacher, I don’t think I can sing, can I just read it instead?’… ‘No.’ And I knew my goose was cooked. But a real man is measured by where he stands in times of crisis, aye? So when crisis struck, I stood at the altar of The Lord.
But then my voice deserted me, kabisa. Its place was taken by vision, because when I opened my mouth, I saw thousands of people. I saw deep within their minds and hearts and saw that they knew that I would flop and that my mind and voice box were returning a ‘no audio data’ error.
When I tried to say “Responsorial psalm, and the response is….” The priest himself had to come check if my mic was well set. No sound, just air! “Relax,” the priest whispered.
And so you believe that there is a God in the high heavens, I somehow managed to pull something through. It may have been a croak or a squeal, but the God of Shadrack, Meshack and AbedMboya- and Daniel- sent His angels to close the mouths of the audience that would have laughed at me. They ended up pitying me instead, and were as glad as I was when it all ended.
I still don’t understand how I did not collapse on that altar. Mambo ya Mungu hayo.
As if I was not having a bad enough day, the priest, when he took to the sermon, used me as an example of how you can overcome anything with resilience and confidence. He even told me to stand up and walked around with me- his hand on my shoulder like God’s – as he served the word.
All the while, my blood never moved an inch in my veins. It just sat still, freezing and melting in quick alternation.
But Jehovah is a mighty God, he made everyone forget that episode, for it was never mentioned again after that day; not even in the many mchongoano sessions I fell victim to. And you will also forget about it when you finish reading.
To God be the Glory, Great things He has done.
Do you remember this priest dancing during Pope Francis’ visit to Kenya? Of course yo do! Re-live!