I remember in Mchinji when I was young I had this other friend. For purposes of this short narration, I will call this friend “Nzanga”.
Nzanga and I were almost of the same age, and were in the same class at school. We also went to the same church. Of course, we had some glaring differences, especially in physical make. For instance, in contrast to me, Nzanga was a bit darker, and taller, with very white teeth and somehow red lips. At a glance, he was an exhibition of black, red and white haphazardly mixed. Of Course we never joked about his looks as he came from a rich family by our village standards. His father had a well-stocked grocery shop and a big farming land. In fact, Nzanga had the luxury of the kind of opulence that is normally farfetched for many children in a location like ours. It was through Nzanga’s privileged life that I came to know of a Brick Game. It was a source of amusement to me and many others when he first brought it into our circle after his father had bought it for him.
As a Catholic, serving mass was every boy’s dream and as soon as you passed through the Eucharist sacrament, you made it a point to join mass servers boys’ group. Nzanga and I joined at the same time. However, as time went by, Nzanga was constantly being selected to serve all the good masses while most of us the opportunities were few and far between – usually limited to the ordinary masses.
Curious and frustrated as we were, there was nothing we could do about it. Besides, there was a rumour going around in the village that his father gave favours to the chairman to ensure that his son continues to get the juicier deals that even included the opportunities to escort Priest to outstations.
My father did not really subscribe to anything that puts a man on his knees so church was never to his thing. He strongly believed that good things only come if work hard and smart for them. Knowing him, I could not even contemplate asking him to pull some strings for me. Besides, my father was not as well-to-do as Nzanga’s.
But I wanted so much to be getting the privileges Nzanga was getting, and I knew I had to do it on my own. That is when I realized we had plenty of guavas at our farm.
The chairman was an older boy who attended the same school as me. To gain his favours, I started bringing him lots of guavas at school. It helped because he noticed me. He started to love me, and it was not long before the good masses started coming my way too. As expected, Nzanga was not amused. He wondered why all of a sudden I had started getting favours like he did so he got closer to me to understand what was going on.
One afternoon, Nzanga came to our house with the Brick Game and lots of biscuits. As I played the game and ate the biscuits, he started asking some questions, albeit in a clever way. I knew no betrayal then, and being a friend who let me play his game and eat his biscuits, I told him I was giving the chairman guavas at school. We laughed about it and later in the evening, he left, promising to meet at church the following day. We had both been both chosen to go to outstation.
The following day, Sunday, my mother prepared me for church fully aware of the program. She dressed me so nicely to suit the occasion. Unlike my father, my mother loved church, just like she does now. A very devoted Catholic woman, she is.
At church, I directly made my way to Sacristy (where a priest and the boys dress up for mass), when I got there, everyone seemed to be laughing at me and true to my observation, the chairman came in, shouting at me, accusing me of telling people that he was giving me favours because I was giving him guavas. “I select you because you are punctual and always available not because of your guavas,” he roared at me, in full view of all the eyes in the room, which at this point were peering at me with utmost derision.
“You are suspended for a month! ”
In the one corner, Nzanga’s face was wearing a smile so wide you would think Christmas had come early. Here was the person I thought was my friend, but had just orchestrated this downfall.
In shame, I quickly left the premises and told my mother that I was sick.
From that day on, I always apply caution when people are interested in what I do, how I do it and who I do it with. There are a lot of you who have lost opportunities because you talked to people you should not have talked to. There are some of you who have people willing to give you opportunities but are afraid because you can keep calm about it. Be careful what you share with people because not many of them are asking you from a place of good intentions.
I know most of you think the greatest lesson is that of betrayal, but my most cherished lessons are:
1. While the guava strategy made the Chairman to notice me and give me the opportunity, it was my competence that kept the opportunity. Certain encounters only open the door, the rest is up to you to prove your value. If you cant prove yourself, the door closes.
2. Don’t put people who give you opportunities at a corner to explain themselves when you find yourself in avoidable trouble. The Chairman was put at a corner and had to defend himself. It was equally embarrassing for him too.
This, ladies and gentlemen is my guava lesson that I had when I was 10 years old.
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