Tuesday, May 31, 2011

For God and Country...

Today is memorial day and there's this story that wont give me rest until I write it. It was inspired by a 19 year old boy who wanted to become an army surgeon and died on his first assignment, the summer before he was to start college. Here goes...

Scott Smith Snr. shoveled the first bit of earth onto Scott Smith Jnr.'s coffin as the minister continued to recite a passage from the book of prayer. He wiped his sleeve over his brow as if to get rid of sweat but everybody saw it for the camouflage it was, for it was barely 30 degrees Fahrenheit and many who had been deceived by the early morning sun and had not dressed warmly were visibly shivering.

Everybody pretended not to notice, though. When an ex-marine, who had forgotten more gruesome deaths than the most ardent horror movie aficionado can see in a lifetime, cries at death, you let him be because it is a pain you can never begin to imagine.

So we all watched in deafening silence as his 6 ft 5 inches brawny frame heaved with the racking sobs he was trying rather unsuccessfully to suppress. After an uncomfortably long minute, he gave up all semblance of being in control and sat on the edge of the dug grave, thanking his stars he had not opted to be in uniform that day. 

He picked up the high school diploma that had been placed on the coffin and said... "Class valedictorian, 4.0 GPA, so many dreams, bright future ahead, today, I bury my son. And as saddened as I am that I have lost a son, what is choking my words with sobs is pride. I'm proud of the young man who did not look at all the promises and possibilities of a life spent pursuing personal gain, but was prepared to, and indeed gave it all up, for God and country. God bless you, son. And God bless America"

I promise you couldn't have picked my jaw from the ground with a heavy duty crane. To say I was stunned is the understatement of understatements. Patriotism and duty took on new meaning for me. And as someone broke into the American National anthem, I closed my eyes and began to pray... thanking God for the men and women who risk it all for God and country; so that the rest of us could have the freedom to pursue whatever dream we desire... in freedom.

My mind came home to Ghana and I thought how I never really valued the armed forces, especially since the most exposed I got to them was on my television set during the Independence Day Parade. Oh, and during UN peace keeping missions. However, the fact that today (God forbid), should our country be attacked by land, air or sea, they would place themselves in a position to die to protect the rest of us, is commendable.

So as the US remembers it's valiant fallen heroes, I'm thinking of patriotism and duty. I remember this famous quote "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" (Nathan Hale) and the anecdote about a woman who lost a husband and both sons to the war and yet when interviewed said she only regretted she did not have more sons to give to the cause of the war.  

Can you make that sacrifice, can you give up yourself or loved ones up, or God and country?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We run to fight another day...

You can run fast, run far, jump hurdles and leap over holes. However, when a fight is yours, you run to fight another day. No matter how fast you can run, life is a marathon and so you're bound to get tired along the way. And then whatever you were running from in the first place, will catch up with you, stronger and wiser from that boot camp training you took it through, running away from it. 

photo credit: www.dalje.com

My own don turn Usain Bolt o (or Dayron Robles, the guy in the picture) ! and there couldn't have been a wronger time... God dey though... Watch this place for a testimony. How is everyone's summer going?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tough love (Saying it like it is... or not)

"My friends are my "estate." Forgive me then the avarice to hoard them"  Emily Dickinson

I love my family and friends. I have a well-diversified portfolio of them. They range from those who pamper and support when necessary to those whose names can be written in the dictionary as a definition for brutal honesty, or as a synonym for tough love. I wouldn't trade any of them for all the tea in China nor all the rubies in India. And yes, one of them taught me that.

I know who to go to when I need the truth served with love, when I need love because the truth is glaring and when I just need cold, hard facts and difficult-to-give advice. There are some I love because I love the me I am when I'm with them and others I adore because they appreciate the me I am but wont settle for that and push me to become the me I could be if I gave it my all.Yes, I am blessed and hope they are too :) 

Take my little younger brother, I was talking to my mum one time and she was giving me the usual be careful of boys because they can break your heart and destroy your life talk. He walks in on us and says 'Nah, this is not fair! My sister doesn't need this unfair advantage. It's rather the boys out there who need to be warned 'Beware!'  I asked why and he said, 'look at you, who can break your heart?'  I knew he wasn't talking looks. So I said, 'I'm human o, Kwabena.' 'Nah, you're my sister' he said.

I took it to be a really sweet 'brotherly' compliment until some time later when I was caught crying by my mum. She asked me what was wrong and I said' you'll insult me if I told you' She then gave me this heartwarming speech about how as my mother anything I care about enough to make me cry was important to her to and... 'I have a broken heart' I said. She stopped in mid-sentence, shook her head and walked out of the room, resuming her search for whatever she was looking for when she discovered me weeping. I looked after her, stunned, about to ask if she no longer cared about my tears; but the tears had been shocked into stopping. Apparently, she had taken notes from my brother

When my brother came in, she told him I was crying of a broken heart in the room and that I appeared to have nothing better to do. He came in, and said 'You have a broken what?' 'It's true, Kwabena...' I started. He nodded and I took a deep breath, tears welling in my eyes at the story I was about to recount. I started to speak and realized he had his earphones in. He had been nodding to the music, not my words. 

The tears disappeared and suffice it to say that I never had a broken heart at home again. Whenever I was hurt, I'd remember my mum and brother in whose opinions no one was worth my tears and be strong. It's worked 80% of the time. After all, that saying that no one is worth your tears because anyone truly worthy of them wouldn't make you cry has some truth in it, 80% of the time in my case.

When it comes to friends, I remember telling a friend how worried I was about a project I was going to travel for and how I feared a lose-lose situation because I felt the project was going to flop and the time I was going to lose whilst at the project site would also cost me in my upcoming exam. He looked at me, seemingly unconcerned and I asked if he wasn't going to say anything. He mentioned my name and asked 'Who sent you to sign up for this project? Did you ask my opinion before taking on the responsibility? You got involved because you liked it. You've made your bed, lie in it!' All true... What could I say? I lay in my bed and enjoyed it. I was given no choice, remember?

The latest such experience with a friend was just last two weeks when I was telling one of my best female friends about one of my regrets that haunt me. I had run away from someone because I was scared  and never stopped asking myself what if... I told her about it and she asked how far back it was, etc.; all the right questions. 

She then pointed out how silly I was being. How many relationships that began then that I knew about were still going strong? We've both evolved with time and even if I hadn't run and we'd been together? For how long would we have been together? I had to defer to her wisdom. I was pretty young then. I had no idea what I wanted back then. I guess it's a classic case of the 'cheri raté' syndrome. So I took an objective look at the two of us and that regret has all but disappeared. We probably wouldn't have lasted anyway.

So yeah, surrounded by such people, I understand and agree that sometimes, the best helping hand you can give a loved one, is a firm kick in the backside. However, to qualify as tough love and not verbal/emotional abuse, revenge, malice, etc. Such gestures have to be motivated by the sincerest of loves.

Lately, though, I have heard some things being said and wondered if there was any love behind the 'toughness'. Friends don't enjoy tearing each other down in the name of love and there are somethings you should not be able to say or do to someone if you truly loved the person, no matter the context. There are some things 'I'm telling you this for your own good' wont make okay.
As Mignon McLaughlin said; 'Nobody wants constructive criticism. It's all we can do to put up with constructive praise'. So before you launch 'so-called' constructive criticism at your loved one (or at least someone who you are supposed to love), question your motive, and check your excitement level. If you're enjoying it and it's more about showing how right and smart you are than helping the person, please, do us all a favour and keep it to yourself. And no, it's not your fault how sensitive the person is to what you say because they care more about you than you ever did or will about them*yes, sarcasm*; just remember that sticks and stones may break bones, but words will never hurt them (only crush their dreams).

I'm not saying baby your friends. Many would not grow otherwise. I'm just saying what was best illustrated by Dr. Mensa Otabil with this picture; corn is food for chickens. It's good for them and it helps them grow. But if I walk into a chicken coop and start throwing corn at them, they will run away from it and will not venture to eat it, seeing it as something bad. (paraphrase mine).