That Saturday started off as my usual, waking up in the morning for a run. This time, however, my experience was different – not in terms of distance or track, but the unexpected run I had with an unsung hero. It was a lady of senior age, probably as old as my own mother, diligently cleaning the streets, very early in the morning. If you have been in Kigali, you can attest to the cleanliness of this city, but it is unfortunate how we never acknowledge the hard workers, such as this woman, who wake up in the wee hours of the morning to make sure we jog, walk and drive on clean and well-kempt roads. What an applaudable service!
To be honest, I was among those who commended the cleanliness of the Kigali streets without thinking much about who makes it happen until I met this lady. Not only was I pleased to see a happy face in service, but I was also struck by the fact that this was a lady way into her senior years that I couldn’t help but stop and appreciate her. She probably does this as her job, but it takes courage and selflessness to do this kind of work, especially at such an age.
That Saturday morning, she illuminated a bulb of inspiration within me and I pondered over this meeting for a while.
I do not speak the local language, Kinyarwanda, so I asked someone to help translate as I really wanted to engage this lady. Noticing that I was not Rwandan, she asked where I come from to which I replied, “Canada”. She quickly asked that I take her with me to Canada, the country of dreams for most Africans. I smiled lightly and told her that instead of taking her to Canada, I was rather bringing Canada to her by seeking to transform Africa into the dream destination, and what she was doing, her service was one piece of the big puzzle.
It takes the determination of each and everyone on this continent to drive this to fruition. I did not want her to think that her hope lies somewhere else, or with someone else, I wanted her to believe that the continent she is serving can become that place she dreams to live in.
This brought me to think of Africa, my continent, more deeply. There are many issues we complain about and it led me to wonder about how much difference it would make if there were such ladies in all spheres who would diligently do their work relentlessly. Easily do we find others to blame but what we need is to ask ourselves if there is something we can contribute to our town, state, province, country, and subsequently, our continent.
We are in the habit of looking at setbacks, shifting blame, looking to others to fix our problems but the truth is nothing will get done and nothing will change unless we choose to do things differently unless we decide to believe that with one brick at a time we can build a tower. This does not come without sweat or discouragement, but in the end, it is all worth it because there will be people who will look back at your efforts and appreciate the better lives they live.
After my run and a chance meeting that Saturday, I went back home still pondering on the short exchange I had with the lady. Speaking to my mom later that evening, I encouraged her to emulate the lady and be someone who brings change to her nation (Cameroon), no matter how small, because it takes one example to create inspiration that later propels into action.
To wrap up my story, I implore you too, to step out and do or keep doing what might seem uncomfortable, overlooked, or even despised right now, but have your eyes set on your goals, and little by little, people will start to notice and collectively, we shall drive the change we want to see on our beloved continent.
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