Not all heroes wear capes. Yes, superheroes exist out of the Marvel and DC Universe. They do not necessarily wear cool costumes, have an amazing background story or possess x-ray vision. The heroes I am about to mention in this post today have a different kind of strength. A different kind of superpower. The power of self-sacrifice. Let me explain.
I happened to be heading home from work one day this week a little later than usual and on the way saw a young boy selling peanuts with a book in hand. Sitting under a streetlight to enable him to read, I noticed that he was not alone. Somebody else was helping him with his homework for the day. “They must be solvining what x2 + 5x or something is,” I silently thought to myself. I took a picture from the distance and walked on home. That same night, I shared the photo on Twitter.
People were in awe and kept asking if I knew more about the boy. I knew I had to find out.
The lad you see in the photo (left) is called John. I approached him for just a few minutes of his time. Warm and friendly with a book in hand, I asssumed he was revising for KCSE. “Nafanya tu revision aunty. Huwa narevise kila siku aunty” he replies. He liked to use the word “aunty”. Maybe it has become habit as he is always saying ‘njugu aunty, njugu aunty” in the course of his day to unconcerned strangers that walk by him. He speaks with passion about himself, especially about his love for reading. He explains with a sense of achievement that he goes to the library in Our Lady Queen of Peace every morning from 9 a.m to 2 p.m in South B. Did I mention he does this after waking up at 3 a.m to prepare his njugu for the day? As he leaves for the library, his mother heads to sell bananas on Mombasa Road. “Kila mtu na biashara yake,’ I tell him. He wakes up early when his siblings are deep asleep to prepare these yummy peanuts everyday. How do I know this you may ask? I’ve had them and they were quite good! For those of you who do not like peanut skin, he goes the extra mile and gets rid of them just so you don’t have to. Such a caring John this one.
He hopes to be an engineer one day. An electrical one to be exact. He is in form three now and hopes to go to form four next year once he clears his fee balance. He is on holiday now but still wants to revise to be a step ahead of the rest. He opens up and tells me that it is hard to stay focused in school.
His friends ridicule him for focusing so much on revising during his free time instead of going to steal with them. But John learnt the hard way that this is not the right path to wealth. He told me that he once saw one of his friends beaten to death by an angry mob for stealing. To add salt to the wound, he saw another friend shot by the police. He would rather study hard and smart now than bother to think about stealing. “Maisha ni ngumu aunty lakini mimi niko na passion ya kusoma” he says with a shy smile.
And just at that moment as we spoke, I saw him greet another ‘aunty’ with an immense amount of enthusiasm. He asked her when she would come help him with his physics work again. Her face is familiar. She is my neighbor (hey Linda, if you are reading this) After the brief discussion between Linda and John, my curiosity led me to ask even more about these people who help him. He told me that there are so many people who help him with his chemistry, maths and physics revision. They keep him company on the cold slabs right next to the South C stage and guide him. He does not know them by name, but refers to them as “aunty and bro”
Dear “aunties and bros” of South C who help John, Thank you. Thank you for seeing that you can help another by providing knowledge. Thank you for not caring what passing onlookers will say when they see you sit with John. Thank you for braving the cold slabs with him instead of rushing back to your warm house and cushioned sofa sets. Thank you for inspiring me to help him with his English (Sciences were a struggle for me ah beg nah. I would help him with his chemistry if I could *chuckles*) But most importantly, thank you for showing me that all heroes do not wear capes.
*Do you want to be a hero too? Reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help John in one way or another. And if you live in South C you can help him with his revision or simply nunua njugu zake please aunty 🙂