A note to the future generation in times of adversity.

You know how when you receive not so great news and you are in a state of shock for a few minutes, hours, or even days? That was me when I received the email from Strathmore University informing us of the closure of schools. After the shock, anger set in. ‘Why could we not just finish the two exams we had pending?’ ‘Why did this have to happen now?’ ‘Why did the first confirmed case of COVID-19 not wait two more days?’

I was so sad for a week or so. I got out of bed every day and checked my email waiting for that back to school email and stuffed my face with all the junk food I could get my hands on. Then one day as I was sulking around the house as usual, there was a knock on the gate. My little brother ran to see who it was, and he came and told my mother, “Mum, there is an old lady at the gate begging for whatever food we can give her in order to feed her children.”

I felt like I had been slapped in the face. Here I was complaining that the world dared to not revolve around me and my needs yet other people during this time could not even feed their families. It was like the case of Saint Josemaría during the Spanish civil war. He was living in poor conditions in the Honduran Consulate where he had sought refuge but during this time, he was not wallowing in self-pity. He was praying for the weak and vulnerable and encouraging his sons to keep the faith. Oh, and did I also mention that through all this he was founding the Opus Dei?

So, I asked myself, “Ok, are you going to sit throughout this whole pandemic and eat and complain, or are you going to do something to better yourself?” In his book The Way, Josemaría poses a question. He asks whether we are growing on the inside like the plants that were growing hidden under the snow. I wanted to grow. Now, do not get me wrong. Growing does not only mean learning a new skill or taking an online course or becoming the next Chris Kirubi. Growing also means simply becoming a better person. In philosophy, we say that man wants the ultimate good which is to be fulfilled. To be happy, to be better.

That one step of acknowledging and accepting the fact that I was being selfish was already a move up the ladder. The following evening my whole family sat together in the living room and for the first time in a very long time we all got to enjoy each other’s company without work or school obligations. I got to learn so many new things about my siblings. Even the smallest facts like my little brother did not like Spiderman anymore. In those intimate evenings of shared laughs, prayers, and story exchanges, I felt love. I felt safe and I felt happy.

I’m sorry dear reader if you were expecting a story of how I saved 50 white rhinos from extinction during this pandemic. Mine is to show you that the simple changes you make to your mindset can make you enjoy life a whole lot more even in trying times. The most powerful weapon that no one can take away from you is your mind. Once you tell yourself to be sad and moody, everything around you becomes sad and moody.

So, do not be sad about the plans you had before COVID-19 set in. Saint Josemaría said that God will make up for our apparently lost time if he sees us maintain our goodwill. The lesson I learnt during this pandemic is that all great achievements begin with the right mindset. So, the next time you feel like everything is tumbling around you, say a prayer, and do not let your will to do the better waiver. My favorite quote from Saint Josemaría’s confinement during the Spanish Civil War is “Remain faithful. As for the rest, what does it matter?”

This article was written by  Nicole Simiyu.

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