It’s time to unleash our potential

Students of Karima Girls High School from Nyandarua County stage the play titled 'Dabtap' during drama festivals at the Kenya National Theatre on March 28, 2016. The play on cybercrime won top position during the Aberdare Region Drama Festival. PHOTO | ANTHONY NJAGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • If you are a teacher, do you see the treasures staring back at you from behind the desks in your classroom?
  • One of them may be the doctor who will someday find the cure for the disease festering in you.
  • Do you see the treasure in the young woman who washes your clothes and cooks your meals or the young man who tends your garden?
  • They may be intellects who will become innovators and inventors.

Do you know that we have acres of diamonds right here in Kenya and that they are yours for the taking? If you don’t, then you cannot have heard of the Acres of Diamonds story and it is time that you did.

The story was told to Russell Conwell by a tour guide while on a visit to Baghdad in 1870. Conwell, a church minister and motivational speaker, retold the story thousands of times.

It is the story of Ali Hafed, a rich and contented farmer who lived in ancient Persia. Rich and contented, that is, until a Buddhist priest came along and filled his mind with tales of the most precious stones — diamonds — and the things they could buy him.

“A diamond is a congealed drop of sunlight,” the old priest told him, which is scientifically true because a diamond is a deposit of carbon from the sun. Then, suddenly, Ali Hafed was poor. He was poor because he had everything except the one thing he now desired most — diamonds!

Ali Hafed sold his farm, left his family, and travelled long distances in search of the elusive diamonds until, at last, poor, tired, and dejected, he drowned himself to end his misery. The story does not end with the poor man’s miserable demise, but rather, with a twist. The man who bought Ali Hafed’s farm discovered on it “the most magnificent diamond mine in all the history of mankind”.

The obvious moral of the story is that we can prosper where we are if we open our eyes to see the wealth that is already there. So, to apply the moral to our local situation, wealth is not in some far off town or country that we aspire to live or work in some day.

Indeed, it is where each of us is. If you cannot see it in your own backyard in Tenwek, Koru, Matayos, Maai Mahiu, or Awasi, you are not going to see it anywhere else in the world.

No one will deny that ours is a country of potential — often unrecognised or unfulfilled. We fail to see the gems that often lie hidden in plain sight under our very noses.

SEE THE TREASURES

If you are a teacher, do you see the treasures staring back at you from behind the desks in your classroom? One of them may be the doctor who will someday find the cure for the disease festering in you. Do you encourage her when she gets it wrong or do you tell her that she will never amount to anything?

Do you see the treasure in the young woman who washes your clothes and cooks your meals or the young man who tends your garden? Have you taken the time to understand their dreams and abilities? They may be intellects who will become innovators and inventors.

If you have employed in your company a recent graduate, so fresh out of the classroom that they still sparkle with idealism and fresh ideas, do you try to squash their enthusiasm with an unfair wage or make them feel subordinate, inferior, and to think only when called upon to do so?

Do we fail to recognise, or worse, kill our country’s potential?

Another lesson from the Acres of Diamonds story — greed can burn you. Ali Hafed was already a rich man, but did not value the things he possessed when he heard about diamonds.

What makes an individual rich? “Diamonds!” Ali Hafed would say. “Plots and acres of land!” Some of us, Kenyans, might declare. “Lots of ‘mullah’ in the bank!” Are we in danger of losing our soul?

Let us not get caught up in loving diamonds and equating money and property with success. The love of money for its own sake breeds ugly offspring such as corruption, avarice, and depravity. We need to carefully examine our individual and national values, our individual and nation’s purpose.

The purpose of our wealth and resources may be to amass personal power, have exotic living and preferential treatment. This is a zero-sum game in which only a few win at the expense of the majority.

We could, however, purpose to use our wealth to make Kenya a land of opportunity where every child has access to free quality education and medical care and can be anything they dream of becoming.

If our purpose is to use our wealth for the greater good, to help build the potential all around us, I bet you that our individual satisfaction will also increase exponentially.

Mr Waweru is the CEO, WordAlive Publishers. [email protected]

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