To Be Or Not To Be

by Dennis Mwamba Katongo
(Johannesburg )

This is one of Shakespeare’s lines. It is amazing because whether you think you can or cannot be, you are right. It is up to you. When you put your mind on anything you want to do in your life you can do it and if you put your mind on not doing anything, that, also, you can do. I have met many people who have told me that they cannot be or go further in their lives. Some have told me things like “some of us are poor, we were born like this and there is nothing we can do about it we will remain like this.” Well, I think that is a lot of crap. Does this mean that the road to success asserts that the people born poor are consumer people and not productive ones? The answer is a one big NO!

As George W. Carver puts it, “Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” We all have what we think are valid excuses for not achieving our goals. If you knew for a fact that you would be paid 1 million dollars to do something that you are talented to do, you would do it without one second of delay - in which case you’d be choosing ‘TO BE” as opposed to ‘NOT TO BE’. This may sound cryptic, but it is reality and it is happening in the world today to people of all races and gender.

Some few years ago (around 2003), maybe even now, Zambia had many children living on the street (street kids). When I say children I mean kids as young as four (4) years old, without warm clothes or beddings for the night (thank God Zambia is not as cold as South Africa). I usually spoke to these kids after knocking off at night. I mostly gave them some left over food from my place of work, a fast food take away called Hungry Lion in Livingstone. I was a branch manager at this fast food store and I made it a must that all left over foods were kept for these, poor little, angles on the street.

Two of these ‘street kids’ aged 14 and 15 years decided to be out of the street life. I cannot really remember their names, so for the sake of this article I will call them Jim and Jack. I have chosen these names only because they are easy for me and have no real meanings.

During the day, Jim and Jack begged on the streets for money to buy bread or pap (Nshima in Zambia). At the end of day, they would put whatever they collected, used some for the most needed food and put the rest aside. In no time, the boys stopped begging because they bought some sweets, cigarettes, candles etc, that they started selling at night on the same streets they were sleeping or rather called home. It was not easy, but they wanted to be out of the streets one day, so they persisted. Thy stopped to whine and stopped begging. They woke up and stood on their own feet. They recognized and learnt, from successful people, what it takes to succeed. In short, they adopted the “devil-may-care” attitude and the “killer-instinct and whatever-it-takes attitude”.

We all have gifts, you know like special ones. I was watching some athletics on TV the other day and some guy from Jamaica beat he’s own record that he set at the Olympics last year, in 2008. I was, and still, thinking there are more than ten people in the world today who can set a much more lower record in time than this Jamaican guy, but the only reason these people are not known is that they luck that “devil-may-care” and the “killer-instinct” attitude that this Jamaican world record holder has. These unknown – world record holders – concentrate on their inner voices that tell them not to reach their God - given potential.

Today, the one who was 14 years (Jack) is now 20 years and the other one Jim is now 21 years and the two have a shop selling quality shoes in Livingstone-Zambia. They are now enjoying the basics of every day life that most people take for granted like having electricity and running water, a bed and some warm bedding (especially in winter and rainy seasons) and mostly the walls and a roof that one can call home. These boys chose TO BE out of the streets and NOT TO BE in the streets.

Did I tell you that these boys did not get any Government grant or some kind of donation from any Non-governmental organization or even me? They did it on their own. They are such an inspiration, to me in my quest to what I want to be and not to be in this lifetime that we all have.

The two boys or rather, young men in this article are alive and still doing their business in Livingstone - Zambia


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