At night the problem would be particularly bad. We hardly slept. Every gap between our toes, and the tip of every toe, seemed to cry out for urgent scratching every few seconds. With ten toes and eight gaps between them to mind, it wasn't easy to get a good night's sleep. The superstitious among us believed we'd been bewitched.
The riddle was soon solved. We had jiggers. Jiggers are little fleas that burrow their way into the skin between the toes or under the toe nails, in time growing into a white egg-filled little ball with one brown "eye" at the centre. Like babies, they seemed to sleep much of the day and remain awake much of the night.
Break time in school was a sight to behold. We would be seen spread out in the playing field, two by two, sharp thorn in hand, taking turns to pry the jiggers out of each other's toes. This went on for a couple of years before a newly-posted teacher showed us how to eliminate the dust from the classroom floors, thereby eliminating the fleas for good. It was hard work smearing those floors with clay mixed with cow-dung every Friday afternoon, but certainly not half as hard as living with the jiggers.
That was some forty years ago. Some of those kids bent over each other's toes, developing jigger extracting skills, went on to become lawyers, engineers and teachers among other things. I became a high school teacher, and later pastor and author. Yet at that time, I'm not sure that we saw ourselves becoming anything more than jigger-extracting experts.
A number of those kids with jigger-infested toes were called Kennedy, all named after the slain American president. Another good number were named after a local politician who had perished in a car accident years earlier. I and a handful others were named after a prominent driver (yes, a driver was a big deal those days!) who had also died in yet another motor accident.
There's something about the human being that defies outward impediments and goes on to dream impossible dreams. Our parents named us after great personalities because that is what they desired of us. When we hit the teens, we went on to give ourselves more unofficial names; all names of people we looked up to. If I remember well, musicians of the time were the big deal. Those of us who were teenagers in the late 70s will remember the days when every young man called Evans became "Evani" after the great but now aging Orchestra Mangelepab and leader, Kabila Kabanze "Evani."
Ordinary as we are, we have no trouble day-dreaming ourselves into desired lifestyles or achievements. It's a human thing. Hundreds of jiggers in our toes, and sometimes even in our fingers and buttocks, can never stop us day-dreaming ourselves into the life of some hero we connected with in a book or movie. What isn't so human is actually going on and becoming a Kennedy. Seeing ourselves in the dream comes naturally. Sadly, walking into the dream does not.
Yet, it can be done. And it should be done. That's what I want to talk to you about in this book. My Mum always tells me how I broke my parents' hearts when I was young. I looked stupid, acted stupid and appeared headed nowhere. I personally recall Dad wishing loudly that I could, by some miracle, scrap together grades that would at least enable me to join a primary teachers training college.
Thanks to God, I've done better. I believe that I'm well on my way to finding my place among Kenya's leading inspirational writers. But more importantly, I have attained my long held desire to live for others; to rebuild broken lives and restore dignity to broken hearts. Further down the road, I hope to inspire others to go one or two steps better than I have in their own areas of gifting.
In all this I remain, and will always remain an ordinary person. However, I have no intention of being ordinary in my dreams and aspirations. I need a fresh challenge every so often. I want to do what has not been done in my areas of calling and interest.
There is an advantage in having little expected of you. You know why? Every step you make is an achievement. Every step you make takes you into new territory. And if you patch together a dozen or two such steps, before you know it, you're all together in new territory, and you're making others believe that it can be done.
I don't know what your dreams are or, more importantly, what you think about yourself and those dreams. But I want you to come along with me. I won't keep you long; not longer than it takes to read 150 or so pages.
Like I said, there's something wonderful about being ordinary. So, just as you are, just where you are, as the Americans say, let's roll.