During the holidays an errand saw me visit one of the busy market centers in the western part of Kenya. The place reeks of struggle. Men, women and even kids keen on making ends meet. A large number of motorcycles, providing a popular means of transport for the residents, leaves you with the thoughts that an accident is bound to happen anytime. A mad woman, full of filth, passed around picking rubbish and throwing it in a large sack she was carrying. (I still wonder why most crazy people do this). Looking around, people in this poorly planned market center had only one intention, do all they could to survive.

I got bored analyzing the activities at the busy place and decided to stroll. It was around 1 pm, and I was thinking I could do with a snack when the smell of roasted maize pulled me to a chap selling them. I went over and bought one at Ksh.10 (that’s a little over a tenth of a dollar!). I got busy on the roasted maize as I looked around while having a chat with the roasted maize seller.

I realized I couldn’t finish it and offered part of it to a short guy who came walking past me. He politely declined, and I guessed maybe he had just stuffed his stomach with a plate of ugali or just didn’t trust me. After struggling with it for a few minutes and noticing I couldn’t finish, I threw it on a heap of garbage on the side of the road. The thing had become so dry and tasteless! (of course I threw it away when the seller wasn’t looking!)

The guy selling the roasted maize struck me as an intelligent person, although he seemed not to have attended school for so long. He was tall, faded shirt and jeans must have been in his late twenties or early thirties. He spoke with the calmness you’d never expect of a person of his stature. The conversation eventually came to my favorite question: “How much do you make per day from this?” Obviously, I expected him to tell me about his business.

He was a bit shocked that I asked and quickly remarked that he doesn’t make enough money selling roasted maize by the roadside. In fact, it was something he could live without. He explained that he doesn’t do it for money, which surprised me. He clearly stated it was something he did to ‘kill time.’ To be at peace with other people. I was amazed at his wisdom. The conversation ended, and I left him fanning the charcoal, under the sweltering heat, with the look of satisfaction written all over his face.

It got me thinking. He was someone who cared about those around him. Someone who understood the problems that came with idleness. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle alludes to idleness in his book on Sherlock Holmes where the protagonist, Mr.  Holmes tells his friend, Dr. Watson that he rarely got tired while at work but idleness exhausted him completely. Not many understand the power of letting other people have a conducive environment to do their stuff.

I’ve always dreamt of making a difference in the world. I’ll certainly not make a difference by discovering the cure for AIDS or inventing wings which can help humans fly like birds. No, it’s the little things we think are insignificant that will make a difference. Like what that soft-spoken guy selling roasted maize by the roadside taught me-minding your own business. If you’re still idle, find something to do and help make this world a better place than you found it. If you’ve reached this last page, it means you’re not idle. It means you are determined to make it in life and help other people do the same.

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