The story is told of the American President Franklin Roosevelt who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment.
To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you.
God bless you, sir.” It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Surprised, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”
This story demonstrates that it is one thing to hear, it is yet another to listen. There are three, actually four different English words that basically translate to one word in my mother’s language.
These are: Hear, Listen, Understand, and Discern; which can all be translated as — winjo. In the English language, however, each of these indicate related but very distinct meanings.
Thus, applied to the Roosevelt story, it would appear that whereas each of the people in the line heard the president say something, none actually cared to listen to what he said, other than the Bolivian Ambassador. But even though the ambassador listened and heard what the president said, he did not understand what he meant, nor did he discern the President’s intention.
Being among those who prayed incessantly for the elections, I am personally convinced that God used the events around the August 8 elections to communicate certain significant truths to us as a nation. Indeed, many have confessed that the hand of God was in the ultimate outcome of the elections — including the Supreme Court ruling — and had nothing to do with a Jubilee or NASA win or loss.
It is, for example, amazing how a sense of calm suddenly descended upon the nation after the ruling, in spite of the profoundness of its impact. Ordinary Kenyans from across the divide have appreciated that this greatly eased the intense pressure that had built up after the elections.
What is not clear, however, is whether we have bothered to listen, hear, understand, or discern God’s intention behind all that happened.
Like the Bolivian ambassador observed, a President does not just kill his grandmother then tell it to foreign visitors, unless there is a good reason. Likewise, from a divine perspective, a presidential election is not just nullified without a higher order purpose.
There is reason to believe that this was God’s lifeline to rescue us from self-destruction. Sadly, no one seems to discern. Instead, like soccer teams that had merely gone on a half-time recess, our politicians are back to the pitch, playing just as rough, if not worse than before.
There are contestations over the same issues as before, and the language is foul and ferocious as ever. As a result, tension is rising once again, and the nation is jittery. In all probability, we appear headed back to turbulent waters.
It is said, and the saying is true, that only a fool does not learn from his mistakes. I fear that we could be playing the fool here. We must therefore plead with our leaders to stop, reflect, and listen to the voice of God. It is not your strategies, no matter how grand, that will get you to State House.
That remains a divine prerogative. Let us therefore be mindful of the ordinary person who may eventually suffer the consequences of our actions. Let’s not sacrifice their peace and tranquil — even their lives — at the altar of personal ambitions. In elections, like prayers, we express our wishes, but God determines the outcome.