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Nelly Cheboi: Kindness has its pay day and it comes with a fat cheque


Nelly Cheboi with pupils at Zawadi Academy Mogotio. [Yvonne Chepkwony, Standard]

If kindness can change a person, it can change an institution. If kindness can change an institution, it can change an entire community, even a whole country.

Growth does not only come through the economic gate. It comes through the moral gate, too. This is why the CNN hero of 2022 is Kenya's Nelly Cheboi.

She never forgot the humbleness of her beginnings. Instead, she was inspired by it. God has a tendency to replant one at the very place they were once uprooted. Those who grew up hungry, He sends back to feed the hungry.

For those who grew up without enough clothes, God gives a burden to clothe others. They of fees problems, He makes scholarship builders. For Cheboi, the village girl of no tech exposure, God makes a global mobiliser of tech-based opportunities for the village and disadvantaged children!

The impact of kindness and its related attributes is significant. This is especially noted in their absence. The absence of empathy leads to brokenness and hurt which impair productivity.

The absence of generosity amounts to selfishness which creates situations where people intentionally hinder the progress of others.

The absence of contentment means the dominance of greed, which threatens equitability. Justice in a community cannot be produced unless it is inputted. This vital role of morality should earn virtue a place as a factor of production together with land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship.

Kindness has its payday and its grand pay cheque. The rewards that follow Cheboi's spirit of caring for others are significant.

While many wait for the cheque to spend some of it to express kindness, Cheboi instead began with spending kindness on others with money only following after.

Money should not be a fixed factor in the equation of generosity. Authentic impact needs not wait for money - money only facilitates it. Kindness leads and the cheques follow.

The virtue currency says: "Gold and silver have we none, but in the name of Jesus, rise up and walk!" Possessing a basket of virtues is great wealth.

Money is often revered as the answer to all things but this same money raises many questions, too. Money questions have virtuous answers! The school of mammon will want many to believe that without money you are broke.

But the school of virtue will tell you that if all you have is money you are totally broke. The virtue school is not popular, especially because at the centre of its philosophy is love - love not only for the friend but even for the foe; love to gain and give away and "not a mite would I withhold".

Many - like the rich young man who came to Jesus by night - walk away sad.

Cheboi's work was not deemed award-worthy in Kenya. But following the global award, now the country - including the president - is arrested by her. What was not celebrated locallynow has a global honour. The candle that was not recognised at home mutated into a global flame!

Virtue may be undermined and sidelined but it will be lord of the scales at the end of things: "These, three remain - hope, faith and love. And the greatest is love." That love is the greatest should not be minimised as simply a religious perspective. Love's greatness should be appreciated and processed as a creational fact.

Mothers' selflessness

Cheboi says her win is a "win for African mothers". What is it about African mothers that earn them a natural mention on a world award stage? There could be many reasons but going by Cheboi's story, selflessness is prime among them.


Nelly Cheboi after being named CNN Hero of the Year. [CNN, Photo]

The selflessness of a mother became the generosity of her daughter. When virtue is mothered, it gains a multiplying character. Love begets loyalty; perseverance begets commitment; justice begets honour; charity begets diligence - indeed a coat of many colours!

For Cheboi, kindness precedes money and money is succeeded by generosity. Kindness begets wealth which embellishes generosity. Cheboi's generosity begets hope in the children in Mogotio and other villages.

The children in return internalise and perpetuate the equation of compassion. A nation's wealth therefore should not be expressed only in economic units. Truer measures precede and succeed in this economic aspect.

The dollar measure cannot stand alone and must be weighed against its motive and its purpose. Such is the assessment that would earn a rich country a poor rating, and a very poor country the label of an emerging tiger.

Innovation should not be understood only in terms of technology. Innovation must include new ways of loving and living with each other. The tech lab is busy. The virtue lab is yet to be imagined. Tech without virtue is a tragedy.

Virtue engineering is necessary and inevitable. Many reject moral yardsticks as subjective and conclude they are not good assessors of life. But the physical world in all its amazing precision in metres, kilogrammes, light-years, Fahrenheit, and litres rests on a dimension of subjectivity presented by the yet-to-be-answered question of why the world exists.

Our ignorance, guesswork and assumptions do not stop the reality of the world from functioning. No one knows for sure why the world was made. But the Scriptures help us with a significant fact - the world was made out of Love.

Love's centrality can therefore not be ignored or replaced. The economic measure, however widely propagated, can never eclipse love and its calibrations. Life is best heard through dimensions of love.

Love-based life is the engine that propelled Cheboi to imagine and create TechLit Africa. Her global recognition affirms the irrefutability of compassion as the gravitational force that pivots the quality of human existence.

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