‘ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL’ By Mwangi Ndegwa

The economic downturn had really made life challenging. Putting food on the table was in itself an achievement. Every opportunity was grabbed the moment it presented itself...

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The economic downturn had really made life challenging. Putting food on the table was in itself an achievement. Every opportunity was grabbed the moment it presented itself however small it seemed to be.

John was born and brought up in the land of Rolling Valleys. While he was growing up, life was relatively easy. This country being agriculturally rich had an assured income from the numerous crops they grew. But as the years progressed, things started changing. Perennial droughts, attacks from army worms and the deteriorating quality of the soil from overuse and soil erosion made matters worse. The final nail in the coffin for the citizens of this country was when the government started levying taxes on farm inputs, then signing into law, a bill that would allow produce from other countries into their local market. The imports being relatively cheaper, totally took over the market. This caused an unprecedented rural-urban migration. People moved to the urban areas in the hope of landing opportunities thus giving rise to the mushrooming of informal settlements.

Poor sanitation and lack of clean water led to the rise of cholera and other poor hygiene related diseases and with it, many deaths. John was among the immigrants and due to the hard economic times, he couldn’t afford proper housing so he joined the other immigrants in the informal settlements. Jobs were also hard to come by which resulted in John undertaking menial jobs to sustain himself and his young family back in the rural areas. He secured a job as a turnboy in one of the major transport companies and with time, rose to the level of driver. John was paid on commission basis, which were dependant upon the number of trips he made. He had to push himself, often surviving on  only two hours sleep. This took a huge toll on him and even his immunity system began to take a beating. John had to take coffee or other stimulants to keep his eyes open when he was on the road.

However, as we all know, the human body can only take so much. He had promised himself that once he had saved enough, he would quit the job, take his young family and migrate to the neighbouring country where there were better opportunities. This particular day was special and of utmost importance because it was the day he was to reach his target and then he would start the journey to his freedom. This was his plan or so he thought, but fate had other ideas. His lack of sleep and overworking in difficult conditions almost brought his many days’ planning almost to a crushing end.

He was cruising on the highway to drop his final delivery of the day and of his job, when his eyes could no longer bear the weight of sleep in the eyelids. Without warning, his eyelids just shut down when he was still behind the steering wheel and cruising at 120Kmph. He was woken up by the screeching of brakes and a loud bang. When he got back his bearings, he found his truck in a ditch and another twenty wheeler lying on its side on the other side of the road. He was just lucky to escape with a few bruises but that served as a wake up call to him. Yes money was important but it would be of no use if he was in a coffin.

What is important to point out was that he realized that he had put money before his life and that of his family. It’s at this point that he realized that although money was important, there were other priorities that were far more priceless and of greater value than money.

Many of us may say that this is the story of John but if we took a deeper look into ourselves, we would realize that we all have a streak of John in us. We are ready to do anything (and by anything, I mean anything), to achieve that glamorous lifestyle displayed to us by the media or even to achieve the “conditions” set for us by society. Many have engaged in risky ventures like drug dealing, robbery, prostitution and one recent one of selling fake or non-existent goods. Others have become addicts of gambling in the hope of hitting the jackpot and living happily ever after. This has so pushed us that we don’t realize that we are driving too close to the edge and its only when we slip and crush into the abyss below, that we realize it but often by then, most often it’s too late.

So before we do anything, it is important to stop and ask ourselves whether what we are about to do is of any value or benefit to us. We should measure the risk and ask ourselves whether it is worth taking. Most often, the rude awakening is never there to give us a second chance but a final confirmation that we’ve pushed our luck too far and we have to pay for it. Let this not be found in any of us reading this. My question to all of us is this: Are we sleeping at the wheel of our lives?  To read more posts by Mwangi, click HERE   

Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk 

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