Ordinary man with a big heart

“God will make a way where there seems to be no way and he works in ways we cannot see...” So goes a very popular song by Don Moen. The song is popular and been memorised by many especially when they are found in difficult situations, when all hope is gone. We silently sing this verse and believe that surely a way or a door will open.

No matter how thick a forest can be, there is surely a way out of it. Let me say it here that I am not trying to preach but if what I have said has touched you or you do relate to it, then join me on this journey.

In my life I have always grown up knowing or better still believing that if I am in problems, I need to call upon God's name and He will bail me out and often times He has.

But, I also do believe God uses people to help other people.

I have just been vindicated on this but unknowingly I have ignored this fact until one day when my way was blocked and someone, very unlikely showed me the way out.

Richard Botolo, from Mbayani is the type of a man you would want to spare your 'precious' time talking to neither does he have the looks that would make you stop and say there I see someone. In a nutshell, his dressing is shabby, hair unkempt and it seems poverty has done a great deal on him.

He is the true definition of the phrase “Malawian living on less than a dollar (approximately K150) a day”. He is someone you can deliberately choose to ignore with no remorse at all.

I usually walk from home to the office and normally use the shortest route—it depends on how fast one walks as the shortest route might just be the longest route to someone who walks very slow.

Richard is someone I always meet on my way to and back from the office.

There are no minibuses from Kwacha to Ginnery Corner unless one takes two buses to get to Ginnery Corner or simply walk from home. I prefer the latter.

From Kwacha, I pass through Njamba Freedom Park, them Chanache Coffin workshop, up the Polytechnic Main Campus and then I cross the Masauko Chipembere Highway and then pass through the Polytechnic Annexe Campus.

I have to admit, I am always late for work but last to knock off. It is not that I want to make up for the late coming but it just happens.

Before getting to the Polytechnic Main Campus, I cross the Naperi River—there is a bridge made of planks and concrete that joins Chanache and Poly.

The Polytechnic has a built a brick fence around the campus. It has been has been built at a very fast pace. One day, with my watch saying 08:10 am, I found myself at the bridge but facing a brick fence that had no any kind of opening that I could have used to get in or pass through.

I was taken aback, mouth agape, hands akimbo. I just didn't know how I was going to get to the office and time was running out. Going back was not the best option. I was almost there but the fence screamed at me Palibe njira (No through road)!

Did I sing or ponder of “making a way where there is none?” Yes I did but, I had no idea as to who was going to do it for me for there was no-one in sight neither did I had any solution.

While I was still thinking of a way out, there a man dressed shabbily, hair unkempt, puffing his Life Cigarettes shouted at me.

“Chemwali bwerani mudutse kuno”.I feared for the worst. Questions started racing in my mind. Does he want to snatch my handbag? Is his offer of a way out genuine? What if there is no way at all?

But somehow, despite all these questions something just told me told me to trust him. So, I walk on. By this time Richard was busy making steps just adjacent to the bridge and he had already slashed the tall grass and cut down some trees.

He was making a way. Richard lives in Mbayani Township. He is a family man. The first time I saw Richard was in 2007 in Ndirande when he was a makeshift hump at Ndirande Newlines near the post office. Since then I have seen him in several other places doing the same thing. I had questions all this time like who sends him to do this? Is it the City Assembly and who pays him?

You might have seen him, but like I said, he is someone you can choose to ignore but certainly not his work.

As I walked on, I noticed that there was no bridge just water and rocks. For a minute I confirmed my earlier fears. There was no way I could have swam across the river. may I could have stepped on the rocks but then I was not sure if I feet was going to land on the rock properly.

As all this was going on in mind, like a psychologist, Richard read it. He stretched his hand and asked me to hold his hand as step on the rocks. This time I didn't notice his hair at all but the palm of his hand, so rough but it felt so soft. A helping hand can never be rough I guess.

Three weeks after the incident, I decided to talk to Richard.

He started by saying that he gets at the site very early in the morning so that just like and early bird that catches a worm, he too wants whoever will pass by to drop a little something in his plate.

By the way, one is not forced or asked to tip him, but if you are human enough and you know how much it would have cost government or the City Assembly—don't forget how long it would take them to complete, the same job then you cannot hesitate to do so.

“The little that people give me is my payment. I love helping people that is why I make sure that people clear the way for them,” he said adding that he uses the money to feed his family.

As I was talking to Richard, one man who was passing by greeted Richard.

“Malume apa ndiye mwagwira ntchito yotamandika” (You have done a great job). That's all he could say not evening giving Richard a K5.00 for the “great job”.

Apart from clearing the way, I have just discovered that he sells some Life Cigarretes at only K5.00 each.

I kept looking back after I had crossed just make sure he was not following me.

Next time you see Richard or any other person doing similar things, do not just appreciate what he has done by word of mouth but let the pocket speak too—it's a sure way of showing that you really meant what you said.


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