Nnamdi’s Story of Success
[Recognizing that politics alone will not address child hunger, that we must address parental poverty too, we continue what we started. The following is a motivational story designed to teach you the meaning of the word: desire.]
A light, danceable melody, filled with poorly hit notes, assaulted Nnamdi’s ears as he reached the top of the hill. About a hundred yards before him he again saw the river, its current flowing strong.
Shading his eyes against the sun, he spied the flute player.
Sweat flowed freely down Nnamdi’s body. Dust clung to his feet and calves. His home village was only two and a half miles away, a pittance. But the late summer sun wanted to test his determination; it decided to display its glory late into the afternoon, long after Nnmadi’s chores were completed.
Only a hundred more yards to go.
The music – if it could be called that – was almost too much to bear. Nnamdi thought it better to challenge the sun all the way back home than face the source of such tortured notes.
“Please stop!” Nnamdi cried. His voice carried a sharp tone, one the flute player abruptly obeyed. “The sound of that wretched instrument has driven off every creature from this watering hole. Not even the crocodile can stand it.”
The flute player looked about him. The boy spoke the truth, not an animal could be seen.
“Why, you’re right. I didn’t think I was that bad,” the flute player said. “I’ve gotten better.” He smiled.
“May the Ancestors guide you out of your folly. You should never play that flute again.”
“Hurr, now boy! Hold your tongue. I will not suffer criticism from you. I still have the river as my audience; that is enough for me. What brings you to this watering hole anyway?”
“I am seeking a wise man named Dafur.”
“I am he,” the flute player replied.
Nnamdi looked incredulously upon the flute player who did not appear wise to him. The old man’s clothes were well worn and in some places in desperate need of repair. Some of his teeth were missing, others rotting where they stood. His hair was dirty and matted. And he smelled strongly of wet earth.
“You are the great Dafur, teacher of virtue?” Nnamdi asked.
“Ah, is it great they call me now?” Dafur mused with pride. “I possess the knowledge of virtue?” He danced about repeating the words over and over.
Nnamdi felt an emptiness inside as a spell of depression befell him. A two mile fight against the sun for this?
“Hey old fool – ” Nnamdi was interrupted by the sharp crack of Dafur’s flute across his temple.
“I am great and full of virtue according to your village elders! Show me at least the respect they do.” The old man’s eyes narrowed and his expression became sour. “Why do you disturb my practice?”
“Because, my Elder, I was told you could grant me what I desire most.”
“And what is that?”
“Over what? Or whom?”
“Over Seko, my rival in wrestling.”
At this Dafur let out a big laugh. “Still the villages engage in this sport, wrestling?”
“Yes,” Nnamdi said through clenched teeth. Above all other sport he held wrestling in the highest esteem. For hours every day he practiced it. Only Seko proved himself a better wrestler.
“You are serious,” Dafur said. “I can see this in your eyes. And the sun did not conquer you. Because your desire is strong I will grant you what you desire most, this precious ‘victory.’ But first you must bathe.”
With that Dafur locked a powerful grip upon both of Nnamdi’s wrists, then, applying strength the boy questioned the origin of, approached the river bank.
Dafur did not stop. He entered the river with Nnamdi helplessly in tow. Despite Nnamdi’s greatest protest, Dafur walked forward, seemly without effort.
Nnamdi noticed how cools and refreshing the water felt as it swirled around his ankles. The current felt like a massage as it beat against his calves and knees. He didn’t feel any alarm until the water reached his waist, the current becoming stronger, the footing slippier.
Still Dafur ventured forward, his grip just as powerful.
The water reached Nnamdi’s chest. “Let go of me you fool!”
“Again you insult me. I will tell someone from your village.”
“I’ll tell them myself if I survive! You intend to kill me!”
“Nonesense. Control yourself or I will be forced to tell your mother of your cowardice.”
“Cowardice?!” Nnamdi roared. “I’m not a coward.”
“Good,” Dafur said and took a deep breath. In one move he dropped his center of gravity and dragged Nnamdi under the water with him. Panic filled Nnamdi as he swallowed river water. He fought to gain some sense of what has happening to him. All he knew was the rush of water in his ears and the powerful grip on his wrists. He couldn’t see because the river stung his eyes.
He lost all concern for his footing and kicked out toward Dafur. To his surprise his feet stuck nothing but water. Yet the grip was as powerful as ever.
Nnamdi’s lungs began heaving against his will as they begged for air. It felt like he was swallowing fire.
Suddenly the idea of simply relaxing came into Nnamdi’s mind. He reasoned that one of two things would happen: he’d either sink and his feet would touch bottom or he’d float toward the river’s surface.
At first Nnamdi was seized by fear. He seemed to remain horizontal, neither up nor down. The river’s current roared in his ears.
Nnamdi’s lungs demanded air.
He coughed and tasted the river water.
He coughed and knew he had to do something now or choose to die.
Nnamdi choose not to die. In an act of pure desperation he reached out – for anything.
Mercifully, clear crisp sounds filled his ears as the water drained from them. Nnamdi coughed water two more times then breathed air.
As his mind cleared he discovered that he lay panting on something hard. He found himself filled with thankfulness for being alive.
Then he heard something that filled him with rage. It was the sound of laughter.
The fool’s laughter.
Rage forced him to focus and demand his mind clear.
Rage inspired him to start taking deep breaths.
More than hear him, Nnamdi could now see him. Dafur was laughing hysterically. The old man, still fresh from the river himself, was so seized by madness he rolled around in the dirt. It clung to him.
“You fool!” Nnamdi forced his throat to say. “You call that wisdom? Where is the virtue?”
Dafur stopped laughing the moment Nnamdi spoke. A look of confusion played across his features. “You injure me, young pup. I have remained true to both my word and my reputation. You do great injury to me!” Dafur rose to his feet.
“What?” Nnamdi managed to yell.
“What did you desire most just now?” Dafur demanded.
“More than victory?” Dafur asked.
“Yes, you fool, yes. What else would I want?”
“I thought you desired victory most,” Dafur smiled slyly, as if this was the punch line to a joke.
“Huh?” Nnamdi asked.
“You will have your victory over Seko when you desire victory more than you desire to breathe.”
When Nnamdi perceived this wisdom he cried.
For his part, Dafur took back up his flute and position against the tree. He played a practice melody.
This time Nnamdi heard beautiful music.
Kokayi Nosakhere is the Lead Coordinator of the By2015:AMERICA movement. Based in Anchorage, Alaska, the anti-hunger activist endured a 28 day action called The Juneau Hunger Strike to highlight the issue of child hunger during the 27th Alaskan Legislature. He is available to assist other activists around the country in addressing child hunger in their locale. To contact the Lead Coordinator, please call 907-884-4710 or email him at email@example.com.