Finding the Littlest Hobo
By Michael Ngigi
Do you remember The Littlest Hobo? A program about the dog that used to run round the city saving people in distress? It was one of the highest rated productions in the late 80s and early 90s. It used to make girls cry at the end of the show as the dog would put on this sad face and with one last look, he would disappear into the fading mist. In turn, young boys were inspired to be heroic. Eventually the new age caught up with us and in came Superman, Shera, Transformers and loads of other superheroes. It became impractical to emulate these new heroes. We grew up and for a moment I thought it had all been left behind….
You see at some point in life, my friends and I were homeless, jobless and broke. We had all ran away from our home in the hope that we’d make it on our own. At first, life on the street looks promising. There is freedom and one is accountable to no one else. Everyday is the same, wake up, look for something to eat, trot the whole day then look for somewhere to sleep. On the street there are no constants except ‘the cycle’.
One thing we had in common was the ability to dream big. We had this common feeling that one day we’d all live like normal people, let alone make it big. Eventually we got out and even though we’re still not ‘there’, we are thankful.
Today’s post is dedicated to the men and women who taught us some of the biggest lessons in our lives. We can never repay them fully but they made us who we are today. Whenever they’re in need, we drop everything to go to their rescue. However, there is one thing that you should know. These people are not the characters you’d expect. Our role models are just…well…strange. Check this out.
We used see her at work on the street. She was well past her time. Our ‘hooker’ was old and spent. She had evidently seen better days. Sometimes I can’t help thinking that maybe that’s why she always had time for us. Competition was stiff so she used to be the last one on the queue; sometimes she’d call it a day literally.
It was evident that she had seen better days. One could tell she’d been a stunner in her hey-days. All that was left was the ugly smear of red lipstick and heavy mascara. Underneath the cosmetics were dark, sad and lonely eyes that looked haunted. She’d seen it all.
Our hooker took it upon herself to feed us every other evening for almost two years! She’d always say she had a feeling we’d make it and come back for her. She liked our company. Maybe it was because we were always optimistic and smiling, hungry or not. At times she’d invite us to her home for dinner. She had a very big family (or heart for that matter), consisting of her son and numerous relatives. She took care of everyone who needed her.
So where did the hooker go? She eventualy got tired of the game. Actually, the game spat her out. She set up a small pub with her meagre savings. The business grew rapidly. She recently bought a huge apartment in a plush area in the city. She is wealthy. She still takes care of everyone.
He is a man with a bad reputation. Rumors about him are often than not, true. He was always up to no good. The thug stole and lied for a living. Sometimes, he hurt his victims. However, there was a side of him rarely seen to the normal eye. He was loyal and always sacrificed himself for the sake of others. I can’t quite remember how we became friends but maybe it was written before we were born. This guy was our best teacher on life matters. Before we met him, we thought the world was a nice place where there was no evil. He taught us to take big risks. He taught us the weakest person in a fight was the one that thought he was smaller and weaker. Point of note. You are what you think.
The guy on the street
He was an honest man. Everyday (for the last twelve years), he wakes up at three in the morning and makes his way to his corner on the street. He sets up his makeshift shop and lights his jiko. By sunrise, the tea and bread are ready. He makes around 300 shillings a day. Not enough for a man with a family. In short, every coin counts. I have never understood why despite his tough situation, he fed us everyday for 3 years. He never complained. Our bill staggered out of control [in standards of the day]. We couldn’t pay up; but he didn’t care. All he used to say is, a hungry man chasing a dream is will never wake up to a future. After 3 years, we owed him kshs. 2,727.
Whenever I make money, I keep some for him. He has taught me a valuable lesson in life. Never ask for anything in return when you help someone out. It has to be a one hundred percent affair. Never doubt a beggar on the street. You either help or you don’t. Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart and never feel guilty.
The guy on the street is still on the same spot twelve years on. Sometimes I feel that it was written before he was born. Maybe that’s where he is supposed to be. With the city council still spreading it’s jurisdiction, business is doing badly. However, he works hard with an open heart. I go for breakfast at his shack every last Saturday of the month. In our place, there are three young men he’s been feeding for the last one year; for free.
These are just but some of the men and women who have impacted my life greatly. My Littlest Hobos.
Have you met your Littlest Hobo?