A Diaspora’s Dilemma: Who can you trust, Friends or Associates?
After a third DUI arrest, a young diaspora narrated the event with intriguing issues about life and its lessons. The individual had migrated to the United States of Amazement with all the right attitude. Their mind was set on going to college, graduating with a degree in biological sciences with the hope of attending medical school and pursing medicine. The first two years of college were un-eventful. Going to class working within the college as required within immigration laws and living a simple student life. All was going as planned until the entry into the third summer. The events that took place changed a well thought out life into sadness!
I have always advocated for not sending young people from Kenyan villages to American Universities for a bachelor degree. My experience as a student and as a professor within the American education system made me doubt whether a young person from Kinangop can survive the cultural and social shock that accompanies an American education, especially without family supervision. I have suggested to many Kenyan parents to send their children for masters’ degree. But every family has a right to decide in respect to what kind of children they have raised. In this case, the young Kenyan got a very good scholarship from a very good college. But one eventful summer, some friends from Kenya came knocking at the door. They suggested that summer is for travelling, which I agree, but to where and for what is another story.
They left the college town and went exploring the American beaches, a great idea. However, summer became fall and fall became winter and winter became spring. The friends convinced this young person that there is money to be made now instead of waiting later for a better package of well laid out goodies. The young person never went back to college. Instead, the friends guided them to a take a two or three week course in nursing assistant. This qualifies a person to work in retirement homes or group homes for the elderly or whatever. Not that there is anything wrong with any kind of job but this opened door to what happened in their live. After 12 years of working in this field, nights, days, tough and tasking job, things fell apart into the river between where the son of woman had declared unfit for human consumption!
The same friends had gotten into the Kenyan social life: Parties every weekend, bar hopping and a life that took all their money and poured it down the drain of a whisky bottle. The first DUI then the second DUI. However, the third DUI was not so lucky. The Sherriff did not charge them with the offence, instead they called ICE. ICE came and locked the young person up. The young person called the friends to raise money for an attorney. They were more broke than the young Kenyan. To make the matters worse, non of them were legal and were afraid to even go see the young person in jail. Alone and locked up the young person wondered whether all those characters who they drunk together, who advised against college, who sought them every weekend for parties were friends at all.
During our conversation after working to get the young person out of jail, the question was asked. “Teddy who is a friend and who is an associate. Are they different?” The young person asked. I sought the advice of my buddy who headed counselling at a department of mental health in one of the States. He said, “Teddy, friends are those people who are not with you because you have something to offer, but they are there even unto death. They can lay out their lives for you. Associates are those who conveniently stick around until you have nothing to offer, or your value is diminished. Then they go to the next victim.”
I explained this to the young Kenyan and added the case of Jesus and Lazarus of Bethany. After the sisters of Lazarus sent a message out to Jesus that his friend was ill, the disciples tried to find any reason not to go. Even though they had accompanied Jesus for meals at the home of Lazarus and the sisters, they did not see value in going. Only when they saw that Jesus was willing to risk all to go see his friend did they say, “let us go so that we can die with him.” John 11:1-44. The disciples were not friends to Lazarus and his sisters. They were associates. But Jesus was a true friend.
Ignoring the voice and reason of all others, Mary and Martha knew they had a friend. I bet you they told Jesus, “people thought you would not come but you came.”
Do you have friends or associates?
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD)
Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist