In a past interview, she narrated a telling story of the struggle she had to go through while raising money for her ailing son who had been diagnosed of sickle cell anemia, a debilitating condition that deforms the red blood cells with adverse symptoms. A friend of mine has a buddy ailing from the condition. She showed me her photo the other day. She’s standing somewhere along a beach, on a bright cloudless day, ocean waters lapping at her feet. She makes a good attempt at a feeble smile but her bleary eyes tell a story of agony; her gaunt frame proof of the condition she has to soldier on with daily.

So a fundraising was organized for her son. Less than 10 people showed up. Yes, Less than 10! Still, Achieng Abura was thankful for the contributions made towards the medical bill of her son, albeit disappointed at the low turnout and the rate at which money was streaming in. She organized a show to raise more funds in the hope that people would return the favor given that she had previously organized many fundraising events for different causes but nothing much was forthcoming. A few weeks back, as fate would have it, she went to be with the Lord leaving her son behind to trudge on with the condition.

Achieng Abura was an authority in Afro Fusion music in Kenya. She was celebrated and won accolades with many albums to her name. She interacted with the who is who in the music and media fraternity. She was a maestro, a seasoned songstress whose music cut across religion, gender and tribe. We are talking about a woman who was a judge at Tusker Project Fame (TPF) and mentored aspiring artistes. She made a living out of singing at corporate events & National events. She had thousands of fans, you and I included. But at her hour of need, we let her down. When it mattered the most, we turned a blind eye to the urgency of her son’s medical care. The million fans who professed loyalty and support turned their backs on her when she was admitted in her hospital bed. And when she departed, thousands took to social media empathizing and claiming how well they knew her.

Which begs the question, who is your friend?

It’s a difficult question to answer given the times and the society we live in. But experience teaches me that a genuine friend is not a person you catch up with over coffee in java or a cold beer in your local joint and engage in endless chatter. Or go out in the club and take numerous selfies with. Forget those virtual friends who send you invitations on Facebook, Instagram or other weird social sites.

True friends will be at your side when your ship hits rough waters. They’ll not swarm around you like bees  for selfish gain. Genuine friends will never sit and watch you go down the wrong path. They stretch out their hand when they see you drowning in alcohol and drugs. They call and visit when you are unwell and make it their business to see you back on your feet again. They are a repository of wisdom and illuminate every dark corner in your life . Your welfare is their concern. They’ll pull you out of a financial hole. They’ll not malign your name or speak ill of you in your absence, instead they’ll confront you when something’s amiss. They’ll cheer you on when you get a new job or a promotion. They rejoice for every milestone you make and keep you in their prayers. You may be miles apart or have stayed for months but it feels like you met just the other day. Dear readers, these are hard to find. If you can count 3 people you can call real friends, count yourself lucky.

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