It was late 2011, November to be precise. I turned on the TV and there was this news. Boom! It was about a footballer, Gary Speed. He was dead! What ? I liked him but I could not tell why I did. Maybe because he was a versatile midfielder. Maybe because he had a calm demeanour on the pitch of play. Maybe because his team mates and even the opposition said he was genuinely a nice person at heart. Maybe because, you heard very little about him apart from his football. Maybe because he was from a small footballing nation but despite that he stood out. Maybe because he conducted himself very well on and off the pitch. Maybe……another maybe. Then another maybe.

Well, I thought that will be it; another great person left the land of the living. But day after day, many seem to have something nice to say about Gary Speed. It was ok to hear the football community mourn; after all he was one of theirs. Getting the outpouring of tributes from musicians, teachers, artistes, politicians, etc was something totally unexpected. And the tributes, like a stream streaking into the ocean, continued.

Then it hit me, Gary Speed, the Welsh footballer got more attention in death than when he was breathing. That seems to be the norm. Even when he played a great game, we seem not to bother too much. He was one other footballer; a paid gladiator entertaining the plebeians, proletarian and aristocrats in the Colosseum.

Why is it so? I gave it some thought and my deduction , though another question, was “why do we celebrate people in death?” It seems breathing disqualifies you from being told something nice. It seems the bad guys and bad news get more press than beautiful things and people. I saw it in my life. in my work with teens. I was giving more attention to those with issues and inadvertently abandoned the “good guys”. Their job was to be good and being good excludes you from being paid attention. Upon realization, I changed tactics. I decided to “feed” the good guys. What you encourage grows and blossoms. Guess what? It worked.

Some time ago, I took a conscious decision to always celebrate people for whatsoever reason. Maybe how you smile, how you laugh, the warmth you bring to a place, your sense and acts of altruism etc. Did I always get a good reception? Nah. People sometimes gave me “the look”. It seems they are waiting for me to say something after paying them a compliment. At other times, some suspected my motive but I cared less. I just did what was in my heart.

Years later, I have had people come back to me to tell me the impact a kind gesture done by me had on them. They talk about the encouragement it gave to them to go through a rough patch. They say it is nice to be distracted by a sincere and genuine compliment out of the blue. Then I turn the focus on them. They also talk about how they did something to someone and how it affected those people in unimaginable ways. I think it is a good experiment to be practised worldwide. It requires no laboratory conditions. Trust me on that.

So I decided to do this because I realized that it is easy to talk about how bad people were but the good folks get no mention. So join me in celebrating “good”. Call that sibling, long lost friend, high school teacher, childhood friend. (A word of caution, you will not always get a good response but call anyway).

If you have something great to say to me or any other person, please say it now; while I am breathing because when I stop breathing, it will make no sense to me. It can’t lift my spirit. Those that stop breathing have no emotions. They react to nothing. Maybe this is why I hate tributes. Do stuff for folks when they are here. Get your Dad a new “men’s toy” aka car. Get that special thing for mum. Buy your sibling a new dress. What’s the occasion? None. It is just you saying “thank you for being in my life”. Don’t wait for the occasion.

To my fellow Blue Devils and Dukies, next week will be a good time to tell each other great things about our time together. What do you think? “Sounds nice” you said. Let’s get it done.

Don’t prepare a tribute. Don’t write me an eulogy. Tell me… and here.

In all you do, “Don’t Gary Speed Me”.