My dad has worked with the same utility guy, who we call Uncle B, for almost 3 decades! I call him THE utility guy because he is the one that is called whenever anything needs to be done regarding any of the utilities in the house. Uncle B is an electrician by profession, so it is not a big deal that he gets called when a fuse blows out, or a new electrical line needs to be run from one point to another. He is, however, also called when there is a leak in the plumbing system. He is the one who then gets a plumber, and supervises him (I am yet to meet a female plumber in the city of Lagos 🙂 ) to ensure the job is done properly. If my folks are unhappy with the way the job was done, do they go harass the plumber? No! That falls on Uncle B. A wooden room divider needs to be built? Call Uncle B. The roof is leaking? Call Uncle B. You get the picture – Uncle B knows his business, knows how to handle his business (read people), and delivers quality service (only reason he is still around).
When Mr B and I got married, our new home was situated about 15 minutes away from my folks (without traffic – a necessary disclaimer in the city of Lagos, even the Google Maps application uses it, he he). Who was the obvious person to call when we needed electrical work done in our home? No awards if you responded “Uncle B!” :). A no-brainer right, especially since we were well within Uncle B’s jurisdiction – in fact, he would have to go past our neighbourhood to get to my folks’. Well, here is the conversation that ensued between myself and my dad just after narrating to him about the electrical issues we were having that needed resolution:
Me: “Daddy, I am going to call Uncle B tomorrow.”
Me: (wondering whether the answer was not obvious) “So he can help us out with the electrical issues” (I almost added “now,” but I no get liver! 😀 )
Dad: “Go and find your own electrician.”
Me: (bewildered) “Ah, ah… Why do I have to go and reinvent the wheel when we have a tried and tested person at home?”
Dad: “Exactly, we have a tried and tested person in my home. You have set up your own home now, so go and look for your own person.”
Me: “Ha! Ok o…” (feeling dejected and wondering why this man was “hoarding” his utility guy) “But why?”
Dad: “You see, you need to learn how to use your resources to solve your own problems. There are three main reasons for this: (1) I have raised you to be a confident and creative problem-solver 🙂 ; (2) who says Uncle B is the best available? You may just discover a better and more up-to-date gem that will beat Uncle B at his trade; and (3) if Uncle B messes up, I will be able to come to you for recommendations for his replacement :).”
The light bulb did not go off at the time – I was dwelling on how we were going to be gambling with artisans neither Mr B nor myself were familiar with, and praying nothing would be fundamentally destroyed in the process. So, I went off with my tail in between my legs – what I thought was merely an FYI conversation had somehow turned into a rejection; who gets rejected when one was not even asking for permission??? Sigh.
So, Mr B and I reached out to our friends requesting for recommendations for a good electrician. There were a couple of frogs, but we very quickly found our gem, Mr G. Mr G did such a good job for us, and very responsively sorted all issues we had afterwards.
Fast forward 7 years: not only do we have a very good and responsive electrician in our utilities “tool kit,” we also have other very good and responsive utility guys (again, I am yet to meet any female that provides these services in the city of Lagos 🙂 ): plumbing, water treatment, furniture-making, gas stove service and repair, air conditioner service and repair, and laundry service. We are now the go-to people our friends (and yes, my Dad 🙂 ) call when they need recommendations for such service providers because our rather-limited-threshold-for-nonsense standards have helped us separate the wheat from the chaff. We still come across frogs every now and again, but we have developed the ability to very quickly see through them and give the boot if necessary before wasting any financial, emotional, or time resources.
What is the main takeaway from all this? As parents and people of influence (if to no one else, we have a significant influence on our kids), we have to consciously encourage (and force if necessary) those within our spheres of influence to solve their problems with their own resources, the most fundamental of which is their brains. Necessity is truly the mother of invention, and unless a human being has opportunities to truly apply herself/himself, she/he will never actually grow. This process starts from babyhood, through adulthood, right until our old ages. The more of such opportunities a person is presented with, the more of an asset that person will become. If we go about solving their problems for them, even if they ask, we are ultimately doing them a huge disservice. Even though I did not appreciate it at the time, I am now very glad that my Dad rejected my non-permission-request :D.