We are in the thick of the rainy season in Lagos, Nigeria; the weather authority has stated that we will likely experience 263 days of rainfall this year… that’s a lot of rainy days :-). Even though the season usually brings with it a lot of road traffic and mosquitoes, I actually love the rainy season – because along with it comes fresh corn :-D! As soon as the rains start, I start looking forward to the aroma of fresh corn being roasted on the roadside, and then I start looking forward to my first taste accompanied with coconut… yum :-D!
A few days ago, I spotted some delectable cobs of corn in a roadside vendor’s pot on my way home from an appointment, and just had to stop to get myself some.
Me: “Madam, good afternoon o.”
Vendor: “Good afternoon.”
Me: “Abeg how much you dey sell your corn?” (how much is the corn?)
Vendor: “Na fifty fifty naira.” (it is fifty naira a piece)
Me: “Ehen… ok, abeg give me five… na the one wey soft well well o.” (I would like to have five pieces please, very soft ones)
She proceeds to commence the swift selection process, wrapping my purchase in a couple of old newspaper pages, fitting the wrap into a black plastic bag, then handing the bag over to me. As I dug into my wallet to pay her, I overheard the following conversation between the vendor and her neighbour selling coconut pieces.
Vendor: “Mama Caro, so how you wan take do am na?” (Carol’s Mum, what will you do about it?)
Mama Caro: “My sister I never sabi o… where I wan take find N2,000 to buy im medicine?” (I do not know, where will I get N2,000 to pay for his drugs?)
Mama Caro: “We go dey manage alabukun.” (we will manage the popular local pain-relief and fever-relief medication powder)
I inquired from the corn vendor what Mama Caro needed the N2,000 ($12) for and learnt that it was the cost of the antibiotics the doctor had prescribed for her ailing son. N2,000 at that moment was the difference between life and death for Mama Caro. I stole a glance at Mama Caro, and the worry and near-helplessness were quite evident on her features. I looked in my wallet; I did not have enough to give Mama Caro the gift she appeared to desperately need. I asked Mama Caro if she knew the name of the drug she was supposed to purchase – she promptly placed a phone call to make the inquiry. When she told me the name of the drug, I could not believe the coincidence – a friend had given me some money earlier in the day to help her pick up a drug from the pharmacy, which I was yet to deliver, and it was the same drug! I promptly paid the vendor, went to retrieve the drug from my car, and gave it to Mama Caro. She was ecstatic! You’d think she had just won the lottery.
As I drove to a pharmacy to replace the drug for my friend, I thought about how many of us privileged ones – yes, anyone who can afford to spend N1,000 without giving much thought to the effect on everything else in his / her life is privileged – spare a thought for the differences we can make in other people’s lives. It does not have to be a lot of money, and it does not even have to be money at all. It could be giving a smile, a kind word, time to listen to another person’s story, time to read to a child and watch his / her face light up as s/he discovers worlds previously unknown, a kind action like giving up your seat for an elderly person or pregnant woman, or donating still-in-good-quality items that are simply taking up space in your abode.
I do not support giving alms to able-bodied men and women who have decided to become beggars, but I definitely support providing assistance to those who are doing something, anything, no matter how small, to be productive. I also support the education and mindset change of those who think they have nothing to offer – and resort to begging as a result.
So, let us all dedicate a moment (or a few moments) each day to discover how we can be blessings to others – not to people who we think can be of benefit to us, but to those who we think can never pay us back, and then put our discoveries into practice.