Relationship with Others: What Goes Around Comes Back Around


About 3 years ago, we – Mr. B and I – hosted our first Eid-el Adha party as a family.   The social hallmark of the Eid-el Adha celebrations is the fried ram meat; everyone I know – young or old, Muslim or not – looks forward to this once-a-year delicacy (for most).  Even the rams themselves know something is up (even though not in their favour).

image courtesy

We live in an apartment block that does not have any space provision for outdoor food preparation and cooking, so we decided to explore the option of using the undeveloped plot of land next door.  Mr. B met the head of the family that had taken up a shanty residence there to seek permission to handle our ram business there.  The gentleman – who I shall call Ahmed – not only acceded to our request but also helped select an appropriate spot for our purpose.  Ahmed went the additional step of helping us oversee the individuals that were working on the ram to ensure things were done properly; we were pleasantly surprised as we had not asked him to do that.  At the end of it all, Ahmed did not request for a single thing in return for all his assistance.  We ensured he had a very healthy helping from the menu of the day, but we did not think that was enough to repay him for his kindness.  Such acts of kindness can never be fully repaid in my opinion.  We have since included Ahmed and his family in our zakat distributions every Eid-el Adha and Eid-el Fitr; a little token in our opinion, but we know it will enhance his family’s nutrition for a reasonable period.  We greet each other heartily whenever we do see, and he always seems genuinely happy to see us.

Fast forward to 3 weeks ago when we had some major road work done in the neighborhood that resulted in a major access road becoming inaccessible for a few days.  This meant we had to park at the other end of our street as that end had been barricaded (don’t ask :|) and walk a short distance home – nothing uncomfortable, and thankfully it is currently Harmattan, so there was next to no chance of having to deal with the rains :).  On that morning, I had gone on the morning school run, returned, parked at the closed end of the street, saw Ahmed as I walked home, we greeted ourselves heartily as usual, and I walked on home.  When it was time for the afternoon school run, I rushed out nearly late as usual (sigh!), returned with my crew, parked at the closed end of the street again.  I carefully chose my spot so I would neither end up being sandwiched in nor obstruct the free flow of traffic).  I then got my crew arranged with their school items in place in their backpacks on their shoulders, then got into our set-to-walk position: I hold Miss AB’s hand, and Mstr EB holds her other hand, with me being closest to the street and Mstr EB closest to the curb.

Just as I was silently congratulating myself on getting us all “in-sync” in good time, I saw Ahmed walking briskly towards us, trying to tell me something that I could not yet hear.  I looked around wondering what he could be saying: did I miss a sign that said not to park there? was it supposed to be someone else’s spot?  As he got closer, I heard the sweet words:

“Madam you fit enter; e get person wey go open am for you.” (Madam, you can drive your car through; I have someone who will open up the barricade for you)

My eyes must have been as large as circles!  I had no idea the lock at the barricade even had a key!  And to find out that not only did it have a key, the holder of the key was close by, and Ahmed had gotten him to provide us access!  You would think I had won a lottery!  I thanked Ahmed profusely, told the munchkins that they would get their leg-stretch exercise another time, and happily drove us home.

image courtesy

Why did this action of Ahmed’s make such an impression on me?  Because even though it was not an uncomfortable distance, it felt good to have someone else look out for us without us making any move to make a request, and knowing the person would not ask us for anything in return.  Also, because the gesture was not materialistic in any way, but provided a much-needed respite on a very hot day.

In Yoruba, we have a short phrase: “k’a sa ma se da da,” which loosely means “it is good to do good.” Let us please continue to be kind to others without expecting anything in return; we never know when that gesture will be returned and how much impact it will have.  In this instance, we were the direct beneficiaries; in other instances, it may be our loved ones that would be the beneficiaries.  Do not view a person through the lens of class, status, appearance, age, or religion, to determine whether or not to be kind; we all belong to a single race called humanity, and no one knows anyone’s tomorrow, not even our own.  So, go forth and be kind!

image courtesy Sue Barrett via LinkedIn

Got any karma stories of your own to share?




Relationship with Self & Others: Positive Effects of Ebola Virus Outbreak in Nigeria

It is no longer news that the deadly Ebola virus (“the virus”) arrived in Nigeria for the first time late last month (July 2014).  The nature of the virus requires that individuals exhibit the following characteristics in order to contain the spread and minimise fatalities:

  • a keen sense of personal responsibility,
  • a proper – elevated actually – sense of hygiene, and
  • a respect for personal space.



As much as the various governments and medical representatives have their obligations to proactively identify potential cases, and quarantine and treat as appropriate, the individuals have an even higher obligation to themselves and to others to “turn themselves in” should any suspicion arise about: (1) exposure to the virus; (2) exhibiting symptoms of the effects of the virus.  The next level from this would be enlightened self-interest, taking the place of selfishness and greed.


wash hands soap and water

We all know we are supposed to wash our hands regularly – especially after using the restroom and just before eating, not pick our noses, avoid rubbing our eyes, not sneeze on people, and cover our mouths when we cough.  However, we also know that we have not quite been compliant with these basic hygiene requirements.  The nature of the Ebola virus is such that it cannot survive soap, detergents, antiseptic agents, bleach, and heat.  The current outbreak of the virus has increased our general understanding and implementation of what should be the norm.  Hopefully, these preventive measures currently being taken to be Ebola-safe will become lifelong habits that we will continue to teach those around us.


personal space comic

And now to the most interesting one – personal space!  I am not sure how many of us actually understand what this means, given that I regularly have to turn back to the person whose breath I can feel on the back of my neck as I wait in the checkout line at the departmental store, and say “abeg dress small” (Pidgin English for “could you please move back a bit”).  So, here’s a definition obtained from Google (yes, Google is my friend 🙂 ):

the physical space immediately surrounding someone, into which encroachment can feel threatening or uncomfortable.

Lagos is a very crowded town.  People are constantly bumping into each other, pushing against each other, sometimes simply holding on to another for dear life.  We are so used to this constant “interaction” that we still maintain the mode even when we do not have to – like my experiences at the departmental store.  Now, that we have an extremely communicable disease in our midst, we have suddenly started respecting personal space, and even exaggerated it some!  It would sure be nice if this appreciation of personal space is maintained long after the virus is eradicated, and becomes something we are known for :-).

dp - queue in oshodi

Relationship with Strangers: Chivalry is not Dead

It’s Valentine’s Day!  Well, it still is on the west coast of the United States and in Hawaii :-).  That special day when some parts of the world go ga-ga with romance and splashes of red :-).  When people go out of their way to be kind and generous towards the one that makes their heart sing, hopefully not just for that one day… and hopefully a kind thought and gesture for all who cross their paths.

Speaking of kind gestures, we were beneficiaries recently.  A few weeks ago, we were at the 1004 Estates to visit family friends.  For those familiar with the 1004 Estates, parking spots for visitors are scarce commodities, especially on a Sunday evening.  We crawled the car slowly searching for a free spot to squeeze ourselves in without being a nuisance to anyone else.  After about ten minutes, we found an available, but tight, spot.  As I proceeded to maneuver the car, Mr. B alighted from the vehicle to provide guidance so I wouldn’t destroy any property — ours or the estates’ :-).

1004 Estates

Maneuvering into this spot required me to move the car at a right angle (anyone remember their mathematics trigonometry :-)) to the row of parking spots allocated to the residents; one of those parking spots was vacant at the time.  The owner of this vacant spot (Vacant-Spot Owner) returned before I could successfully get our car in proper position, so I drove away to make room for him get into his spot, and then resume my gymnastics.  Through the rear view mirror, I could see a conversation had ensued between Vacant-Spot Owner and Mr. B; I muttered to myself “abi this guy dey vex ni (could he be upset)?  He should hurry up and park his car jo.”

A few moments later, I saw Mr. B walking up to us and Vacant-Spot Owner driving away. I expected to hear Mr. B tell us how Vacant-Spot Owner had complained about us potentially blocking his spot and how Mr. B had convinced him his wife would do a good job of ensuring that wouldn’t happen (Mr. B’s wife is a very decent driver :-D).

Me: “Ki l’o sele (what happened)?”

Mr. B: “He said we can park in his spot.”

Me: “Ehn?”

Mr. B: “He said he can find somewhere else to park, so we can park in his spot.”

Me: “Wow!  Interesting…  So, chivalry is not dead after all.”

I was amazed!  I really cannot remember the last time I was the recipient of such an effortless but extremely touching gesture.  I swiftly fitted our car into the spot, before Vacant-Spot Owner could change his mind, hee hee.  We relayed the story to our hosts and we all concurred that was a really nice gesture.  The amazement quotient inched up a few notches when they saw the actual spot we had been allowed to park in, because, according to them, it is one of the prime spots!

It felt good to know there’s still zero-agenda good in the world (right here in Lasgidi!), and the experience gingered me up to make more of an effort to make life a tad bit easier for others whenever I can afford to.

So, what amazing kind gesture have you done for a complete stranger lately?  What amazing gesture has a complete stranger done for you lately?

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” —Steve MaraboliLife, the Truth, and Being Free

Relationship with Strangers: Use of Endearments

I was in a banking hall a few weeks ago getting some items off my to-do list.  I had made my way along the queue and was finally being attended to by one of the bank’s tellers.  Along comes this tall (at least 6 feet), big-boned (not fat), light-skinned, well-spoken (foné and all) lady who proceeded to start a conversation with the teller attending to me:

Teller: “Good afternoon ma.”

Lady: “Ah, I’m surprised you even recognized me.”

Teller: “Of course ma.” (smiling)

Lady: (handing him her cheque book) “Please copy the number.  That is what you will use for the transfer.”

Teller: “Ok ma.”

Lady: “Thanks hun.”

Teller: (smiles)

After copying the number as the lady had requested,

Teller: “Excuse me ma, you will need to fill this form.”

Lady: “Ok.”

At this point, another male staff member of the bank happens to walk by.

Lady: “Excuse me, may I borrow your pen?”

Other Bank Staff: “Sure.”

Lady: “Thanks darling.”

Other Bank Staff: (looks at her quizzically, then smiles)

In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t being kept waiting unduly, as my transactions’ processes required a bit of a wait, so I didn’t need to tell the sister off for attempting to jump the queue, hee hee.

I felt a bit uncomfortable on behalf of Teller and Other Bank Staff though – here were grown men, being referred to as “hun” and “darling” by a woman who it seemed like Other Bank Staff didn’t know and had never met before and Teller probably only knew professionally.  I personally think such endearments should be reserved for those who are close and in the same age group, and maybe younger people; it seemed so out-of-place in a professional setting.

So, are there inappropriate times / ways to use endearments?  Or is it just me?