Earlier this year, I found out that someone for whom I had voluntarily looked like a fool in order to help was scamming me or at the very least, misrepresenting facts. Truth is, I had been a little suspicious. When we were in law school together, there were things he did that made me a bit suspicious. I won’t go into that.
I had done even more than you’d expect someone who was related to you to do but this person seemed prepared to continue scamming me and his whole family was in on it. I’d like to say I was angry but I really wasn’t. I was hurt, I felt betrayed but at the same time I don’t know the full story. And I don’t want to know. I don’t care anymore. Obviously some of the story is true but there are some bits that he forgot to mention, such as a very inconvenient addiction to designer clothes and an entitlement mentality.
If you’re Nigerian, you’ve probably heard rumors of a person who gave something to a beggar and nothing ever went well for the person again. You might have watched movies where the elder brother of a person would ask him to come back home for Christmas. Then, when he returns home and gives same elder brother money out of the goodness of his heart, he ends up dead the next day and his family are consequently treated horribly by the elder brother of lore, after which they sing mournful songs to their departed husband and father, begging him for help, one of them joins “bad gangs” and another gets tempted by bread and cold Fanta left on the roadside but eventually doesn’t eat it, but then, we see someone who does eat it and turns into a lovely chicken (I’m basically giving you the storyline of Onwa December here).
I should be upset. I know. But, before I decided on whether or not to be upset, I talked to God. You see, I had very strongly felt that God had wanted me to help that fellow. It was an incredibly strong feeling. I wouldn’t have done so much if I had believed otherwise. But this year, that feeling, that certainty washed away. I doubt God will ever ask you to do anything where there is an absence of need. And I had helped him anonymously about a week before he came, presenting another “urgent” request.
I asked God, “Why did you have me help this person? Why didn’t I just give everything I gave to someone who really needed it? Why? I’m feeling like such a fool today. I’m feeling so betrayed. So ashamed. And this shame, it is not my shame. By rights, I should not be feeling this shame.
I help people because you asked me to help people. I help others because your Word says that I should. That she that watereth shall also be watered. Why did you have me help someone who did not need it? Someone who was actively, along with his family, scamming me and mine. Why?”
And then God said, “The fact that he doesn’t need help now does not mean that he never needed help. Haven’t you wondered why you no longer feel any desire to help him? That desire to help him, it came from me. He asked me for help. I sent you. Now, I have withdrawn you. You once asked me, that whether or not you give things to people who actually need them or to scam artists, that I should give you the blessing of the giver and neutralize any plan to use your gift for evil. Can you say that I have not kept My Word? Can you say that you have not been watered?”
And I couldn’t. So I rested. But I refuse to give him anything else. There are many people, so many people who genuinely need help and I won’t help a faker when I know he’s faking. Not anymore.
I have many similar stories. Of people who burrow their way into my life because I’m supposedly nice and generous.
There was the woman who entered a tricycle with me and begged me to pay her fare. Actually the begging came after. She entered the tricycle, not knowing me from absolutely anywhere and looked me up and down. Obviously assuming that I could afford to pay both my fare and hers, she simply asked me to pay for her. I stared blankly at her, then she begged me.
Or the person I met at my sewing classes. The instructor is the one I actually blame for this, because he was the one who asked him to ask me for money. What, do I have Billionaire stamped on my forehead? Anyway, it was around the time I found out I’d become a lawyer and I believe in sharing happiness. But since then, he calls me almost every blessed day. And I’m crazy tired.
Once, I was walking back home from sewing lessons and I saw this woman begging. I walked by but, because of something (the fact that she had two kids), I went back and gave her some money. Then before I knew it, she sent one of her sons to shadow me. I mean, I gave her mint. And you can’t just have one mint note in your purse. How can? So her son walked behind me a long way off, asking me for money all the way. I actually planned to give him something. I did. But I wasn’t sure I’d have enough money left to pay the okada guy I planned to take, so I told him to leave me alone and he retorted something along the lines of “God will not bless you”. I want to say that I laughed but that statement made me so angry.
One of the funny tales I remember has to do with a certain woman who had a baby and was begging for transportation to go home. I gave her enough money to get home, then she looked me up and down, very contemptuously, might I add and said, “What about my baby?”.
When I was younger, as recently as 2014, I used to feel obligated to help people. Obliged to actually. Whenever I had the very human desire to not do a damn thing, I’ll remember my mom saying, “There are many people with very serious problems in this world” and I’d dip into my pocket and surrender whatever I had. There were times I wouldn’t have money for myself because I had given it to someone else who supposedly needed my help. Since 2014, I’ve come to realize that not everyone seeking help actually needs it. That not everyone who stands, kneels or lies by the roadside actually has a problem. I’ve seen a supposedly blind man look at a phone and make a phone call. In so many ways, I’m jaded now. I’ve seen way too much to believe everybody’s tall tales. I’ve been scammed a little too often to trust blindly.
Earlier this year and early last year, I promised myself I wouldn’t give a damn thing to anyone. I could actually imagine God laughing at me when I said that. I broke both those promises very early into the year.
But I’ve talked so much about the negatives. Let me tell you about the positives.
95% of every thing I own is a gift from someone. My shoes, my hats, my watches, my perfumes, my laptop. I hardly ever have to buy anything. The minute I think, “Ooh, I’d like that”, someone brings or buys it for me. No one ever had to tell me that if I give clothes, I’d get clothes. I wanted shoes, so I gave shoes. I got 4 pairs of shoes. I give perfumes, I’ve never had to buy perfumes for myself. In fact, I used to complain that people only ever seemed to give me perfumes.
This year, I want someone to send me a cake. So I will (complete the sentence).
There’s a lot of benefit to giving people things, honestly and no matter how many times I get scammed, how many times I get so mad when someone looks at my gift with disdain, I doubt I’ll ever stop doing it.
However, something I recently inculcated in my life, is to sniff out the motive for whatever I give. In 2014, I pretty much emptied my savings of 6 years in attempt to help God save me. Or take my life. Other times, I’d do something bad to someone, apologize, pray, still feel bad about it and then go on to give something I hadn’t planned to give. Guilt giving. I’m trying to eliminate that from my life. My top top top top love language is Acts of Service. I’m one of those people who goes awww when the man in a show cooks and cleans for his wife. I don’t awww as much when he brings gifts. Case in point- How I met your mother. The episode where Barney scrubs Ted’s apartment and fills the fridge with milk. His motives were “selfish”(I don’t think so personally), granted but Awwwwwwww! (Watch it). One of my most watched episodes of all time.
And I decoded all the things I wanted someone to do for me, no strings attached and I started doing them for others. Stand up so I can sit down in a BRT? Check.
Pay my transport fare? Check, due again though.
Buy me lunch? Check but it’s due again.
Send me a cake. Negatory. Anyone have suggestions?
Sometimes, I do stuff that specifically can never be repaid.
My point is simple. Wherever you can, whatever you have, do something for someone else. It doesn’t have to be money related. It can be as simple as helping a woman hawking drinks lift the basin onto her head or standing so someone else sits or calling passengers for a bus or taking the fares and sorting out change if the bus has no conductor.
But you have the power. So much of it. And you might not see what your sacrifices will bring for you but I once read this prayer:
” Lord, may we never lack people to stand in our defense. May our good gifts and our sacrifices continually speak for us in the evil day”
Somebody say Amen!
By the way, as soon as I’m done with Ebube’s story, I’m going on strike.