I dragged my feet in my worn-out jungle boots as I walked out through the gates of the local government at Ikeja. I was supposed to be relieved that I had finally finished my clearance but I was not. I was tired and hungry and I really hoped that they would pay our allowee that day. Apart from my transport fare to get home, I had only 60 naira extra. I was going to buy one gala and a sachet of pure water then make my way home. That was the plan I was making in my head when somebody touched me from behind.
In the moment, I thought it was one of these Lagos pickpockets. I almost laughed out loud at the realization that even if he or she turned me upside down and shook me vigorously till infinity, he would not find more than 260 naira. Then, I remembered, my phone was in my bag and that was worth something so I turned to clutch it tighter. That was when I saw the little girl following me. She put her hand on her stomach then motioned to her mouth as if to say “I am hungry”.
I took another look at the little girl and I felt so bad for her instantly. Yes, I’m such a softie at heart. She had beautiful thick hair. It was really dirty and brown but I could see the potential. With just one wash, she would have hair like all these natural hair youtubers. I mentally compared it with my chicken scratch, struggling edges, 4c hair that is neither brown nor black. Again, I almost laughed out loud.
She repeated her earlier gesture and this time, she grasped the lower pocket flap of my khaki and continued following me. She looked up at me with her brown puppy dog eyes and I just melted. It’s as if this girl knew that my heart would not take it anymore. I immediately brought out 100 naira and gave it to her. I figured I could wait till I get home before eating anything and instead of taking 100 naira bike to my house, I would take 50 naira keke and trek the remaining distance. It was a small sacrifice to pay for the little girl who had not eaten in days most likely. She took the money, put it in a small pouch around her waist and bolted off immediately.
I had continued walking for about a minute when I realized I was still walking towards the gala shop. I turned back to start walking to the bus park since I was not going to buy my gala again. Let me just go to my house and eat. That was when I saw this little girl I just gave 100 naira. She was standing in front of an older woman (probably her mum) who was sitting in a corner of the street. This girl dipped her hand into her waist pouch and brought out a bunch of notes and then again and again and again, till she had emptied her pouch to her mum (maybe). I’m sure it could not have been less than 5,000 naira. AND I WAS BROKE!
I was transfixed to the spot. She smiled to her mum and her mum smiled back and rubbed her hair (her super pretty hair) probably praising her for her hard work and a job well done. It was indeed. I gave out my last money because I thought she was starving and had no money. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t get my money back. Just then, she bolted off again and touched the bag of another unsuspecting stranger, following her just as diligently and repeating her hunger choreography. I looked on as the lady brought out 50 naira and gave it to her. Wait, why didn’t I give her 50 naira? Why did I give her any money at all? This little girl was richer than me.
And as I trekked home when I came down from the keke, I think I might have called myself stupid. It wasn’t the first time I was giving little children like that money, sometimes, even more than 100 naira. I wondered if that’s how I was scammed all the time. This incident actually bothered me for a while. I stopped giving them any money no matter how bad it made me feel. I would remind myself of the day I gave my last money to someone richer than me and I would face my front with purpose. Until one day.
I realized that maybe that is what kindness and giving is all about afterall. Maybe it isn’t really about what is done with the gift but more that you were able to help or give or show kindness at all. So I went back to giving and just being glad that I am able to help.
I was gonna end this post saying that the act of kindness is in giving and not what happens to the gift. I was going to only encourage people to give and be kind regardless of what the recipient does with your act BUT another situation came up recently that made it almost compulsory for me to add this disclaimer.
As much as you are kind and selfless, don’t be foolish in your giving. Don’t become an enabler. Imagine continually ‘helping out’ an addict with money to buy drugs because Tomilola said the act of kindness is in giving and not what happens to the gift. Please, me I’m not there oooo. You can still be kind by getting help for the person and praying for the person. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
Please who else has had experiences with these Lagos street beggars abeg? Who else finds it hard to resist? Or have you been kind to someone who misused your act of kindness? Let’s talk in the comments section. Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to subscribe.
Your tiny-eyed storyteller.