Wednesday, January 24, 2007

One Christmas day, as I stood in front of a ground-floor apartment at the 1004 flats on Victoria Island, a man walked up to me. Simply dressed, I knew with the unerring instincts of a Lagosian, he was going to make a play, ask for some money. So I waited. And he did.

“Good evening”, he said. I replied him and waited still. “I’d like you to help me with something”. His grammar was good, I noted, it showed education and his clothing was simple but clean. He appeared three or four years older than I was then.
“Its Christmas and I wonder if you could help me with…”, he hesitated here and I could feel his pain. My urban-hardened heart thawed a bit and I asked a bit more gently, “Help you with what?”.
“Some food”, he answered. “I’m out of a job and haven’t been able to take anything home for months . If you can just help me…its Christmas…let me be able to put food on the table. I just want to see my children smile”.

He wanted uncooked rice, enough to feed a family of four at one meal. My insides twisted as I went to get the rice for him with the assistance of an equally usually-cynical female relative who for once was lost for words as we contemplated this man’s misery.
Before this happened, and many years before, I’d stood by the busy Western Avenue in Surulere, Lagos, waiting for the car traffic to lessen so I could cross the road. An old woman approached me, she appeared in her late 60s or early 70s. Again, I waited for the con. At that time, what some old women did was tell you they had travelled from the village to meet their son in the city but had been told, on getting to his home, he’d gone away to some far off place and might not be back for weeks. Now the con…all they wanted was their transport fare back home.

I waited for this old woman to repeat the sob story and when she greeted me, I answered a bit brusquely. She then timidly asked me in my language, Yoruba, if I could hold her hand as she attempted to cross the busy Avenue. She was afraid of falling as she crossed, afraid of the fast cars. I was ashamed that day and as I helped her, there were tears in my eyes she could not see. What had happened to me, I thought to myself? When had everyone become a liar to me? When did I start looking at all humans with eyes of distrust?

I also recall an incident when I had a blow-out on the 3rd mainland bridge, Nigeria’s busiest. I was home on holiday from the university. When the car ground to a halt, I suddenly remembered I didn’t even have a jack in the car to change the tyre. From nowhere, an area boy materialized, rough and brazen. For those who do not know what the term “Area Boy” means, they are the scum of the earth, continually seeking to rob and take advantage, or so I thought.
I immediately told this one I had no money to give him for his services if he helped change the tyre. That was a fact, I was broke. I also let him know I didn’t have a jack. By rights, I would have slept on that bridge with that car. But the “Area Boy” let me know it wasn’t all about the money, he attempted to flag passing cars (People don’t stop on the 3rd mainland bridge for anyone) and after many attempts, a man driving alone stopped. The “Area Boy” did my explaining while I stood to one side, borrowed that man’s car jack, and proceeded to change my tyre as the jack owner waved a cloth or something to warn speeding cars there was a stalled car on the bridge. When he finished, I thanked him and the jack owner profusely, and drove away, numb with disbelief.

There are great people everywhere. Men and women who just want to be human and share fellowship, who might need something that matters little to us. I woke this morning with thoughts of that man on a Christmas day, who just wanted to give his family a special meal on a special day. And now I ask God to forgive me for being jaded. Last year, someone I loved died, and I went through pain I thought was impossible for a human being to feel.

I want to thank ,with all my heart, my friends, who called and sought me out at that time, who stood by me and continue to support me as I chart my way through this mine-field called life, but this post is especially dedicated to all my friends on-line who in their own way have brightened my days and nights with a post, a comment, or a line. Friendships that have illuminated my life, shown me life is beautiful and friendships which I intend to keep for always, if the Lord wills. This is for the people I love, and for my troubled baby, Storm, who often makes me laugh and whom I cry with.
Thank you all.


Anonymous said... condolences, the Lord is your strength.

I try to remind myself everyday to think the best of people...

Lovely post.

Anonymous said...

nice point of view there, i mean, people, including me, sometimes have wrong views of other people. Yeah, i guess everyday we havta thank God for who and what we are.
By da way, happy new year!!! have a fabulous year ahead! and i hope we can learn to see people as they truly are. :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the loved one you lost.
Thanx for the dedication. I know who storm is :-), and she's a sweetheart, she's real and she'll be fine..

I really really love this post. It's true....

For some funny reason, this week I've just been thinking of 50/50 (I'll explain later).
I read one of Jaycee's post where she talked about sophism and how she hoped as we wrote posts on our blog we were being truthful...
Since then i kept thinking how any personal blogs (not the general, arts, news info, politics etc) we read had a 50% chance of being True and a 50% chance of being false.
Anyways I feel many of them are true because there are really great people. The ones I don't really feel are genuine for some reason I never make a comment on the entire blog.
I don't even know why I'm blabbing here, its just something I've been feeling.

Anonymous said...

This was good man!!!tyme makes us cynical,and iv found that wherever innocence is,cynicism quickly crops up...but u cant blame urself for thinkn every1 is outta get you,it almost usually is d's d rare guud occurences that "restores our faith in humanity"!almost as long as ur post!

Anonymous said...

...first off...sorry about your friend...may you find the strength to bear your loss. I feel you about just trying to be human...sometimes it is hard not to be cynical when life has thrown all sorts of funny obstacles your way...but someone very close to me (who was going through similar musing like you are) wrote this in an email to me a while back and I try to make it my motto -

"Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the places you can,
In all the ways you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can."

Anonymous said...

a lovely post, i must confess. very deep and passionate. i was almost going to call you & ask about the loss, after your bro 'Joe black' shared it with me a couple of days back. I was surprised why you had never said a word about it on your blog. just like nilla, i was beginning to think blogs weren't so true after all. all those beautiful pictures, writings and poems, even with such loss?
today, i am proud to say... this is my truest blog ever!
"may peace & joy, flood ur heart like a river".

Anonymous said...


There are still good people in Lagos. About five years ago, I lost
my expensive mobile phone in a danfo bus. I rang the number and the driver who picked it, brought it to my office. He even refused the reward I offered him. Another time, I lost my wallet (with all my bank details). Again, the driver of the bus returned it to me.Who says Nigerians are not honest?

laspapi said...

Thank you, Omosewa & aureeni. In a cynical world, we're quick to place people in compartments. I often have to remind myself that there are very good people out there.
Have a brilliant new year.

Nilla, you're one of my favourite bloggers as I'm sure you know and you were one of those on my mind as I wrote(despite your threats of causing me greivous bodily harm).
I'd like to hear more about sophism and the 50/50 rule. Will you do something on it? I'll stop by jaycee's tonight hoping I can find it.
Merci, Nilla.

Thank you for the nice words, Vixen. I wrote that post and then pondered on it for days wondering if I hadn't exposed too much of my soul to the world. Still, 'the truth will out', and so, here it is.

Mojolaoluwa, I like the verse. I'll use it as a motto too. I hate the cynicism that comes with the loss of childhood and innocence and I hope I can 'live' the future gracefully.

@ ifeanyi- May peace and joy flood my heart like a river. Amen. Why didn't I write about the pain earlier? Because we all have our ways of dealing with the blows life deals us. The primary reason I wrote this was for the good people I have had the pleasure of meeting on-line, those whom, with an appropriate word and a well-timed quip have made me smile broadly and from the heart.
I'm not given to talking about my pain, Ifeanyi. Old habits die hard.

@anietie- The natives are friendly and good people abound everywhere in our country. I pray we will get to the stage where goodness will be rewarded.

Anonymous said...

speaking about the good, they exist--and in everyone. I try my best to give everyone a chance to be themselves, knowing that whatever they show me, I, to some extent, had a hand in bringing out in them.

I'd love to be more open about my pained side (I've felt and feel no more)but it's difficult when the words come slow. I however love people with the gift of expression, it's something I couldn't conjure.

laspapi said...

to everyman his gift(s), mack. You have many, as I've already observed.

Anonymous said...

Whao... this was such an inspirational post. It's true... we see so much in life sometimes that we become so jaded but sometimes its not really our fault is it... it's horror stories that we hear and sometimes even experience so many times... but it's great when we can recapture that trusting innocence... or at least some of it... I was very glad to read this. It's beautiful when you get to see the better parts of people you know...

I'm really sorry about your loss... I can't even begin to imagine how painful it was as people who have died around me have mostly been those i'm not really close to. i hope that with time the pain will fade away... but of course not the memories.. God bless you papi... You're one of the most beautiful souls i've ever met and i truly hope we have a long and fruitful friendship(quoting unnaked here).Thanks for being there.. i hope i can be there for you too.. have a great weekend luv

laspapi said...

@ Storm, thank you for stopping by here, luv and for the beautiful words you wrote. And here's to the future and to great friendships.

Anonymous said...

Me ke?
A whole me that cannot hurt a fly, will now cause greivous bodily

The 50/50 rule thing, I don't know if I'd do anything on it yet. I'll think about it though.

laspapi said...


they're a group of bloggers I call the faithful- my friends, special people. And with you, I've had a theory proven. Its not how long but how well. Do your work quickly in that land where you are and come home. This country needs hearts like yours.

Funmi said...

i can totally relate to what you are saying. I have been conned alot of times by people 'posing' as beggars.I was even discouraged from giving at a point.

I have finally decided that i won't let a few scum of the earth deter me from doing what i know is right to do. Living in the city also hardens one as well....God help us all.

Anonymous said...

lolllll....also when I stood outside the 1004 flats as well, I think it was "new yrs" or somn, a man approached me asking for help too...

Lollll...I think it was the same case scenario...

ps: Heart-felt sympathies abt the one u lost. May God comfort you and everyone else concerned, in Jesus Name. Amen.

Anonymous said...

I read this mail on the right day. My colleague and friend had been breaking her back trying to save up money to buy her mum another car.

A family friend heard of it and ordered that a brand new car be sent round to her mom. She (my friend) has been crying since yesterday night. She called to share the news and i was overwhelmed at the kindness that is still out there.

On a final note: "I went through pain I thought was impossible for a human being to feel". This touched me in a way that I can not begin to explain. For the past (almost) 2 years till just 2 months ago, i went through a hard time that threatened to deprive me of my sanity. Yet, here I STAND-At a place I had long given up hope I would ever get to again.

More importantly, here you STAND too. I am sorry for your loss and I am glad that you've gotten up to the "unjaded' point.

laspapi said...

many years ago, I gave a supposedly hungry Liberian Refugee all I had (I was on my way out) and so couldn't afford the cab/bus fare to my destination. I took a stroll up the street later and who goes past in a cab? My hungry liberian friend comfortably esconced in the back seat of the cab.
Still, I agree with you that one must not allow frauds poison our desire to help those in real need.

laspapi said...

jaycee, you were apparently one of the G4 crew when you were in lagos.
Frauds are everywhere. May we have the ability to discern.

Thank you too, for the supportive words and God bless you.

@ in my head- Thank you for the story you shared. There are kind people out there, may we swell their ranks.

I'm glad you're still standing after your 'trial', that is inspiring. I read somewhere once that-
'Beware of desperate steps
The darkest night lived,
will turn to day'.

Anonymous said...

There are good people out there, I feel God tries to remind us to always be good to those around us by bringing good people to us.
Hildergarde sort of preached that worshipping God is about showing care to those around us...Something about seeing God in the face of those around us. Which sort of boils out to the whole 5 loaf of bread and 2 fish story in the bible. If the boy didn't give his food then it would never have been multiplied and his family probably would not have been satisfied as well...

When am sad, I try to cry, crying relieves the pain and make everything feel better, except I don't know how to cry.....(sorry about ur loss)

laspapi said...

lovely comments, mamarita.

Read in the good book a while back that 'no man has seen God but through this shall men know that you know him; by showing love, one towards another'

I smiled at your line- "...I don't know how to cry".

Anonymous said...

What can I say,sorry about your loss.

It is very easy to become jaded especially in this society of ours,but we cannot always close our eyes and heart to very true people.

Subtly thought provoking post.
Thank you.

laspapi said...

@ OB, thank you for the words of encouragement and thanks for stopping by the blog. I agree whole-heartedly with the things you've written.

Anonymous said...

This very beautiful and touching

laspapi said...

thank you, damsel

Anonymous said...

This post made me want to cry. First of - my condolences on your loss. This year is proving to be a tough one for many.

Your story about the old woman touched me the most. I think life as we know it makes us all inevitably jaded. We've all (hopefully) had experiences where people have stunned us with their extraordinary bouts of kindness and selflessness. It's one of the things that gives me hope for our country.

As for being true in our blogs - i think (hope) most people are true but fear they temper a lot of their words or omit certain experiences due to the fear of exposure or perhaps fear of giving people the ammunition to attack you.

laspapi said...

Thank you for stopping by, noni, and for empathising with the issues I wrote on.
A few times now, I've tried to 'invite' myself onto your blog but the Google Bouncers have tossed me out repeatedly.

Aramide said...

Wow there are definitely good hearted people in Nigeria still contrary too more popular perception

Noni Moss said...

:-) The other blogs under my profile give directions on how to get access but I'll add you now. Your yahoo e-mail address right? You should have an e-mail from me.

laspapi said...

Good people are all over, mona. The dust of the hustle 'n flow doesn't allow us see them atimes.

@ noni- Thanx for the invite. I'll be there presently.

God's child said...

Do good not because it is expcted of you but because it is what is expected of yourself. The world might try to rob you of your identity, but you know who and what you are. Keep being a glimmer of faith and hope amongst many