Helping our friends get back on their feet after COVID-19 induced stress and losses
Starting in the first quarter of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic with its insidious virility spread to engulf the entire planet.
Hundreds of thousands of lives have were lost untimely. Such a deluge of untimely loss definitely leaves a vacuum in the space of our common humanity. Such emptiness will take generations to fill. Nations, companies, and organization are being pushed to their brinks. We are still counting the losses — billions of dollars.
Here in Nigeria, the authorities are just musing on schools reopening after over six months of compulsive vacation. It has been a vacation with no certainty of a resumption date in view.
Other than cash, there are other ways to best help some of our friends and other wayfarers who fell victims to the other no less devastating virus. I mean COVID-19 related job losses. This is not just another random rambling from a narcissist. Shannon Ashley shared a highly resonating story that prompted me to creep out of my shell and shed off my anti-vulnerability cloak.
On that day, this last April morning prayers time has just ended in my home. From the sitting room, I made for the bedroom before turning on mobile data for the day’s social media trail.
Shortly afterward, my wife joined me in the room. “Darling, enhenhelp, our pastor’s son is stranded in Akwa Ibom state. He could not come home before the COVID-19 lockdown. He requested some help. Please can we help him? That boy calls me mummy o.”
“If only they knew how “brokest” we are now, nobody will be asking us for help.” Musing in tune with my inner voice, I reckoned, “indeed, if that boy calls you “mummy”, then he will also call me “daddy”.
Patrick’s dad, one of our senior pastors, has been in the church ministry decades before I knew him. That was over 30 years ago, before Patrick’s birth. I was a bachelor then. Now, he is in the troupe of fresh graduates being added to the “no-jobs” market. He was undergoing his compulsory one-year national service in Akwa Ibom state.
I did not have to brood for too long. After all, Patrick’s parents have been ministering to us spiritually. We too ought to take care of Patrick no matter how small. “The young man has sent his request to the right people” — my wife and me. Those were the exact thoughts in my mind then.
“We will always help others no matter how small.” That was the vow we made many years back. When our daughter was born 23 years ago, we called her Mercy in celebration of our God’s countless mercies upon us.
All we could muster for Patrick was a paltry N3,000 (less than $10). We couldn’t afford to part with any more then. Preceding weeks have had us parting with over N25,000 for various bits of help. The unrelenting mayhem was ravaging on. Ad nauseam, “COVID-19 pandemic” was the first, the last, and all day long chitchat on everybody’s lips. This chitchat has been on for weeks unabated.
The pandemic was a round-the-clock talk of the town. Be it in the news space, cyberspace, or real space, almost no single minute transpire without some sort of reference being made to it. No one was expecting to be spared as everybody was exposed to the risk of the deadly unleashing. We ought to show the same charity to others, no matter how meager. At this moment, we’ve done all that we could.
Not long afterward, Patrick’s voice came through my phone, “Thank you, mummy, I have received the cash.”
From the time his request came in through the time, it took me to transfer the sum of less than $10 dollars to the time I stood up from the bed was about 10 minutes. But, before I stood up from bed that morning, my friend in Poland came online via Facebook messenger. We met via LinkedIn about four years back. He was concerned about how I and my countrymen were weathering the pandemic. He was keen on helping us in any way he could. Struggling along with his family as we were, he was a job applicant like me.
We chatted at length.
“You don’t even know me. Why are you so keen on helping me?”
To this, he replied, “It was strongly impressed upon my heart to do it. Use the money to help yourself or any other person.”
Still, he proceeded, “Is it true that some Nigerians are succumbing to the pandemic and dying on the streets?”
To which I replied, “to my knowledge, there has been none of such cases. But things are getting more desperate by the day.” I cautioned him against being misled by some glossy shining faces of some Nigerians he might have seen on the web. Most of us here are just getting on the best we can, “suffering and smiling” all the way as we say it here.”
He was resolute, even though he was hard-pressed himself. There were delays, but after about two weeks, the cash eventually came in via Western Union. It was a timely and much-needed relief. I drove with my son to the bank to collect the cash from Western Union. At last, the relief came through for us despite the slow snaky queue. Help has come for us from an unknown person on another side of the world. Grace.
At first, I was wary of this unexpected magnanimity. Nigeria is notoriously infamous because of the activities of internet fraudsters. At home and abroad, we bear this stigma stamped on us by a few miscreants from our fellow countrymen and women. I was even suspicious. “Could he be another one of those internet fraudsters infamously tagged “419” in my country?”
I have known Stefan for over four years and there was no reason to suspect anything. Recently, Stefan had a brief job stint in Switzerland from where he commutes to and from his native Poland. We are still out job hunting and still in regular contact, counseling, and supporting one another.
The encounter with an unknown friend from half a world away has taught me so many lessons. Here are some of them;
- Don’t lose your personal touch. Along with the pandemic came the evil of extensive caution and social distancing, but there is a social distancing that is worse than COVID-19 social distancing. Relational distancing, the tendency of people towards distancing themselves from their less fortunate former friends and colleagues, is real. Do not fall for this bad-ass syndrome (a la Christopher Ryan).
- No one owes you anything, and you’re not owing anybody anything either. But, call your friends, answer their calls, reply to their WhatsApp messages. Remember that no man is an island. The bell may yet toll for you sooner than later.
- With discernment practice acts of random kindness. When we deliberately practice altruistic random kindness, we will renew hope for all, and our world will last longer for it.
- When former friends no longer want to respond to your chats, calls, or emails, probably the bad-ass syndrome of relational distancing has set in. Do not be the one perpetuating this malady. Give hope, call your friends and reply to their chats, because the sun will yet rise again.
Now, our planet is gradually recovering from the COVID-19 plague. Let the cycle of goodness and goodwill continue. This is what will usher in our speedy restoration from the ashes of despair and make all our hopes come alive.Many of our friends couldn't survive the other pandemic. Our outstretched hands could be harbingers of hope and hasten the recovery we need and expect. Yours and mine in our common humanity. Click To Tweet No man is an island. The bell may yet toll for you sooner than later. Click To Tweet
Many of our friends couldn’t survive the other pandemic.
Our outstretched hands could be harbingers of hope
And hasten the recovery we need and expect.
Yours and mine in our common humanity.
I originally published another version of this story on Medium.
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