Last week, I was on my early morning stroll around the Naija Blogosphere and I saw a feature on a Nigerian business mogul’s house. I finished perusing the pictures, and the comments section caught my eye. There was a common thread that ran through the comments and it was something along the lines that there was a lot of poverty in Nigeria and the business mogul had no reason to live in such an edifice. They wanted to know why rich men aren’t charitable, why they preferred to amass wealth instead of giving to the poor and all I could think of was the fact that human beings are weird.
Let’s take a step back and look at the definition of ‘Charity’ -When you type “Charity” into Encarta Dictionaries this is what comes out.
“The voluntary provision of money, materials or help to people in need” /
“money, materials or help voluntarily given to people in need”/ “the impartial love of other people, especially as a Christian virtue”/ “An organization that collects and other voluntary contributions of help for the people in need”
From this definition, it is clear that there’s a confusion by my people as to what it means to be charitable or where the responsibility of giving lies. Giving isn’t something that is prescribed or compulsory. None of the definitions of charity states that one has to have bucket loads of money in order to be charitable. In fact, the word “voluntary” pops out ever so often when you talk about charity. So it’s safe to conclude that irrespective of your financial strength the concept of charity is something that you can CHOOSE to embark on with or without financial resources. Thankfully, giving is not limited to money and the best type of the gifts are those that keep giving.
It is said that if a man asks you for fish, you can keep giving him the fish or you can teach him how to get the fish. That way, he can go on to give another person who is in need and subsequently, teach the next man how to fish. It feels like we’re too busy waiting to be millionaires in order to give to the person in need that we fail to realize that the girl who runs errands for us in our office doesn’t have good shoes. We’re too busy waiting for that big contract of a million dollars to help with one large project with widows that we fail to realize that your driver has been sleeping in a shed behind your house because he has been evicted from his. The girl who brings fruits to your spa isn’t looking for 400,000 Naira, she just needs someone to teach her in the evenings so she can finally pass the University Matriculation Examinations.
Many times we are so focused on looking at the big picture that we fail to see that which is right before our eyes. There’s no place it is written that a person who has any kind of earnings is under an obligation not to spend his earnings as he likes. There’s no requirement that being a sugar or petroleum magnate means you’re mandated to feed homeless people. There’s also no law saying that you can’t be charitable even if you earn #5,000 per month. It’s a function of the heart and not necessarily your financial capacity. Giving to someone who doesn’t have doesn’t strictly involve money.
We all have a part to play in society irrespective of what class of society we are; we all have a role to play but there are no compulsions because we have different backgrounds and different experiences that have formed who we are today. Should a person apologize for not being poor? Don’t we all aspire for the future to be better than the past?
Let’s refrain from being too quick to begrudge a person who is perceived to have a fat bank balance, take a minute to ask yourself – “Am I brightening the corner where I am?”