Finding the Courage to Love

I call him religious who understands the suffering of others.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

The shocking photos of the “Woolwich butchers” with their hands soaked in the blood of the poor soldier they had just hacked to death, has been repeatedly shown by all media outlets. There have been other pictures, though less widespread, of three ladies who have been referred to as the “Angels of Woolwich” confronting these men. These women, without regard to the dangers they were subjecting themselves to, stayed by the side of the dead man; with one of them praying for him.

The first time I saw the picture of one of the women talking with the killers, I must admit I really feared for her safety. However, as I read more about the women, it became clear why they acted the way they did: empathy. According to the UK newspaper, the Telegraph, the son of Mrs. Donnelly, one of the “Angels” said his mum did what she did because “that could have been me there on the ground.” As a true mother, she paid no heed to her safety, but thought of how to comfort the dying young man, who could have been her son, but for grace.

The ladies must have realized the dangers they exposed themselves to, after all the killers were still holding the murder weapons and the attack was very barbaric, yet they demonstrated courage even in the face of fear.

I wonder how many times we all have been held back from doing the right thing by fear. Fear can be a good force; it can protect us from danger, but it can also prevent us from carrying out a task because of the risks involved. I remember an incident that happened a few years ago when I visited Calabar. I had gone to a fast food eatery and on my way out of the place, some street children came begging for money. I must add here quickly that these children had been labeled witches by their family, tortured, and sent away. As I tried to give them some money, the lady who was with me quickly tried to stop me. She told me the ‘child witches’ would harm me for helping them. She screamed at them and constantly muttered prayers to wade off the evil she assumed they carried. I was dumbfounded because she is a very good and religious woman, who also has kids as young as those ‘child witches’.

However, she became blind to the suffering of those unfortunate kids, who could have been hers but for grace, because of her fear. Did I help the little kids? Yes I did, and went on to volunteer at an orphanage that housed some of them.

Like the lady in my story, most of us are wonderful people, but we find it difficult to show empathy because of the risks involved. We think of the “What-If’s”, the dangers that might occur, and then we decide against doing the right thing. I’ve heard stories of people driving past accident victims, too busy to help or too afraid of the trouble they would get into for helping. I wonder if they would do the same if the victim was a loved one.

Sometimes the fear that holds us back is not the fear of eminent danger, but the fear of doubt and the fear of “what will people say?” We really want to help, but do not want to take initiative, we would rather just wait to follow whoever leads. In the course of waiting for the right time, or the right person to follow, it becomes too late to help anyway. Would we want to be treated that way if the tables were turned? Wouldn’t we want someone to just do something to help us?

Other times we exonerate ourselves from helping because we are not rich enough, we are still unemployed, still unmarried, too busy…etc. We make up all these excuses because we feel there is a perfect time for helping or that it is the duty of the rich, or the old, or some other person. We become critical when we hear that a celebrity or a religious leader acquired expensive gadgets, instead of using the money to help the poor. We refuse to pay attention to those who roam our streets, begging for help. We forget that the blessings we enjoy came to us not because we are better than the destitute, but by grace. .

We don’t need to be rich before we can help others; remember if we are not faithful in little, we will not be faithful in much. We can help by demonstrating different non-financial acts of kindness: by becoming volunteers at charity organizations, by speaking kindly and listening to others, by mentoring disadvantaged kids, by using our skills to benefit others, by visiting the sick, by treating our housemaids as our own children, etc. There are endless ways we can support each other without spending money. In terms of financial support, I think it is better to support a poor family instead of making huge donations to pastors and imams who are already rich, especially those who do not have active charity missions.

As a Christian, I believe the most important thing to God is the way we treat others. The Golden Rule states that we are to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our neighbor doesn’t have to belong to the same tribe, religion, social class, etc. Our neighbor is any human being in need of help around us. Just like Gandhi rightly said, if we cannot put ourselves in the shoes of others, then we are not religious, no matter the number of times we flood our churches and mosques or recite doctrines and prayers.

Are there rewards for helping those in need? You bet! But rather than seek the rewards, I think our attitude towards a needy person should be “that could have been me”, and just help. As we do that, regardless of the uncomfortable stares from people and the fears from within us, I have no doubt that we will experience great and priceless joy. Indeed, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”

Photo Credit: latoshalove.blogspot.com

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Theresa Omoronyia is a trained business analyst and has degrees in Management Science and Computer Science. She lives in Glasgow, UK with her husband and son. Theresa enjoys being with people and her passion is to help those who are hurting. She has worked as a volunteer in orphanages, and as a peer educator and music tutor to secondary school students in Nigeria.

23 Comments on Finding the Courage to Love
  • Gbemmy May 29, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Really .. I admire the courage of the women , but you can’t really compare the child witches story , I stop giving any one I don’t know begging for money when a classmate gave a testimony about giving someone money on d streets not near her house oooo and getting home to see the woman in her bathroom ( scary ) . In the uk part . That is serious tough courage but nigeria Type you need God and courage

    • Tess May 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      Gbemmy I understand your fear, however I am sure your friend was not hurt by what happened to her. Most of us in Nigeria do not help strangers or the less privileged because of superstitious beliefs, which still boils down to fear. As religious people, we should not be ruled by fear, but by love. Besides if we give to others, or help out in any way, for God’s sake, I believe HE will always protect us.
      BTW, the article is not only about giving financially, but helping in other ways.

    • Ngum May 31, 2013 at 12:21 am

      could it be she had a mental illness?

  • Gabby May 29, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    @Gbemmy you are so right,i used to have a tendancy to give money to the street beggars, but you hear all kind of stories.I fail to understand people who gve huge donations to charities and yet have family members who are suffering out there.

  • Funke May 29, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    A very nice article, Yoruba saying goes thus “iwa lesin” meaning that your character and actions determines your religion

  • jcsgirl May 29, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    @gbemy the giving thing can be soo tricky. I used to give and give and help out and then started withdrawing and being more careful in the name of hearing from God before giving so that you don’t help someone God is trying to deal with. Now I feel God leading me to get back to my old way of giving and doing it with a pure heart trusting God that it will work for good.
    But mehn the part about someone appearing in your bathroom is freaky. However as Christians God has not given us the spirit of fear and we have authority over any force or principality that comes against us. In conclusion like you said, there is no fear in giving because it could have been me in that situation. Great write up!

  • blessing May 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    for example u have something and u want make use of it that and a poor person like you ask u to give him want will you do that moment

  • Anonymous May 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Nice piece. Fear protects and can also keep in bondage.
    As to Nigeria, for me I allow the spirit of God that dwells in all TRUE children of God, lead me in deciding when it’s safe to give alms or not.

  • X- Factor May 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Nice Piece!

  • Ade May 29, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    We make life by what we give. It’s hard to give when you are broke and unemployed. But whenever we have a chance to give, let us give to the less fortunate. We don’t have to wait to we are rich to give. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Also, let’s give back to orphanages and children that are suffering. God’s blessings for writing this piece.

  • Sel May 29, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Everyday before I leave my house I say this ‘God use me as a channel of blessing, a channel of love and a channel of harmony unto others’.

  • nwanyi na aga aga May 30, 2013 at 8:49 am

    In Nigeria helping people is a feat I struggle with after my experiences. I ve heard stories to which i turned deaf ears to stating that it was not my portion until a fateful day. I had just stepped out of my father’s compound hailed a bike when a young man approached me. He was speaking french, i understood snatches of what he was saying so i used my amateur french to ask him if he could speak english, to which he replied that he wasnt so good but can try. Then he told me a tale of how someone lured him to naija and duped him of all he had. That all he needed was money to get to cameroun. I was moved by pity because this full fledged adult was weeping. I suggested the police station but he gave me a gist of how he slept there the previous nites and they took away his phone and wristwatch and threatened to lock him up. Knowing naija police, I believed him. In my naivety i asked him how much he needed he said 10k. I said to myself you can afford 5k give this guy and maybe he will find the rest. I asked him to board the bike with me together so that we can at least get to the town where he will take a bus to calabar according to his gist. On our way to the town the bike man took an unusual route and when i complained, this guy and the bike man told me to keep very quiet as if i make noise they will kill me. I was shocked. I didnt even know they were a team. The bike man even discouraged me from helping that guy ab initio. being the maga i was i told him that the guy is geniune. As God will have it they didnt know that I did not ve any money on me save 2k, that i had hoped to withdraw the money from an ATM and give him. He had thought i had such sum in my handbag. Lo and behold They took me to one bush by the express, they were disappointed when they saw only 2k in the bag. They were enraged they asked me which money did i hope to give the guy. I told them ATM. Then they started one incantation, after the incantation they said if i go to the bank that i should withdraw all the money and come and give them that if i ever tell anyone that i would die. Funny enough i wasnt scared. They took me to the UBa bank with their bike. Immediately i got to the gate i went straight to the security office when i turned back i saw them speed off. I just entered the bank collected my transport money and went back to school. They took my two phones and my elder bro new phone, took any valuable they found on me, I was even surprised they didnt think of rape. I can never forget that day 17th October 2006. Ever since then after paying my welfare in the Church i do not bother myself. helping ppl in this country is a risk you would not want to take. If i see any charity i donate to no matter how small, also motherless babies home. Helping ppl on the road. is totally out of my league

    • Mz Socially Awkward… May 30, 2013 at 9:48 am

      Nne!!! Your tale is an eye-opener, classic example of how evil attempts to overcome good…. but I really thank God that you’re alive today to share it.

      However, from what you’ve narrated, my own deductions are that none of the incantations worked (and even the dreaded rape was never considered by your attackers) simply because your heart was already planning to do something good for that evil young man. Your selfless intention definitely protected you in ways you probably wouldn’t have realised and this reinforces the unshakeable truth that no matter what, good will always ultimately overcome evil. And please keep on doing your good deeds, I realise how difficult it may be for you to help strangers after that but don’t let evil win by hampering the spirit of kindness in you.

      • nwanyi na aga aga June 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm

        Thank you my sis… I still try … but if u see the prayer i do fire(within ) when i want to give beggars with visible ailments on the road, you will collapse with laughter… the truth is that more often than not, i am still scared of giving on the road. My welfare offering in the Church is where i have directed my charity offerings. I prayGod give me the grace because it has not been easy since that time

    • Tess May 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      @Nwanyi, thanks for that revelation, I totally understand because my own mum fell victim to those ’419′ conmen some years ago. She was heavily pregnant, yet they took her somewhere, shaved her armpit and pubic hairs, made incantations and forbade her from telling anyone. They told her to sell all her valuables and bring the money to them otherwise she would die within days. She was naturally shaken and terrified as she confided in me, her oldest child. I was only 10 years old at the time, but I encouraged her not to go back to the conmen and that she would not die. To God be the glory, 21 years later, she is alive, my younger brother (who she was pregnant with) is a thriving young man. She still helps strangers though, even mad people, but she is wiser now and more careful.

      Just like MzSociallyAwkward said, God protects us from what was meant to harm us, esp when HE knows we were acting out of love. Of course it is good to be wise these days: don’t follow strangers just because you want to help them, don’t take things from strangers, don’t bring them into your home immediately, …etc. Yes it true, people can be wicked, but if we see cases where we can help people lets not shrink back in fear, but apply wisdom all the same.
      One thing that helps me to show love even in the face of fear, is a question I ask myself ” if that was me in this situation, how would I want to be treated?”
      And just like babie55 said, let’s help others as if we are doing it for God, HE will always reward us even when the beneficiary becomes an ingrate. One of the greatest rewards that come from giving financial or non-financial help is the joy and peace we receive; no amount of money can buy those!

      • nwanyi na aga aga June 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm

        I agree with your submissions dear. I thank God for your mum. Some people have really turned Nigeria to a terrible place. God is our only hope.

  • eniola May 30, 2013 at 8:59 am

    I am a huge giver, but for me there’s always this strong urge that tells me to give before i give and i plead the Blood of Jesus before doing so. At times circumstances inform my reason for giving, for example i dash out clothes to my laundry girl so that she wont be tempted to steal from me, i give my house help enough food and even ask if it is enough and encourage him to ask for more, so that he will not steal. For me i practice more of these kind of giving to help mold the person into a better person.

  • pynk May 30, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Give, provided you serve a living God, your battles will be fought by him. We find excuses and reasons not to do things.

  • babie55 May 30, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Well, when we give, let’s look unto GOD for God will always bless us on every seeds we have sown. As at date, my parents have accommodated over 13 people from time to time over the years. And i can tell you that they all turned ingrates at the end. Its sad tho cuz we accommodate them even when it was not convenient to us, the kids. my dad fed them and sponsored them through secondary schools and universities. No matter what, my dad still keeps saying its good to be good. All i want to point out here is that looking back over the years, I can tell you that GOD has blessed my dad and family beyond words can tell. He has blessed us with houses and the beauytiful things of life. We don’t need the rewards or accolades of those we help, infact as you sow seeds into people’s lives, have it in your mind that you are doing it for GOD and not for man. It saves u a lot of heartache my dear. I learnt that from my parents. I can tell you GOD has so blessed and favored them over the years. *smiles*

  • Glossy May 30, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Great Piece Theresa! Giving is seed sowing, ur reward does not come from the people u have helped. But God blesses all u do and directs the life of ur children. The reward is 100 times better than what u have spent! Thank u.

  • Ijaw Woman May 31, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Beautiful piece.

    I was once approached at a fast food restaurant by a young man holding a piece of paper which was supposedly drug prescription for his dying brother. His brother had lost a lot of blood and he even had to sell his phone to buy blood…bla bla…

    I didn’t have enough cash with me and told him to follow me to the next street to a house I was about to move into. I borrowed money from the security guard and gave it to this stranger amidst warnings not to do so. I was fully aware that he may very well be lying…but the way I see it, even if he were lying…..the fact that he had to do that for just 2k is just as bad as his story.

    Exactly one year later, in front of this same house, this same guy approached me and told me the SAME story about his dying brother. He obviously did not recognise me…I was just one of his many mugus…I was just so heartbroken….

    I also heard about how women RENT babies and go about with them, trying to gain sympathy…the list is endless….

    But does that stop me from helping? Nope!

    Like the writer said, showing love doesn’t always have to be about money. Calling up your friend to see how he or she is faring, willing to share their struggles, is sometimes enough. It doesn’t even have to be a stranger…

    Everyday, I ask God to help make me like Him….a heart full of compassion…I’m ALWAYS inspired by Cece Winan’s “A Heart Like Yours”.

    Being human, this is by no means easy….but we can atleast try….and make the world just a little more better to live in….

  • Ijaw Woman May 31, 2013 at 10:24 am

    I was once approached at a fast food restaurant by a young man holding a piece of paper which was supposedly drug prescription for his dying brother. His brother had lost a lot of blood and he even had to sell his phone to buy blood…bla bla…

    I didn’t have enough cash with me and told him to follow me to the next street to a house I was about to move into. I borrowed money from the security guard and gave it to this stranger amidst warnings not to do so. I was fully aware that he may very well be lying…but the way I see it, even if he were lying…..the fact that he had to do that for just 2k is just as bad as his story.

    Exactly one year later, in front of this same house, this same guy approached me and told me the SAME story about his dying brother. He obviously did not recognise me…I was just one of his many mugus…I was just so heartbroken….

    I also heard about how women RENT babies and go about with them, trying to gain sympathy…the list is endless….

    But does that stop me from helping? Nope!

    Like the writer said, showing love doesn’t always have to be about money. Calling up your friend to see how he or she is faring, willing to share their struggles, is sometimes enough. It doesn’t even have to be a stranger…

    Everyday, I ask God to help make me like Him….a heart full of compassion…I’m ALWAYS inspired by Cece Winan’s “A Heart Like Yours”.

    Being human, this is by no means easy….but we can atleast try….and make the world just a little more better to live in….

  • dp May 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I really love this piece, it is really amazing

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