I remember this from back when I was a kid. On Sundays, everyone at home would be hungry after returning from church. It would take what seemed like a very long time for my mum to have lunch ready for us, since she would begin the cooking process from scratch after (and not before) we returned from church. This would be late in the afternoon, considering the numerous people we had to greet afterwards. So we had to wait!
It always turned out to be a wait worth the while, though. The food was delicious! Sunday jollof rice! But it was too long a wait nonetheless.
Meanwhile, I figured out a trick. We would have breakfast before leaving for church. It would be heavy. Moin-moin and pap. Everyone would devour it before heading out, no thought given to the impending hunger at lunchtime. I, on the other hand, figured I could bear a little hunger at church – a hunger I would largely be distracted from by all the activities there, anyway. So I started saving my breakfast, covered it up and had brunch instead, when I returned. This way, I wasn’t hungry while waiting for the lunch that took forever to come. I wasn’t sharing in the pain experienced by the rest of the household while waiting for lunch.
One Sunday afternoon, my mum saw me eating. Quietly in one corner of the dining table was her little boy, serenely downing his pap and cutting into his moin-moin with a tea spoon, so he could prolong this mini feast, savouring every moment. In the midst of what was a terrible household agony, from severe hunger, was this peaceful-looking little boy, enjoying life and seeming to pay no mind to everyone else’s suffering.
“Why are you so wicked?” she asked to my greatest surprise. “How can everybody be suffering and you’re here enjoying? You can’t even share with anyone!”
Umm, these people who are said to be suffering had eaten this same meal I was eating, only much earlier. So, what did she mean by saying I was wicked, and what exactly should obligate my sharing with them? I was baffled. I didn’t understand.
I still don’t fully understand. I mean, I get that it kind of looks selfish to be eating alone while everyone else is hungry, but why not factor in the fact that everyone else could have done like I did? Save their breakfast for brunch. It’s called delayed gratification.
Delayed gratification is one of the major distinguishing attributes of successful people from unsuccessful ones. Most people cannot give something up today in order to have more tomorrow. Those who end up with a lot more money at the end of the month are usually those who saved up, who sacrificed, who stuck to a budget. Those who decided not to buy that reigning fashionable item, who packed lunch to work every day, rather than eat out with their colleagues. They had to put up with all that “Did mommy pack lunch for you again today?” taunting. Those who gave up leisure for work, who lived by the saying “Pay now, play later” instead of “Play now, pay later!”
Those people are not in the majority. They’re not the masses. The masses do what is easy to do – consume whatever they have today with little or no regard for tomorrow. But these people, the classes, they think ahead. They suffer some pain today so they can enjoy to the max tomorrow.
And how do the masses respond when they see the classes enjoying their (built up) wealth? “Why are they so wicked?” they cry. “How can they have all that money to themselves while others are suffering? It’s not fair! They can’t even share their money! That’s how the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer!”
Covetousness is often born out of a lack of vision, planning and delayed gratification. Those who lacked the vision to plan for tomorrow but rather gratified themselves today, end up envying others who did the opposite, and coveting what they have. So instead of merely taking your kids to church and teaching them the Ten Commandments in theory, how about giving them a little kudos when they save their Sunday morning meals for later in the day? Thou shall not covet would be more easily practiced among everyone if they all delayed gratification a little and saved their breakfast for brunch.