Generosity: A Lifestyle Many Learn Late
By: Deji Yesufu
Mama Deji supplies us meat at the place where I work. One finds it better patronizing her because her customer base here is large and thus she always runs out of stock every time she visits us; which is actually every day. This means that she is compelled to supply fresh meat everyday and the possibility of buying old or rotted meat from her is almost nil. As I bargained with her over a piece of meat, our discussion digress to the matter of generosity. So Mama Deji told me something that came up between her daughter and herself this past Christmas.
Mama Dej’s daughter suddenly exclaimed one day: “Mum, oh how I wish somebody can supply us a truck loaded with bags of rice. Christmas would have been made for us…” Her mother responded: “if such a thing ever happens, you can be sure that right here, that very day, all the rice will be distributed to our neighbors.” Her daughter was puzzled. She went on: “…don’t you realize that it is in giving you receive…” She told me that to confirm this, a week to Christmas someone gave her family a bag of rice. She demonstrated her words by getting her daughter to give the whole thing out by distributing to their neighbors – congo by congo. A few days to Christmas, the family got another half bag of rice. With this they settled down to celebrate the festive season.
I hear people label others as selfish and I wonder if we all know our hearts well enough. If we do, we will realize that human beings are inherently selfish. Selfishness, pride, and self preservation are human traits that come with the inherent sinful nature of every human being. When we realize how deeply we have fallen, we discover the enormous responsibility within us to overcome our own weakness; and the need for us to be extremely charitable in our judgement of others. So I discover that while I can be critical of people, I am always very reluctant to label anyone as selfish or prideful. Why? Because I see the traits within myself all the time and that Mama Deji story was deeply convicting. While I did not mean to make this article a religious piece, I must state straight away that only in Christ can any man be rid of their inherently selfishness and pride. Nay, only in Christ can we be delivered of our sins.
Having taken the religious bent, perhaps it will be instructive to remind my readers (who are mostly Nigerians) of how deeply religious we are in this country and yet how widespread greed and selfishness is in our body polity. When one juxtaposes the resources we have in this country with the population of Nigeria, it is safe to conclude that this nation has enough to go round everyone and for us to have much remaining. Yet the country is dangerously divided between the super rich and the obscenely poor. If we forget for once the excuse we all make of politicians stealing the resources of the country, there is still enough in the body polity to go round; yet Nigerians will stack away money in bank accounts and foreign reserves.
There is also a phenomenon that I have also witnessed: I see young people sail through universities and higher institutions. They come into the labor market with some very marketable skill and courses, and they promptly bag some mind boggling killer jobs. I have heard of fresh graduates earning as much as N800,000 a month on some jobs. And after a few years on those jobs, with experience, these individuals begins to rake in six digits as salaries each month. Guess what? It almost always happens that no one around them, in their families or close friends, ever get to know that these people earn that much. They build houses, they buy cars, they take expensive holidays abroad and they keep a mistress by the side. They benefit no one; they bless no one; they touch no life. Like Mama Deji’s daughter, they consume a truck load of rice all by themselves. Some of them live the rest of their lives like this until they perish from over eating. Others find God’s mercies; they loose that job; they learn humanity; and they discover generosity on their next opportunity to wealth.
Let me end this piece with a caveat: I have not written this article with anyone in mind. I have many wealthy friends and relatives, and I can attest to their generosity. I also have entered times of great wealth and came out of it wondering if I have really blessed people when I had money. The sword cut both ways and we all can learn the art of more generosity.
I also believe that because of our inherent selfish nature, generosity is the last lifestyle most of us imbibe; that is if we ever learn the art at all. I believe that only in Christ can a man have a heart filled with God’s kind of love for humanity that moves men towards genuine generosity. The tendency in all of us is to be like that man Jesus called the “Rich Fool” who had a barn filled with goods and said to his soul: “soul, eat…” That man must the a distant relative of Mama Deji’s daughter.