From biblical, traditional and Islamic points of view, giving is an act of acceptable service and worship unto God. It is okay to give, support or bear another’s cause in lifetime except when the giver is doing it with a wrong motive. We all have at one time or the other heard that “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” To curb the menace of the COVID-19 pandemic, various governments compelled their citizens to stay-at-home.
This brought formal and non-formal economic activities to a halt, meaning that people dependent on daily earnings were badly hit by the impact of the lockdown. To ameliorate the sufferings of the less privileged and vulnerable sections of the populace, the federal and state governments, corporate organisations and religious bodies tried to cushion the effect of the hardship caused by the lockdown. The good intention of the federal and state governments was rubbished by the well known Nigerian factor, with the result that the palliatives were largely stolen or diverted by the people charged with the responsibility. Where a few people got anything, at all, it was not enough to feed a family of four for a day. The stolen items were simply resold to the public at reduced prices.
In the dire situation created by COVID-19, everyone is expected to be his brother’s keeper by extending hands of charity, to give whatever he or she can, no matter how little. If we sincerely as humans, not as members of any religious sect, believe in giving, then we all must begin to do the needful to be true friends of people in need. I very well recall the popular song we sang in the secondary school as we filed out to receive Holy Communion in our white knee-length gowns. It went like this:
Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers,
That you do unto me
When I was hungry, you gave me to eat
When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink,
When I was homeless, you opened your door,
When I was naked, you gave me your cloth
Now, enter into the home of my father.
This was Christ teaching and charging his followers to remember others and give willingly unto them because by doing so, they would indirectly be giving to Him, the Lord.
Now, while some people on their own began to support others quietly and genuinely, there were cases of charity translated into showbiz. Most people who gathered the media both social and orthodox to showcase where they were giving out foodstuff, you ask, of what use was that? Churches who called press conferences to publish where 10-women shared a bag of rice, what did such religious leaders gain by that act? Communities who also worked in the same vein, would it be wrong to give out without the left hand knowing what the right hand gave? Individuals, who sent press releases to publish that they gave out foodstuff, know ye that as you give out on the account of public knowledge, you will also receive public praise. I shed tears when I saw a picture of aged women who received two tubers of yam each as palliatives. The picture trended on social media. Seeing the aged women who should have been visited respectfully in their homes with the tubers of yam was quite embarrassing. Instead they were ordered out, made to line up like teenage girls practicing for their inter-house-sports parade, all in the name of giving them palliative gifts. Their pictures holding the tubers of yam were circulated in social media. Shame!
Corporate organizations and other individuals that are busy sharing videos and pictures of two Dericas of rice and two cups of garri given to people are doing a very despicable form of showbiz. Must all these be seen on social media and otherwise? What if it is done quietly without publicity? Are they doing it to keep up with the Joneses or what? What are the gains of such people? Are these donors friends indeed to the receivers?
Religious bodies that are busy donating money to federal and state governments while your immediate constituencies are wallowing in hunger, I also call you show promoters, businessmen and women! Members of your church include the elderly who probably are retired, sick and aged, widows, job seekers, daily income earners, women and children. You abandon all these people and then call the media to showcase the donation of huge amount of money to the government. You are not your members friend in need and indeed. These abandoned flocks would have contributed to the growth of the church one way or the other. When the chips were down, you were not there for them. Too bad.
In the same vein, corporate organizations who are also abandoning their staff to do ‘Fada Christmas’ in the name of palliatives outside the shores of the workplace, you are not your staff’s friend in need and indeed. When outsiders enjoy the fruit of the labour of your staff, can one say there is friendship between the organization and its staff? Such organizations want to belong and be painted kind when they are not.
Emphatically, let me state clearly that the spirit of giving is not about how much one has given. What makes one a giver is a willing heart coupled with human kindness. Assuming we did not know before, the time to show pure love is now. The time to support each other is now; the time to give out enthusiastically, gladly and happily without looking for public reward and praise is now. Most people know the story of the biblical widow’s mite. Her offering was not brandished for all to see, but was accepted by God in heaven. Did the biblical widow wait until she acquired the whole world before giving to God? The time for others to receive that widow’s mite is now even as the Federal Government plans to ease the lockdown a bit.
What about individuals who are friends, neighbours, colleagues and mates? Friends who grew up together from primary school to university? Are you aware that all fingers are not equal? Comfortable friends, how many friends have you reached out politely, without them asking for your support? Are you still in the business of Me, Myself and I? Some people’s pantries are like foreign supermarket stocked for a few family members. Please spread out to your neighbours.
There was this story about a sister who gave just to mock the people she did ‘charity’ while she swam in comfort. She ended up using her resources to treat breast cancer. Her chemotherapy treatment alone ran into millions. When her cancerous condition became very critical, church people through their spiritual eye revealed that “since she never supported others even the less privileged with her resources, she should spend it in pains.”
Dear Nigerians, this is not a period of showbiz, charity, selfishness, tight-fistedness and crafty approach. There is serious hunger in the land. Whatever one can give out to support others, kindly do it without publicising it. One can swing up a surprise on neighbours and friends. Drop something on their door post and alert them. Give it a trial and see the joy, happiness and love one would have created. COVID-19 period will definitely be a litmus test for so many. If some of our comfortable Lagosians could get down to communities like Ijora Badia, Ajegunle, Orile, Idi-Araba etc, to support such communities, what a day of joy that day would be when the so-called celebrities wake up to such calls and be their brother’s keeper without displaying them on the screens. A very big thank you to all who supported others without making noise during this lockdown. God bless and reward you all.