Maybe he was a scammer; and what if he was telling the truth. What if he wasn’t a Scammer, but he was lying? Well whatever he was or was not, he got my money. I am, as a matter of principle, not a alms-giver. As a matter of faith, I don’t believe in professional begging. And as a matter of preference, I abhor beggars.
I was just coming out of my gate this morning when I saw this lean-face young man: He couldn’t have been more than 12, and he stank: hair kinky and unkempt, his bare feet was thickly coated with brown dust, the threadbare jean shorts he wore could use some washing, the equally soiled T-shirt that covered his torso was practically falling off his narrow shoulders- I have never seen such design of T-Shirt- the neck of the shirt was as wide as a boubou’s, making the young man’s ostrich-like neck look more gaunt than it was- a pitiable sight- a sight. While such Charles Dickens characters are not phenomenal in the mega-city of Lagos, this young man called to my mind the image I have always conceived of Oliver Twist.
“Good morning bros” he greeted as I passed him. I turned, and look at him again and I saw need- genuine need lingering there in his hungry-looking eyes; a craving that reached out to me- then I returned his greetings as my hand dipped in My pocket. I knew that scarecrow of a young man was not a beggar, but a disadvantaged child.
There are millions of such disadvantaged children roaming the streets of Lagos. If you care look in their eyes, deep in their eyes, you just might see the nuggets buried beneath rubbles of poverty. If you care to sound them out, and listen to the echoes of their hearts, you just might hear the sound of hope and aspiration bubbling in there. You just might find out that many of these poor little people are bundles of gifts and talents.
I asked him if he lived on my street, he said “no”, that he lived on Job street. Job Street was the street next to the one I live on. He asked me if I could help him with some money. I handed him a N100 note I had fished out of my pocket. But I knew I wasn’t doing enough, not even the most I could do in that circumstance. I don’t feel cool doing below my capacity at anytime. And that is why I don’t do alms. I thought a such a young man from another street wouldn’t be standing there at my gate for nothing.
“So, what are you doing here, if you live on Job street?” I asked further, not knowing what more I could do for him. He told me his aunt with whom he was living had thrown him out of the house, “Why” I asked. He replied that his auntie had lost her money, and his auntie suspected him of having taken the money, and that he mustn’t come back to the house until he gives back the money. I asked him how much is the missing amount. He said it was Two Hundred Naira. “Two hundred Naira? What the fuck!” I said to myself. I have given my three boys a total sum of N600 this morning for church offering collection, before leaving the house. So, for a child taking N200 he or she could be victimised? In this 21st Century? Oh My God! Oh dear!
I am not rich. I never grew up in a affluent home, but the loss of a wee N200 will never make a member of my family lose his or her humanity. What is the adult world made of? Nimrods? If the story of the less privileged children in the world was to be different from the plot of social, political, economic and psychological disenfranchisement they have witnessed in the few days they have lived in this wicked world of adults, I am sure we could all have been living in a heaven, where none will be in want. We don’t need religion to get us to heaven or paradise or nirvana. We can make one for our ‘selfs’ here on earth.
Glad I had left the house with a little extra money along with my transport fare. I dipped in my pocket again and fished out a N200 Note and handed it to him. What blessedness it was to see the light come up in his eyes? He rewarded me with something I will always treasure: a honest, big, toothy smile (he Got teeth like mine- Donkey Teeth) I saw relief made his face glow, and his, rather sagging shoulders, squared out, in an instant, he looked like he could take on the world now, a sort of scrawny copy of Atlas. And I liked him that instant. He stretched out a hand to me. I took it and shook it. He was thanking me profusely. “Thank you bros! thank you bros! thank you bros!” taking bows at me as he receded backward. Almost embarrassed, I turned and walked on. I was already late for my appointment that Sunday morning.