Months down the line, my young cousin unknowingly enrolled into the same university as my big sister. They bumped into each other one day as they were heading to their respective classes. Boy was she gobsmacked! They had not thought we could afford being in such a prestigious institution.
I suppose that’s why we are told to think the best of others. Clearly she went home and told her mother, who was not so pleased about it because she stopped making her routine calls in a futile attempt to figure out what we were up to.
Couple of years later, she called my sister one evening, asking for directions to our house because she and my cousin were ‘in the neighbourhood’, and wanted to say hi. Obviously we figured they had purposed to visit because our homes are numerous miles apart.
Given that they had not visited in close to five years, when they came they found we had done a couple of renovations, replaced most of the furniture. Unknown to her, my big sister had been doing some research job, which was bringing in some good money.
I don’t know what they expected to find…maybe they had thought we were living in deplorable conditions since they had not heard from us for a long time; and, members of my family are known to brag when they are making achievements in life…rubbing it in people’s faces.
They only stayed for twenty minutes tops, and each of those passing minutes was characterized by forced smiles, fake giggles…feigned pleasantries…but for the most part, it felt like we had just sat through an impromptu interview: what have you been doing? Are you guys dating? And judging by my aunt’s facial reactions, all our answers rubbed her off the wrong way…
We were not rude to them…nor were we snobbish or anything of the sort. However, it was unmistakably clear; all the raw disdain patent on her face. She had thought we were suffering, but to her utter dismay, we were actually doing alright. The one thing she had dreaded all through.
Since my aunt paid us that unannounced visit, she dropped her charade about loving us to bits and all. To her we were adversaries, who should be plunged into the chasm of desolation. All ties with us were unofficially severed, and it’s not until recently we bumped into her at my uncle’s wake. Even then, she was unable to mask her displeasure with us behind her characteristic ‘charming’ façade.
As usual, our conversation with her was more like an interrogation: whether we finished school; whether we found jobs; were we dating… To a third party, those questions might feel relatively harmless. Nonetheless, in this case, they are usually meant to gauge how my sisters and I are doing, and whether we are doing better than her children.
I can bet all my money she would sabotage us if she knew how. The way I see it, my aunt and people of her ilk are no different from the Biblical King Herod; people who use their power and influence to cripple others; people who would go to the ends of the earth to ensure others’ downfall.
As this year was starting, a recently ordained deacon in our church gave a beautiful homily. “In this new year, do not be someone’s Herod”, he said. “Do not do things or make omissions that will put others at a disadvantage. For instance, if you know someone who’s struggling with alcoholism, do not buy them alcohol, lest you’re faulted for derailing them. Build other people, inspire them”,
He went on to preach about the Magi. King Herod had instructed them to go back to him with news of the whereabouts of the new-born child once they saw him. No one would have guessed what his intentions were…but deep down he wanted to kill the baby, afraid he would dethrone him.
Our human nature predisposes us to the green-eyed monster; to envy. If we’re not too careful we get carried away and act on it, hurting the people we are envious of. We are called to be like the three Wise men. Once they saw the Star of Bethlehem, they did not go back the same way they had come. They used a different route. This is symbolic of people not sinning once they accept Jesus Christ.
Like the deacon preached, we should all aspire to build others, not destroy; our religious affiliations notwithstanding. If we are offering to assist others, let it be the type of help that arises from compassion; from empathy.
There is really no need of helping a hungry person with food, in the hope that the same food will kill them or incapacitate them. People can do without such kind of help. If the desire to help a person does not stem from love, do not do it.