Tag Archives: Family

Who’s my neighbour?

As a lawyer, I know my neighbour is the person who is close to me, in terms of proximity, that my actions or omissions would cause them harm. This neighbour principle is intended to caution a person to be careful of what they do, or don’t do because they will be held liable for their actions/omissions.

About a fortnight ago, the readings in church were about a conniving lawyer who was trying to test Jesus’ wits, asking Him what he needed to do to attain eternal life. Jesus told him to be good to his neighbour. The rationale is, someone cannot love God, who they have never seen if they cannot love their own neighbour.

In this lawyer’s attempt to outshine Jesus, he asked Jesus who his neighbour is…and Jesus went ahead to tell him the parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was done, He asked him who of the three people was a good neighbour.

In a nutshell, the moral of the parable is to be kind, even to those people we don’t know. The neighbour principle discourages us from doing things that might harm others. It teaches us not to do to others, what we wouldn’t want done to us.

That Sunday morning after mass, mom and I were at a petrol station checking tyre pressure, when we heard the distinct sound of shattering glass. On reflex, I looked over my shoulder thinking a driver had rammed into something.

But lo and behold! I saw a relatively young man, possibly in his early twenties, bending forward. He was trying to pick something from the ground, but his centre of gravity seemed very wobbly. His back and forth rocking motion bespoke early morning inebriation.

Then, I also realised, his pants had pooled at his ankles and he seemed to have such great difficulty yanking them up. He would bend, and his entire tall frame would tip forward, then he would attempt to stand.

I bet he was so drunk because he took like three steps forward, trying to find his balance, then he took a few steps forward. It was sad really. I would have been tempted to laugh, but the situation was just heart breaking.

When he was still trying to fasten his pants, which thankfully he had managed to pull up, he dropped his phone; and at that point he let go off his pants then bent forward again to pick the phone. Next to him was a broken window of a fast food restaurant, and shards of glass were scattered on the ground. That had mom and I thinking he had something to do with the breakage.

A waiter from the restaurant got hold of him and directed him inside. Then he locked the double glass doors from inside, I guess to prevent him from disappearing before they settled the damages. Though I doubt he would have, given his uncoordinated movement.

I could not help but wonder why such a young man would get himself into such unnecessary trouble on a beautiful Sunday morning. After seeing dad drink for all these years, and knowing the problems this has brought him and us, I am of the humble opinion people should just try to avoid the habit, difficult as it is.

Funny thing is, during mass the priest had said a good neighbour is one who doesn’t do things they wouldn’t want other people around them to do. Interestingly, he gave an example of a drunk man/woman, who comes home after three days. When asked where they’ve been, they turn hostile.

The priest asked, “If you wouldn’t want your partner or children coming home that drunk, why would you think it’s ok to do that to them?” Being a good neighbour means sparing a thought for those around us.

pressure to get married

I’m staring out at the sky, praying that he will walk in my life…

Where is the man of my dreams…I’ll wait forever how silly it seems

How does he laugh how does he cry, what’s the colour of his eyes;

Does he even realize I’m here…where is he…where is this beautiful guy…

Who is he…who’s gonna take me so high…”

These are the lyrics to Justin Roman and Natalie Soluna’s song, ‘Where is she’. When I was younger I used to sing it word for word, because I loved it (still do). Now it pops randomly as a reminder of what’s going on in my life.

See, when my two sisters and I turned 13 (at different times), dad automatically assumed we would give in to the raging hormones teenagers are usually said to suffer from at the onset of puberty. Therefore he always treated us like we were just sleeping around with boys. “I know they’ve done it…either in that bedroom, or that bedroom…”This, he would say during his drunken ramblings, pointing at the bedrooms while standing at the hallway.

As a result, we always avoided inviting guys over because we didn’t want to be judged. Even the ones who came over did so without our consent. Like this one evening my childhood sweetheart popped by on his way home from work. Needless to say, I had not invited him over. When mom got back from work, she found him there but since she knew him since he was a child, and was friends with his mom, she was generally happy to see him.

Only thing she was not privy to was that a couple of years ago he and I had been in a relationship. At the time we had already gone our separate ways and he had visited, hoping we would get back together. However, I had already moved on so that chapter had long been closed.

Then, 25 came and suddenly dating was the implied requirement…if one was not dating and introducing their partner to the family, people thought that person was slacking off. The pressure to get married started. Mom light-heartedly started saying she wanted to see her grandchildren before she turned 50.

One of my cousins got a baby at twenty and the entire family ganged up against her. No one wanted to be associated with her, and I couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. I mean, at the least, she was above 18, if age was the issue. She stayed with us for a while and a couple of years later, everyone was doting on her little girl. Nowadays, in family get-togethers, the same people who had ostracised her refer to her daughter as her second degree, her first being her bachelor’s degree.

So question is, is it just in my family or that’s the norm? Where before one turns 25, dating is almost a felony…then after 25, there’s pressure piling from all corners for one to get hitched. Nowadays, all my dad’s drunken ramblings start and end with marriage; but in all honesty, I sort of understand why. Most of our cousins are getting married and having babies.

Dad yearns to be called a grandfather, like his elder brothers. However, he fails to realise marriage is an almost permanent situation, given that it’s usually intended to be, “Till death…” So the way I see it, it’s not a matter of having attained the suitable age for marriage, but about being prepared emotionally, financially…

I really do not want to end up in nuptials because I’m ‘ripe for marriage’. If marriage was merely about age, right now I’d be nursing my own children, and taking care of my husband. Nonetheless, I want to find a man I truly love…someone who completes me in every sense of the word; someone who understands me in all my ‘damagedness’…and that, in my opinion, should not be rushed. It’s not about whether dad and mom are ready to be grandparents, but whether I’m ready to start a family.

Cons of sowing too many seeds

Sure, God did command mankind to multiply and fill the earth. However, there’s the saying about everything having pros and cons. Off of the top of my head, there’s that advantage of parents being able to leave legacies through their children especially where one child doesn’t amount to much, at least one of the progenies will amount to something…

Now to disadvantages; the way I see it, there’s more to parenthood than just donating egg or sperm. Generally speaking, anyone can conceive; but only a few can actually become parents in the real sense of raising their kids.

There is this uncle I have. He’s a well-known serial dater, who practically sires children with every woman he talks to. Last I checked, he had seventeen known ‘wives’… I would say that’s a case of polygamy at its best; and as for the children he’s fathered, well those ones keep popping up like ads when you think there couldn’t possibly be more.

His first ‘legit’ firstborn (the one we all thought was his first born) is just a coupla years older than me, but as days pass by, more children older than him keep appearing. That obviously means he started following God’s order to Adam and Eve, “go forth and multiply”, when everyone clearly thought he was only sharing his life with one woman.

Interestingly, his older children have already started their own families yet he is still siring more children; some of who are now younger than his grandchildren. But that’s hardly a problem. Nonetheless, one of the common factors is that for all his children he’s been an absentee father. Now that’s where the problem lies.

Ordinarily, he lives with a woman for a while and when the children are barely ten, he takes off and moves in with a different woman, leaving a very disgruntled family behind. Such is the life he’s lived since before I’ve known him. Unfortunately, karma is finally catching up with him.

A few months ago, his ‘legit’ first born and his wife, welcomed a baby boy and while my uncle hoped the baby would be named after him, my cousin refused. Such was the case when his second born and wife also welcomed a son. Saddest truth, is his children do not want to be associated with him. Furthermore, the women he has been cohabiting with recently, have also sued him for child maintenance.

As if that’s not enough, he’s been sick for a long while and he has got no one to take care of him. None of his women are willing to be associated with him. I find it sad that he’s got so many children but he’s all alone and lonely.

Luckily he was able to get a nurse, who’s now taking care of him…and though it definitely isn’t my place to be saying this, there has been rife speculation that he is already romantically involved with her. So it’s not hard to imagine how that story will end.

Looking at my uncle’s life, I’m more convinced it’s not about the number of children one sires, but the number one raises. Parenting is more than just conceiving and giving birth to babies. Proverbs 5: 15-19 says, “Be faithful to your own wife and give your love to her alone. Children that you have by other women will do you no good. Your children should grow up to help you, not strangers. So be happy with your wife and find your joy with the girl you married”.

Emotional Scars: Part 1

How do you tell someone who’s been through hell in their life? Do they always have open scars to show for it, and does it mean if someone doesn’t have physical scars to show for the misery they might have gone through in life they haven’t suffered at all? In my very humble opinion, only a myopic person would expect to see physical scars as proof of suffering.

See Saturday night, dad was on the phone with one of his sister-in-laws, and while I can’t say if they have a solid friendship or it’s just one of the ‘fair-weather’ kind, he has this penchant for revealing our ‘family secrets’ to her when he’s drunk. Interestingly, they never talk when he’s sober; but when he’s in a drunken stupor, he’ll call her, even past midnight just to ‘check on her’.

When they talked, dad seemed to insinuate my sisters and I were ungrateful to her for all the assistance she’s allegedly given us so we could finish school because we never call her. To be honest, I found everything wrong with that statement.

For starters, unless there’s any assistance she’s ever given dad, financial or otherwise, behind our backs, I am not privy to such arrangements. In any case, over the years, my sisters and I tried remaining in good terms with her, even granting her the honour of being our ‘favourite aunt, until we realised she might not be very happy about our personal milestones.

When we’re not too concerned about interpreting her actions and reading between the lines, she actually comes off as sweet. It’s only when someone looks at things with unprejudiced eyes that one sees the malice behind her every ‘kind’ gesture. I’ll have to dedicate a whole post for that for it to all make sense…

Anyhu, dad called her Saturday night, complaining about how he had not seen my sisters and I since he came home a few hours before then. In our defence, he had come home so drunk and over time we’ve learned to avoid him because he says really nasty stuff. I cannot sum up the number of times I’ve contemplated hitting him…God-forbid! Or even throwing a bucket of ice cold water on him so he can sober up…God-forbid! That’s how infuriated he gets me…

His complaints ended with, “But you know kids, when they’re in trouble they’ll always come back to the parents”. I couldn’t agree with him more. Children will always need their parents; no matter how old they are. My only problem with that sentiment is, that’s the logic dad has always used to punish us.

Ever since I can remember, he’s always had this habit where he hurts us, physically and mostly emotionally. Then my sisters and I will resolve to never talk to him again…but given that he’s our sole breadwinner, after a while we’ll swallow our pride (if that’s what it is), and we’ll go back to talking to him. So yeah, he’s right…problems will always make children go back to their parents.

However, he fails to understand that such relations are like the houses built by a riverside; eventually they get washed away. I have mentioned it in earlier posts, that our relationship with dad is just purely financial. We have absolutely no emotional ties. Due to this, I usually fear once my sisters and I are financially stable, we won’t want anything to do with him.

After that part of his rumblings, he started talking about mom, telling our aunt that since he married her, he had never inflicted any scars on her. He meant physical ones, and he even sounded very pleased with himself. That’s when it occurred to me how narrow-minded that type of thinking is. True to his words, mom’s body could attest to his words because she doesn’t have any scars per se, that could be attributed to him.

Nonetheless, I know if emotional scars could manifest themselves on someone’s body, mom’s would give Michael Scofield’s tattooed body (Played by Wentworth Miller in TV series Prison Break) a run for its money. She has emotional scars that run deep. It’s only her love for us and for him, strangely, that makes her forget them, albeit pro tem. Sadly, dad seems oblivious to that glaring fact.

Prized possessions

What is your most prized possession? Is it some earthly possession, or God? Whatever it is, if you lost it would you also lose your faith in God because the loss would really take a toll on you? In church, about two weeks ago, the priest said, “If God is not your most prized possession, then you need to pray hard.

The basis of this was a reading we had that Sunday. It was from the Gospel of Mark, where a man approached Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do to attain eternal life.

“You know the commandments”, Jesus answered him. “Do not commit adultery; do not kill; do not lie; honour your father and mother; do not covet your neighbour’s wife or property…”

“I have been following all those commandments since I was a child”, the man replied.

Jesus looked at him happily, “That is very good. Now go give out all your possessions and come follow me”.

At that, the man seemed suddenly downcast. He was a very wealthy man. The Bible doesn’t expressly indicate whether the man agreed to give out his wealth, but his expression could give someone a hint.

“It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven”, Jesus told His disciples. Furthermore, he told them that anyone who gave up his family and possessions to follow Him would attain eternal life.

That reading might be very discouraging to many people, especially those who are so attached to their material possessions…and most of us are. Pretence aside, I would love to be so wealthy, therefore personally I find the thought of being poor awfully discouraging. It’s even worse for someone who is already wealthy to lose their wealth because being poor really sucks.

Growing up, my family and I have found ourselves in situations where food was barely available, so we’d go hungry for long periods. Funny thing about that is, it was never for lack of money that we slept hungry; but it was because for reasons I’ll never be able to comprehend, dad never prioritized our food.

He’d uncaringly spend his money on beer and his own food, which he ate out. So while we were crying because of how hungry we felt, dad was coming home full, drunk and in a foul mood that had him raising hell on us the entire night.

I have never doubted mom’s love for my sisters and I. She’s the one person I know who has single-handedly sacrificed so much so we could be where we are today. When we were starving and she couldn’t feed us because she wasn’t working at the time, I saw how dejected she was. So while I’m all for going to heaven, I also know it’s very difficult to function on an empty stomach… or to just survive without basic needs. It is hard!

Hunger and poverty are the primary reasons some people from very humble backgrounds get into all sorts of unimaginable evils, because man’s inherent instinct is that of survival. While in reality there are people who commit crimes purely for the basis of satisfying their own selfish interests, I also know there are some people, with good intentions, who do wrong things out of desperation for themselves or their loved ones; for instance, a jobless parent who steals money to take their sick child to hospital. While this is still wrong, it is also not hard to understand what drove them to commit such transgressions.

In light of this, I wouldn’t imagine Jesus was condemning possession of wealth. The way I see it, He was condemning the acquisition and hoarding of so much wealth when there are others suffering. I usually imagine how beautiful the world would be if the haves would benevolently donate just a small percentage of their wealth to those who don’t have.

Every time I come across a child or person living on the streets, my heart breaks. It feels especially distressing when there’s nothing I can do to alleviate their suffering. I imagine this is what Jesus was trying to address.

Given how the world works, there will always be people who have, and those who don’t have. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that all affluent people will go to hell while the pecuniary ones happily walk through heaven’s golden gates.

It’s all about our intentions, which God is already privy to. All we need to do is follow the precepts of Christ, and be humble and kind. This is the surest way to go to heaven. After all, the two greatest commandments are to love God above all else, and to love one another. That’s how we go to heaven. It’s not simple, but it’s not impossible to accomplish either.

War, a dream thief: Part 2

The fourth interviewee was a youthful rapper. He explained to the two boys reporting what rap is, since they had never heard of it before. Rolling his jumper’s sleeves up, he explained that someone should be free and at ease. When they got the drift, he asked them if they wanted to join in and he taught them a few lines.

Much later in the interview, the rapper performed, joined by the boys, a young girl, who was also a reporter and another young man who sung the chorus. The lyrics were sad because they talked about how no one would pay attention to the music with the ongoing war. Their background only accentuated their plight. They were standing in what seemed to be the remains of what was once a huge building before it collapsed; and, one could barely see the floor beneath them as it was all covered by debris. It was an ominous scene.

The two boys visited a children’s ward in a nearby hospital. If it weren’t for the fact that the wounded occupants of the beds were manifestly young, the first impression one got was that the patients were soldiers who’d been injured during battle.

One patient was a young boy. He explained to the two young brothers that he’d undergone 13 surgeries: 11 to reconstruct his arm and 2 on his thigh. When asked whether he was afraid of airstrikes, he reflexively bended his knees, bringing them up to his chest. He said he was so scared of them that every time he heard them he would cover his ears with his hands. It’s not so hard to understand why he was so petrified… he lost his brother in one of the attacks.

Another boy showed an extensive scar right across the middle of his head, explaining that a flying shard cut him so he had to be stitched up. The scar left a hairless patch on his head. Right next to him was a girl crouched on her wheel chair. She couldn’t walk because her leg was in a cast. Furthermore, she stretched her hand, revealing a missing finger. My heart ached…

As I looked at those children, all I could see was helplessness… how callous the world could be. These were fledgling human beings, who had so much potential… but all their dreams seemed to be going up in smoke… they were not even assured of seeing the next minute, with the constant airstrikes.

The boys’ next stop was a refugee camp. People there were living in very unsanitary conditions after being left homeless by the airstrikes. The children there were not even going to school. It was horrible. Bad as the situation was in Yemen generally, the two brothers realised they were living in much better conditions because they still had a home.

A four year old girl was the last interviewee. She was seated on a swing that was suspended on a tree branch. She was alone, looking so forlorn, which is not typical of a child who’s out playing. The two young brothers were in the company of a girl, who I imagined couldn’t be older than ten. She carried a big beige teddy bear under her arm.

When they got to the little girl, the older girl gave her the teddy bear, just to pep her up. Her interview tugged at my heart strings most. When asked where she lived, she pointed her finger toward the direction of a pile of rubble. Every one of her family members had been killed in the missile attack.

Hidden War in Yemen

She took the three reporters to the debris, showing them what were once her mom’s clothes and cooking pots. One got the feeling she was still trying to comprehend what had happened. Though she was not crying, she seemed robotic, which was very ‘unchildlike’… the war had done that to her.

When asked whether she had anyone to play with, she shook her head, saying she had been waiting for her little brother to grow up. She explained his baby brother had also been killed. The reporters, curious to know how she had survived, she explained to them that she had been out there on the same swing when the missile hit their house. That’s how she narrowly escaped.

She further explained that before her dad died, she heard him calling out, “Nadia”. That was her mom. After everything had calmed down, she went to check what had happened and she saw her mom’s hand dangling from the debris. I was moved to tears.

This four year old girl had, in her very short life, been through what most people only see in horror movies. Her uncle had taken her in… however, after such a traumatic ordeal, I can almost bet life will never be the same for her, no matter how much love and comfort her uncle affords her.

In my very humble opinion, no person, leave alone a child, should have to go through such a traumatic experience, especially taking into consideration that the situation could be avoided. The war in Yemen is not a natural disaster that cannot be prevented.

Most of us take peace for granted. We go to bed at night and wake up to the beautiful sound of birds chirping… however, what I saw in that documentary made me realise that peace is a blessing. The people in Yemen barely sleep, and when they do, they are woken up by deafening explosions. Some never make it out of their houses alive…

When I’m feeling down, the hope of achieving my dreams keeps me psyched up and I get the strength to push on. So it was heart-wrenching to see so many dreams go up in smoke… people were not feeling motivated enough to do things that made them happy, because just as the satirical writer said, it was impossible to be happy when they were surrounded by death.

Of finishing law school and dreaded goodbyes: Part 2

That evening I teared up all the way home. When my small sis opened the door she noticed how puffy my eyes were. “Did someone hurt you?” She turned my face sideways, scrutinizing it for slap marks or something of the sort. “I’m gonna cut a b*@!h,” she cursed. She was too concerned I might have gotten hurt to notice what I was carrying. Then I laughed, and she relaxed a bit.

Stealthily, I placed the gift bag on the nearest couch and thankfully, she headed to the kitchen to check on the food. A while later, my big sis came and I told them what had happened. By then the tears had stopped, though I could tell it wouldn’t take much for them to start again, since that sluice-gate had been officially opened.

Their reactions when they saw my portrait were not so different from mine. Though they didn’t cry, I could tell they were as moved as I was. “You have amazing classmates,” my big sis remarked. “Now we forgive them, for everything they put you through”.

Like I had told my classmates earlier, being nice is a choice we constantly make, even when we find ourselves pushed to the corner. Serving my class for four years had not been an easy task. Sometimes I had to deal with malevolent lecturers, and sometimes, it was just some difficult colleagues giving me a hard time…sometimes I came so close to throwing in the towel… and my family was there to see me through the motions.

One of the gifts I received was a custom made ‘thank you’ card. It had thank you notes from several colleagues and as I read the sweet messages, the tears that were already welling up in my eyes started flowing again. My class had made me feel so appreciated on such a grand scale… and the feeling was inexplicable.

I’ve gifted people severally, and I know how much time and effort it takes to find the perfect gift. One has to understand someone’s tastes, and preferences… and my classmates did that for me. That thought made me feel like I’d never stop crying.

“We gave you that portrait, so that everytime you look at it, you’ll remember how awesome you are,” my friend who had organised the surprise had told me. I knew I would never be able to thank them enough… and that saying about family, ‘Family’s not always blood. It’s the people in your life who make you feel loved and cherished’, came to mind… from law school, I had also acquired a new family. I went there, not knowing anyone, except for one friend, who was the school’s student leader… and as I left, I knew hundreds of students, who were now my family. I sincerely felt blessed.

The last few classes before we went to sit our final exams felt like our last bonding moments, and I couldn’t help the wave of nostalgia that engulfed me. I’ve always hated goodbyes… and after the surprise my classmates had treated me to, I knew when the time finally came, I would have the hardest of times saying goodbye to these people who I’d spent the last four years of my life with. Thankfully I had exams to keep my mind preoccupied, so I never got much time to think about the looming goodbye.

Eventually, we sat our last paper, but before we did, guys were reminded to hang around for a while because we were going to have a cake fest. Our professor, whose paper we had last, was invited and as he was about to cut the cake, he requested that I join him and my co-rep. Guys clapped and cheered, and as they dug in, that sad feeling that this would be the last time we were gathered in one class together hit me…

There was so much cake, and on a normal day I would have had a ball eating to my fill; however, nostalgia capped my appetite… I just had a tiny piece. Eventually, my friends and I left… on my way back home, I knew I should be happy that I had finished ‘the’ law school.

The workload over the years had been intense. I didn’t have a social life, and almost all my Christmases I spent reading… so this was an achievement to triumph over… Nonetheless, my feelings seemed to suggest the contrary. I felt happy and sad… excited and anxious… and the ‘not so happy’ feelings felt dominant.

The morning after, didn’t feel any different. I was still feeling pretty nostalgic. When I checked my phone, I found a very sweet text from my co-rep. He has never been the mushy type, so getting such a text from him, wasn’t an ordinary occurrence. He was thanking me for always having his back… his sentiments tugged at my heartstrings and I got all mushy. But I wasn’t gonna cry again… I cautioned myself.

When I checked my email, I found another sentimental mail from this classmate who was very quiet and laidback. He was also thanking me for making their life in law school simpler…before I could talk myself out of tearing up, tears were already flowing down my cheeks. That is how Saturday ended… with my classmates calling, texting and sending mail to thank me for being the best class president ever.

One thing I told one of my friends when he texted me was that, it’s true what they say, ‘Kindness begets kindness’. Therefore, if my classmates felt I was so humble and kind, it’s because they had been kind to me. I simply gave back, what they gave me.

So now that I’m done with Law school, I thank God profoundly, for the four years I’ve been there. Other than the legal knowledge I’ve acquired, I’ve made friends… acquired a whole new family… and above all, I have learned first-hand, the value of kindness and humility…