So I met this young girl in the course of my work. She had been brought in by friends she was “perching” with, she was really unwell, vomiting, very pale and really sick. The friends vanished after dropping her off at the OPD.
She was admitted by doctors to the ward, the cost of her medication and upkeep hanging. Being a Catholic hospital I managed to talk to my Reverend Sister boss and her medication were supplied for treatment to continue…food and other expenses soon became a problem. The Sisters’ convent through another arrangement were giving her food from their own resources, but when the Sisters had to travel for their retreat, care for this lady fell squarely on a good Samaritan, yours truly.
I soon learned this lady did not have a responsible father, and did not know where he was located. The mother had married another man with a fresh baby, the man had no place for her in his home, she had to drop out of school and now lived with friends, life was hard, she had nowhere to turn, she had no means of eating other than the generosity of her “friends” and whichever way she could survive, which more often than not involved playing the dirty bits with the ever randy men walking the streets looking for young girls to devour, She was only thirteen!…I was moved. As an academic enthusiast, I felt bad when she told me she would more than anything want to continue her education, but had no way of ever doing so. I made a mental resolution to do what I could to help..I took care of the rest of her treatment and feeding.
Upon discharge I sought to get her back into school, got her a family to live with, provided her living funds from my very limited resources, got her admission into a local JHS, paid the necessary fees, books, uniform, clothes, desk, everything…and a periodic feeding cash. Don’t get it wrong, I had not the resources to do these without feeling the pinch, but the love and concern I felt for this girl superseded my personal comfort. I saw the spark in her when she came to pick up her stuff for school, I thought I was doing something great…little did I know I was just kidding myself.
I followed up to her school on a number of occasions, the reports I got were so incompatible with the impression I had of her. She was playing truancy while she was very punctual in coming for her money and everything she needed…I later heard she had gotten herself a boyfriend, the family I fixed her with started complaining her lifestyle was getting out of hand, going out early in her uniform and coming back late in other clothes..I did the best I could, speaking to her, counseling with her church elders and so on, results in school were not favorable. I still decided not to give up on her, we went on through JHS, I registered her for the B.E.C.E. which she wrote….we had plans for further education..alas it was the last I saw of her.
She concocted some stories to get money from me, moved to Accra with her boy and to hell with me and my paternalistic tendencies. I was shocked…Here was a girl I had moved heaven and earth to help, I didn’t force her to get my help, she practically begged for it, I had fixed her up, given her a lifeline to what she described as her dream, you can imagine my feeling of extreme disappointment to learn it was all a blatant waste of time and resources…I momentarily regretted buying her all those textbooks when some other kid with genuine need of them could have benefited from them…I reminded myself not to feel bad for doing good…in my mind’s hard drive I had permanently deleted that girl, and formatted the portion that had anything to do with her.
Fast forward some few months ago after some three years or so, I am at work thinking of my life when I had this strange call with sobbing at the end of the line..the lady timidly identified herself as my mystery “daughter”, sobbing and saying sorry, that she wanted to come see me and explain things, she needed help was the bottom line, in a funny twist of classic flattery, am told am the only one in the world who could help her.
In as much as I am yet to decide if I ever want to see that girl again, not out of hate, but as a matter of principle, an important lesson lays here for which I want to share with you. I noticed helping that girl at the time, despite not having made an effect on her has not in the real sense “reduced’ me in anyway, in any case it has just taught me lessons on how to live life and the expectations to make of my inputs. I had started that project with the optimistic hope of making a great impact in her life: it was not be, my help was flatly flushed back at my face, my genuine conjecture gravely unappreciated, my resources down the drain, my expectations dashed against the repugnant posture of this lady…
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s be wary of the things we hope to see from our goodwill, let’s do what we ought to do out of responsibility, and genuine love rather than from the expectation of some gratifying reward, cos that is never ever promised. It does not however mean you will not be rewarded for your goodwill, it will come, but probably just not in the way you expected. Finally, and most importantly, know that you can only be of help to the extent to which your subject is willing to be helped, have no fantasies of your good will, sometimes it will be thrown back at you in the most disappointing way. But still, keep hope alive, let your light continue to shine, and never for a moment relent on helping if you can on the basis of someone’s reception to such help, lest your own progress is largely retarded. The cost of love can sometimes be disappointment, but the price of hate you cannot even begin to pay, so don’t try it.
James Mawuli Gawu.