A few months ago I had a conversation with a lady from the Eastern part of the country. I jokingly told her I was married to a man from the North and she literally rained down fire and brimstone, you know that kind of thing the Igbo people will say “tufiakwa” or “Chukwuaju” which both literally translates to God forbid. She had every right to make such statements after all, her brothers and sisters were been killed in the North, all of them in the North are killer herdsmen, all of them are members of Boko Haram. While you’re wondering where I’m headed with this story I’ll paint another picture.
Sometime last year I had attended a program organized by my local Church for the youths. It was a week long program with some adults from Church living in a camp with about 700 youths. On one of those days the organizing team for the variety night was supposed to shop for the gifts for the pageant winners. One thing led to the other and I was co-opted to join two (2) ladies. I literally fought my friend who made the suggestion… “I don’t know her well, we don’t talk, it would be one awkward drive” – my words to my friend and to make it worse, the second lady goes to sit at the back and leaves the front passenger seat for me *insertrollingeyes*. The first few minutes were indeed awkward and then a word here and there, then music, then more talk, then hysterical laughter, then we end up eating in the market (Agidi and pepper soup), then we buy boiled corn and coconut and then I peel to give her to eat while driving and then we start to dance to loud music in the car on our way back.
How often have we made decisions on assumptions, half-truths, media-sensational news? I have a colleague who is against globalisation. He feels everyone should remain in their countries. But here’s the thing about such statements no one is an island. Life happens, and we find ourselves constantly on the move. You will never understand anyone from a distance, you’ll make false assumptions when you don’t understand someone. Can you make an effort to get to know that loner in your class who everyone thinks is weird? Can you choose to seat close to that colleague over lunch and get to know her better although your colleagues feel she’s mean? Can you spend an extra minute speaking to that security man in your estate who you can’t stand his guts?
In the two stories certain assumptions were made. On one hand my new-found friend attended the same Church with me, served in the same ministry with me but I didn’t know her. Did I forget to add she also felt uncomfortable going with me – in her words it would be one awkward trip. On the other hand what I didn’t mention was my dear Northphobic lady had never lived in the North, all she knew about them was what she read and heard. What she doesn’t know is my first night in England during post-graduate studies was in Zainab’s house – A northern and a Muslim (We are not related, she was referred to me by a friend in Nigeria). What she may never know again is the few weeks I was using crutches to walk in school, it was a Pakistani-Muslim who offered to be dropping me off in school and asked I called him after my lectures to pick me up. The only link I had with him was we shared an apartment building.
Yes we live in a world dominated by technology and you’re a keypad away from any information in the world. But the question remains who controls the information you read about? Whose narrative is it? Is the information verifiable? If it is verifiable, what is the criteria? Cos at the end of the day, you will never know the person you don’t understand. If you don’t understand the person, you can’t make excuses for the person cos of misunderstanding. If you can’t make excuses for the person, you’ll be quick to make judgements. By making judgements you fall into the category of generalisation. And honestly almost everyone is fighting some demon. Can we all take a step closer to know someone.
Loads of Love
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