I May Not… But I Can

I can2

Doubtless, many of us visionaries, zealots, apostles of change et all in the business of actively hoping, seeking, shaping and working towards a better Nigeria, have at one time or the other met stiff walls of resistance, angry rebuffs and mocking smirks at our noble intentions- some even by people we’re supposedly helping. Too many times, some shrug ‘Oh well, they aren’t wanting or even deserving. Why keep trying?‘ and off they go leaving the situation worse. Many wouldn’t blame them- ‘at least they tried!

While I realise that it is far easier to stand by the bylines and point out how the ball should have been played, while it is profoundly less difficult to pontificate on the efficacy of ‘a left jab followed by a right feint and concluded by a powerful left hook‘, while it is easier to do this, I chose rather to be in the playing field, to fight in the ring.

I don’t deny the enormousity of the task of changing the world or in this case Nigeria but, at the risk of sounding like a ‘blind optimist‘, I reiterate that it isn’t impossible. There’re things you may not be able to do but there’re a million others that you can do.

Let me quickly share a story I once read.

An old sage was walking along the beach one day, deep in reflection, when in the distance, he noticed a little boy. The boy was picking something, running to the beach, throwing it in and returning back to repeat the same cycle. When the sage drew near, he noticed that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed ashore by the tide and throwing them back in the water. He looked down the beach and noticed so much starfish.

‘Young man,’ he called. ‘What are you doing?’

The little boy paused in his task and squinted up at the old sage. ‘I’m trying to help put these starfish back in the water. The sun is fast rising and they would be scorched to death otherwise!’

The sage looked at the boy incredulous. ‘Help the starfish?!’ he sputtered. ‘But you can’t possibly succeed! I mean, there’re tens of thousands of them lining the beach. What difference will it make?’ he enquired in all his wisdom.

In answer, the little boy picked up another starfish, ran to the beach and threw it in. Then he ran back, ‘It made a difference to that one!’ he replied.

After reading this story, I decided to answer all detractors the same way- ‘It made a difference to that man, that woman, that boy, that girl, in that case!‘ And so I came up with this:

I may not be able to clean up the streets of Nigeria but I can stop dumping dirt on the floor

I may not be able to found an NGO but I can volunteer for one

I may not be able to stamp out crime but I can report suspicious activities in my environment

I may not be able to speak to mammoth audiences but I can talk to my next door neighbour

I may not be able to provide 6000 megawatts but I can switch off lights, fans & electronics when they’re not in use

I may not be able to sanitise the Nigerian Police Force but I can refuse to give bribes

I may not be able to flush out pirates but I can stop patronising their cheap books and CDs

I may not be able to write volumes of books on change but I can write this small note

I may not be able to completely wipe out examination malpractice but I can help my siblings with their homework

I may not be able to provide 10 000 jobs in one fell swoop but I can pay promptly for services offered me

I may not be able to offer scholarships but I can give a child a textbook

I may not be Mother Theresa but I can visit motherless babies’ homes to show some love

I may not be able to build a church but I can give a bible

I may not be able to heal your terminal illness but I can hold your hand till the very end

I may not be a civil rights activist but I can stand with you for the truth

I may not be a Gani but i can speak up for the right wherever I am

I may not be able to solve all your problems but i can lend an empathic ear

I may not be able to do all these but i can try the few I can and do my very best

I may not be able to single-handedly change the world but I can whole-heartedly touch a life.

That ten-year old conductor, that girl drop-out from school hawking in the same school, that sad angry child in the orphanage who’s never known the warmth of a mother’s arms, that girl who was sexually abused at a tender age, that man with a terminal illness, that neighbour with AIDS, that couple who lost their only son to a senseless police ‘accidental discharge’, that classmate with quadrillion carry-overs, that family staring starvation in the face, that child drowning in her tears, lost in the echoes of resounding eternal screams no one ever hears, that gun-totting man, angry at God, angry at the devil, angry at his family, angry at the society, angry at the government, angry at the church, angry at you, angry at me,… You can make a difference in their lives.

For “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Mordecai’s question to Esther in the old testament. My question to you in this times and seasons.

Akpoveta Valentine ‘t.

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