Bringing Back Society’s Lost Ones

The Apathy pill: take one a day, sit back and watch the world burn!

The Apathy pill: take one a day, sit back and watch the world burn!

During the Christmas season 2003, in the city of Kaduna in northern Nigeria, I had a spiritual epiphany on a public bus: I had become part of a society that had given up on some of those who needed society the most. It happened within 60 seconds that it took for a disabled person to board the bus. Those 60 seconds remain vividly engraved in my mind which recorded them as lasting more than 5 minutes.

After putting his crutches on the bus, he started to drag his body on his stomach along the floor of the bus. The same floor on which everyone else walked with their dirty shoes. Naturally, he soiled his clothes before his feet had even cleared the ground.

I sat in a corner of the bus, the ultra introvert, headphones plugging out the world but acutely aware of my surroundings. Suddenly, my mind settled and focused on the scene in front of me. As this disabled man tried to board, not a soul attempted to help him. Not the passengers within arm’s length on the bus, not the bus attendant (“Bus conductor” in Nigeria), and not any of the people who were at the bus stop with him.

What I found most disturbing was that the man wasn’t expecting anyone to help him. From the look on his face, it was evident that he had given up that people could be kind and offer a helping hand. My attention shifted to the role I was playing in this ‘movie’, another apathetic and unhelpful bystander. That realization jolted me out of my reverie. Standing from my seat, I anchored myself, took the man by his shoulders and pulled him into the bus and onto a seat. As I did this, I had my second aha moment: when I reached out, he first looked at me with bewilderment, then smiled as he let me assist him. My action seemed to jolt nearby passengers who shifted to make room so the he could sit comfortably. I vaguely remember another person helped him arrange his crutches.

When he alighted, others did help him. I spent the next two hours on my way to Zaria pondering how a person gets to that dark place where he gives up on society to be helpful. It’s been over ten years since, the experience remains a key moment of self-awareness and awakening for me. Whether I’d learnt anything from this experience, only time would tell.

Seven years later (2010) a similar incident happened – Madrid, Spain. Another bus stop, another group of people waiting to board and another disabled person waiting. When the bus finally stopped, it did so a bit far from the curb, leaving a gap between the curb so the man couldn’t simply roll his wheelchair in. That memory from 2003 came playing back in my mind, priming me to help. It turns out my French colleague had the same intention to help. As the man tried to maneuver his wheelchair onto the bus, my colleague and I lifted him and his wheelchair across the gap onto the wheelchair ramp in the bus (God bless politicians and city officials who think of the disabled). It wasn’t lost on me that the man’s first instinct was to do it himself, without asking for help.

I know that not all disabled people want to be ‘helped’ because it seems disempowering. I respect that. It doesn’t absolve us of our human responsibility to care for and be of service to the disabled whenever the need arises. There’s common sense, there’s also common good manners of human behaviour and helping, I believe that being of service is one of those.

I don’t think people wake up in the morning deciding not to care. It’s rather that we get so engrossed in our own worlds that we just stop noticing and lose awareness. Slowly but surely that builds into apathy. And as surely as there are un-served people in our society, that apathy will recursively feed on itself and explode to cover the vast lot of human social interactions in ways that will our undoing as a race.

Rev. John Watson (pseudonym name Ian MacLaren) famously wrote: “Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle”. Rendering service, engaging in common good manners make those battle less daunting. Be it getting on a bus as a disabled person or dreading a day in a dysfunctional office with a bad boss. In the end, we won’t remember the apathy of the masses, but we will remember the inaction of those who noticed, looked us in the eye in the moment of our need, then gave in to apathy. Choose not to be that person at the giving end of apathy today.

Image credits:


Bidding ‘Adieu’ to the departed

People we love and care about one day die and pass away

We must grieve, we cry if we must, we re-live their memories in our minds

Then we bury them in some corner of our hearts

And hope that when the sun rises in the morning

In this age or another, some of the gloom will fade away

Sometimes it does, at other times, the dark clouds linger for a while

But they eventually go away and all that is left (from our side) 

Are the memories and monuments within our hearts that we built for them

So make sure to build those monuments while they are still alive

One act of genuineness, of kindness and of graciousness at a time

Before it becomes too late and all you have left to build with are tears and sorrow


Giving Up Clinging to the Past

The greatest lesson I have learnt from the Buddhists ( am not a Buddhist myself) is this:

“At the heart of all suffering and pain is desire“.

After meditating and pondering this for almost four years I have also found by experience its complement, which I state as:

“All the suffering or pain in our lives comes from either desire, or its close cousin … aversion”

Yeah like someone said …”screwed if you do, screwed if you don’t” ie when you desire something and don’t get it … the result is suffering or pain. On the other hand, when you are averse to something and it does happen, you get the same pain and suffering.

A similar dynamic plays out in our relationship with time … for most of us, we go from worrying about the future (either that we won’t get something owe desire or something we are averse to will happen) to reminiscing the past (for the good things that did happen) or regretting it (for the bad ones that did happen)

Well if we think of it …either one of those mindsets is only bound to bring us pain. Not that it isn’t a good thing to think of good times though, sometimes I find myself in strange places amongst strangers that the only thing I summon to keep my spirits high is the image of Perpetua’s smile.

Of recent, I have caught myself in that dangerous mode … specifically trying to sustain dead or dying friendships, conjuring up to the present a past that once was great but is no more. I remember in my dark days I used to have a policy of going through my phone to DELETE the number of anyone I had called thrice who had never called me back. Back then, the motivating feeling was anger … but now that I have resumed that practice, it’s one of detachment, letting go. I still care about those people, after all they were once great parts of my life …but I choose to let them be, with their new friends and priorities and I ACCEPT THAT I AM NOT ONE OF THOSE PRIORITIES.

So if we should not desire or be averse, what then should we be? … The answer for me has been to SAVOUR the moment. This moment right here, devoid of all my desires and aversions that are yet to materialize, this moment is the ONLY thing I have any real experience and claim to. An by being mindful, I choose to live  and savour it by…

  • Letting the act of kindness happening in front of me fill my heart with love and my brain with serotonin.
  • Counting each of the lavenders, bougainvilleas, wild tomatoes and lemon grass blades that smile and sing to me as I jog in the morning.
  • Letting the glorious melodies and lyrics of whatever song I am listening to lift my spirits.
  • Reveling in and bursting with admiration for the creativity in the painting, the movie , the dance, the football moves et ..

And with all that I hope that by not clinging to the past or the future, I will not ruin the great present of the present moment which I have NOW.

Publicizing Charity – What a Shame

When Obama and his wife earned between $200,000 and $300,000 annually from 2000 through 2004, they donated less than 1 percent to charity. As a result of the sales from Obama’s two books, he and Michelle earned as much as $4 million per year the past couple of years. Then the Obamas’ charitable contributions went up to 5 percent

Obama vs. McCain — A Clear Choice – HUMAN EVENTS

I understand not everyone is christian …. but does it occur to this journalist that charity is something private? When journalists like these start making an issue of public figure’s know charitable work, it only helps make more of them pretentious — in effect demeaning charity. Come on!!

Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

When fate hands u lemon …. u can choose to whine and complain or make a lemonade. Please watch this absolutely inspiring video of someone who knows he is about to die giving a lecture to inspire others. Absolutely no self pity …. boy!!!