Thursday 26 May 2016


A little child looking at his mother.
Image: Tolu Bamwo for
I returned to Yola, Adamawa State, at the end of May 2016 after being away for five months. I came in at night and didn’t notice all the changes in my house; and there were many. I, however, saw that the security man's house was filled with people; a woman, her children and a young man. I ignored them and went into my house.

The next day, I woke up to the sound of a crying baby. I got up, looked out of the window and saw that the compound was littered with bits and pieces of household materials. The woman I had seen the night before was right in the middle of the mess preparing their breakfast while calming the wailing baby.

I went out to my neighbor and asked who they were. He told me they were renting the place. I was shocked! How could they be renting the security man’s cubicle? He told me that the place was even going for ₦40,000 and I balked further. I went back to my room and from the window, watched the family.

The husband – the young man I saw when I came in – was a laundry man in a hotel close to my house. Without even asking, one could tell that he was not formally educated. Seeing this, I knew the wife would be uneducated too. I continued watching.

Front View of the Security Man's Cubicle
They have five children; two girls and three boys. The boys were the middle children. The first girl looked like a teenager but it was very hard to determine the ages of the boys because they were smallish, thin and had an air of malnutrition about them. After a while, I made my decision and left the window.

Since I was away for such a long time, you can imagine how dusty my house was. I started cleaning. Soon enough, I had three piles; what I wanted to take back to Kaduna, what I wanted to give away and what I wanted to destroy because they could not be used by anyone.

When I had the clearly defined piles, I went to my neighbor and asked if the woman would feel some type of way if I gave her the pile I wanted to give away. He said she would appreciate it; very much. I decided that I would go to her at night with the things to spare her any embarrassment...or spare me any.

I went back in and pulled the things I wanted to destroy out of my room and towards the refuse bin. After that, I went back into my room to continue working.

Side view of the security man's cubicle.
I was interrupted by gleeful shouts in Hausa. I went back to my window and saw the kids jumping and shouting.

‘Mama, look what I got!’

‘Mine is better!’

‘No! Mama look! See what I found again'.

They were rummaging through my trash and rejoicing at their ‘finds’.

A veil of shame came over me. I had been in a dump for months because I felt like my life was at a plateau. I was unhappy about my finances and wondering whether my career would ever pick up. I was depressed about everything and every situation in my life. I stopped smiling genuinely and literally became a recluse.

And before me were children whom, going through my trash, were happy at what they 'found'! Their mother collected their finds and kept them in her room. When I saw that, I was even more ashamed.

Why did I make a choice to be gloomy? To be sad? To be unhappy? 

I lived alone in my house and seven of them shared a cubicle that was about a third of my apartment. Yet, they maintained their joy and happiness. I was ashamed that I had become ungrateful for the many simple pleasures in my life. I had become a serial complainer who spent most of her time whining about the things I lacked.

For days, I watched this family and learned that the children did not go to school; the first girl was a maid somewhere; the mother used traditional medicine methods when the toddler was sick; and the father beat the kids so bad that it bordered on abuse. In all, I never saw them without a smile on their faces and though they look gaunt, they look happy.

This family gave me a reality check. Yes things are bad. Yes things are not going the way I planned. But I control the way I react to the lemonades life is throwing at me. I can decide to be gloomy and sad or I can choose to maintain a bright demeanor in spite of it all.

This family reminded me to enjoy the simple things of life. It is never as bad as we think.

I hope we can all remember to smile through whatever we are going through at the moment. My prayer is that we remember to be grateful for the ‘little things’ in our lives. Know this; someone has it worse than you! Someone always has it worse than you! This doesn’t negate your emotions when you are faced with tough choices or a tough life. I am just saying that it works to walk through your process with a positive outlook to life.

If you can, do something for someone who has it worse than you do. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do; just do something!


  1. This is indeed a call to reality. Often times we are oblivious of what is going on around us simply because we only concentrate on ourselves.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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