Former US President, Bill Clinton, wrote a second book after My Life, which chronicles his story on earth, including after he left office in 2001. He called this one Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World. But near two decades now, the world has not changed. Not in the sense that Bill meant or we wanted. It has only doubled his doubts, fears and the challenges facing all humanity but the weak, the ill and the hungry.
At the back cover of his book Giving, says, “I wrote this book to encourage you to give whatever you can, because everyone can give something. And there is so much to be done, down the street and around the world. It’s never too late or too early to start.” Those are inspiring words that spurred my passion for the practise of a divine value ordained by Allah ab initio.
The order is in the doctrine of our faiths but because we are faithful by worship only, we have not made the normal impact of even sustaining the value or the tradition. In fact, the sad story is that we dropped it. It is now a scarce commodity for our vastness of lacking.
Bill Clinton was the quintessential good public servant of repute all of us and the entire world have known. He is one student of the human discipline, an accomplished human himself, who was in government in his country for most of his life.
I met him on the plane of selfless service in the open sky of pure humanity, not on the myopia of tribe, creed or bias. He was Attorney-General of his State, a Governor for eight years, and president for eight more years.
He is one politician I have known who carried public issues at heart and to the heart of government and tried genuinely to solve them, or change them to some level. The only near example is what I see in my PMB who tries to make government relevant to human needs of the poor, but cruel politicians in their cruel, little hearts and stubborn insincerity about the issues are fighting him back for same.
In all offices Bill held, he sold the value of thinking for others to everyone who would buy, and would say “do not stop thinking about tomorrow.” It was people who bought the value of thinking about others and tomorrow that formed his subsequent cabinets as President, when he had put the best economy ever since.
After leaving office, Clinton still felt he has not served enough and started the Clinton Foundation to help people in different places across the world in need of services. He showed in Giving how the low and the high; the rich and the poor; the educated and the illiterate served humanity in different ways and in their own ways.
We live in a land where everyone wants, needs and in a popular culture of keeping to self and family at the best. And this is a society rich enough in everything we need for everyone but filled with needy, poor, helpless persons with whom we share family, social or religious group, community, local government, state and nation, and whom we meet every day, everywhere and many of us are not irked by their conditions.
We lacked communal values which should bring us all to the hall of humanity in the spirit of our responsibility to each other. In real terms, we are all needy in Nigeria for the simple reason that the majority of our people and communities lack the basics of life which governments and those of us who can help refuse to give. We are all poor.
It is the spirit of the little difference we need to make not because we have much but just out of the content of our hearts and our commitment to fellow humans, not just to those we are directly responsible, or those we owe, but also to others we run into every day in the neighbourhood, in the community, at work, in places of worship, in the market or at ceremonies.
Our despair is not and should never be our log of needs or the pains of the needier fellow which should embarrass us. We should be humbled by the needs of the desperate ones we see every day around, who virtually lost the essence of their humanity, and are not looking like us anymore in most respects. In most cases when we talk about them, we appear to mock their conditions more than we will to help them.
The habit of seeing and just ignoring others’ fate makes us weak, wicked people. Our strength lies only in our individual and collective acts to help others, to work for our communities and to advance common good and benefits to others. Government is too burdened, too loaded with problems as you can see. We need to take the load off it so it can walk.
There is a human capacity in everyone of us to stand above our hearts to demonstrate our good to take too much false hope back from government and to put trust on the shoulders of me and you in devout commitment to others, to do for our people something they can use to think of others and others and on, to a point of desired human service to humans. We must stop to wait or ask for every minute life favour to be thrown at us by government.
You must give not because you have many riches you can easily dispense. No. You are key survivor of the Nigerian economic hardship over the years. You are highly indebted and you have problems which will take you years to solve. It is because you only have a rich heart. And only a rich heart can survive the torments of hardship and can give at the same time.
Many people are too rich but never had enough to give because their hearts are poor, and they will never be rich enough much as their hearts are dry, much as they hold their money and foods to themselves. We do not need too much money to solve big problems, we only need big hearts that value our needs, identify with them and do the little we can to solve them.
Yes, nothing is too little or too much. Just give something. No amount is too small or too big. We cannot be bigger than the hearts we carry. Listen to your heart’s pulse of needs and imagine other hearts in same vein. March on to share a pack or bottle of water, drink, try to give kind words all the time. And always remember to take food next door when a delicious is cooked.
The surge of giving among individuals is the beginning of a development process for a a better neighbourhood, society and nation. Whatever you give today will surely define and redefine some lives now and then and forever.
It will refine a bad youth heart. Get a boy heart changed off the street to school; make a widow and her kids to carry on with life; inspire a hopeless young man to renew hope for his future; get our young girls off the hawking streets and back to school and get some problems we have never imagined solved.
Mark Grashow says, “I believe that each of us has an obligation to level the playing field of life. Schools that have no books, communities without water, and people without access to medical care are not someone else’s problem. We all have a capacity to make a difference somewhere. We just have to decide if we have the will to do it.”
Will is all we need to make successful for everyone. When the children grow, they will tell our story and will say: we have been brought up by the kind gestures of persons in our community. We must not forget. Not today. Not forever. There is no better fulfilment in life than inspiring a child to think like that when they grow.
Finally, TV producer and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey’s words: “we are each responsible for our own life – no other person is or even can be…. what I know for sure is that what you give comes back to you.”
Hassan Hassan is the Dean of the School of General Studies as well as Head of Mass communication, Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi and can br reached at:
email@example.com or 08050551220 (text only)