6 Feb 2010


In case you don’t know, I’m a smoker. I plan to quit though. I know it’s a bad habit, and I should have avoided it in the first place. However, it’s always better late than never.

One thing I have learnt from smoking is the kind of friendship smokers develop, at least back home in Tanzania. A smoker would always think their fellow smokers would have a cigarette to spare in times of scarcity. For a smoker, they would rather have no bus fare to go to work than have no money to buy a pack of cigs.

They say it’s normally hard to please a fellow smoker when they are broke. Thing is, when broke, a smoker always expects to be rescued by their “partners in bad habit” (i.e. fellow smokers). Unfortunately, you may buy a pack to your smoker friend today, but when they ask for another the following day, and you tell them that you don’t have any, it becomes like a proclamation of the third world war. It simply won’t get into their mind that if they are broke, you could be too!

It a similar situation with people who seek help when they have problems. You help them once, and they expect you to keep on helping them whenever they run into problems. But that shouldn’t be a problem in itself if one could afford to give help whenever they are asked to.

The worst thing about helping some people, no matter how minority they are in numbers, is a tendency to forget that at certain times they were stuck in muds, and you rescued them. It’s really painful when you see a person you once helped forgets completely what you did to them in the past. It’s even more painful when you recall how they sounded too helpless to be ignored.

And when you remind them that you did something for them when they were desperately in need for your help, they would normally tell you that you were not held at a gun point to force you to offer support. In other words, they are telling you were too stupid to help them. Others would go as far as telling you that what you gave them is almost nothing to be remembered at all. And it’s not uncommon to hear something like “you are holding me at ransom for your shilingi laki kadhaa!? Thank God it was not a million because you would have made me feel like I’m serving a life sentence...” and stuffs like that.

It’s even worse for those who have been helped so many times by different people. They tend to overlook what you did for them just because there were others who gave more than you did. What they forget is, what matters most is not how much one gives but rather the fact that they give what they could have otherwise use to fulfil their own needs. If it’s money, then we all know that there’s no money that not needed for one thing or another. For that matter, their decision to part with their money to help meant they had to overlook their own needs-regardless of how big or small the need was- in order to help you.

I have in several occasions been helped by relatives or friends. And I would never ever forget these people. They say a friend in need is a friend indeed. You would always have people around to have fun with, but it’s really hard to find ones who would be there for you when you’re in need of something. Even when these good people did something to hurt me, the best I would do is speak politely to them because I strongly believe that they loved me in the first place before hurting me. I always look at them as people with good hearts but, occasionally, they happen to have bad mouths as well. These, after all, are human beings, and they are likely to err in one way or another.

Let’s remind ourselves that the world is always in short supply of people who would think of others’ needs. Once we find them, we really have to keep them even when they occasionally hurt us. That’s not being enslaved to them but rather having a useful set of companions whose CVs prove that they had already rescued us in the past. It’s like having a life insurance, you never certainly know when it would come to rescue you.


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