I have seen people who were gifted with physical and mental challenges from birth but they defied it. They refused to be knocked down – they gave themselves their own gifts, made lemonade out of a gifted lemon. They saw beyond what it was that was the struggle – poor background, broken home, broken arm or legs. They took up skills, created fine friendship and worked the work to transform into that which they have become.
I lost a friend few years ago to sickle cell. Until his death, he was a writer, very committed. He attended events in Lagos and even when he was breaking down, he left the house and hung-out with whoever cared to share moments with him. I met him in one of the critical moments of his crisis at Terra Kulture in Lagos. His body had broken down. His injuries could not heal anymore but he kept keeping up with what he loved – arts. No one ever slaughters the devil with such ease. One man said that if it comes by easily then there has to be a plot around it. It would not last.
It took many successful people several years of trial and years of persistence to come out victorious. A successful tennis player could not have started spotless in the court. There must have been days of learning to swing and hit targets. For it to have worked, the skills of never failing to try and keeping a focused face, chasing after success, no matter what, gave them the crown.
These successful people used several tools to leave the bottom of the ladder. One of such tools is a strong will to be counted among the relevant class. They made a decision to hold onto something, either as an escape tool or just a tool to keep going and share with the world what it is that they can offer. I recall the case of Brymo. Brymo has an album entitled ‘The Son of a Carpenter’ a tribute to his father’s profession. I am sure that his father did not own one of the best furniture houses around the country. In fact, in Nigeria, for you to be called the ‘son of a carpenter’, it would mean that the man was not particularly rich from the trade of making and fixing furniture. When you make money and become quite influential, you are called a ‘furniture maker’. Brymo is one of the most talented young musicians in Africa. He did not stay down.
I have heard testimonies of Asa. She walked the streets of Lagos with her guitar and played at little gigs across the city. She had a record deal in Nigeria, which failed, but she kept going and every failure became a challenge for the next level of increase. Today, she is an undisputed queen of Afro-soul music. She did not let the tricks of failure; to let it all go, drown her. It would be very easy to mention Cohbams Asuquo’s name when listing successful music producers in Nigeria and Africa as a continent but we should also see that behind what we see as success today, there was a gift and there was an act of receiving. The act of receiving occurs when you decide whether to be at the mercies of people or to help save humanity despite the odds.
Life gives gifts straight from the moon – things you never asked for. Oprah was abused as a girl. Maya Angelou had a dose of the misfortune but these women resolved to become better than what life gave. There were phases for Maya, including prostitution, but there was the consistency of faith, that it would end in adoration to all who wished her well and to herself, primarily.
You may not determine the kind of gift you’d be given but you can determine your attitude towards receiving it. I have a friend whose daughter was born blind. She refused to run from a church to another and worry about what her villagers did to deprive her child of the gift of sight. She has lived a very enviable life with her child, so much that her followers wish they could have a child with special need too so they can pour out their love and love like never before. Her daughter will grow up to become an amazing woman, who would inspire her world and mum. Her mother is raising such daughter. She has not started with making her feel pity for her condition. She is empowering her one day at a time with love and care and enough faith to win and that’s a powerful tool.
Bura-Bari Nwilo is a teacher in a public school in Bayelsa State, Nigeria. He is also the author of A Tiny Place Called Happiness, a book of short stories.