One Thing My Father Taught Me About Generosity

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One thing about most fathers is that you don’t get to play with them especially when they are the disciplinarian types. My father was a teacher and a strict disciplinarian. He was the type that believed in the dictum that said, spare the rod and spoil the child. So I didn’t really get to play ball, go on a bike ride, jump and laugh with my father.

By a tweak of fate, by the time I was through with university, my dad was taken ill and never fully recovered until he passed away. But one day before he died, my dad surprised me. He said, Paul, sit down, let me teach you about generosity.

But before I share with you what my father taught me, this is a brief about my father. My father was a teacher. He was not just an ordinary teacher, he was a headmaster. Next to bank managers, teachers were the most respected people in society then. My father had what was referred to as Higher Elementary in those days – that was the early fifties. Higher Elementary was probably the equivalent of a West African Examination Council Certificate. But there is a huge difference. My dad was taught by the “white man” (the British). They inculcated in him a sense of duty, hard work, and community. There were hardly other teachers of his caliber that I knew.

My father excelled in agriculture and won awards. His barn was full of assorted yams, pumpkins, and other crops. Whenever agricultural exhibitions were held in the catchment area, district or division, my father invariably came out on top. I vividly remember some of his exhibits that were bigger, taller and fatter than me. Some were so big they had to be carried by hand-pushed trucks. Teachers in surrounding schools trooped in to learn from the magician – my father.

My father was as straight as an arrow when it came to integrity. All the relieve materials during the civil war, amounting to thousands of tons (or millions of Naira if you like), were entrusted to my father. Funnily, even as we were starving, he never took a pin, even a tin of sardine, home. I guess he believed we were not refugees. I hated him then on that score. However, when I hear government people talk about corruption today, I remember my father with pride.

My father was generous to a fault. Needless to say, he trained all his siblings. They called him senior. None ever called him by his given name. In church matters, he never came second. He gave the highest donation of One Hundred Guineas (the equivalent of about N1million in today’s money) when the Catholic Cathedral in my village was being erected in the early 1960s. For the church donation, the Catholic pontiff, Pope John XXIII, awarded him a papal certificate.

He gave numerous scholarships to indigent pupils wherever he went. However, my father never schemed for recognition. One thing bothered me. My father never went to university, unlike most of his peers, contemporaries and even his juniors. One day I took my father to task. I asked him why he didn’t go to university and mentioned the names of his contemporaries and juniors alike that went? The answer that my father gave me stunned me and set off alarm bells in my head, mind, and heart.

My father said he never went to university because he was never nominated by the church. It was unbelievable! This was a man that was awarded a papal award for his contribution to the growth of the church. My grandfather had earlier donated the piece of land where the church is built. So why didn’t the church nominate him to go to university, I further asked my father? My father dropped a bombshell. He said the church does not like people that tell the truth. I’ve held my father’s assertion about the Catholic Church as a gospel truth ever since.

By a stroke of luck, I got employed by one of the federal agencies in the country upon graduation from university. The agency was set up by the World Bank in cooperation with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Federal Government of Nigeria. It was one of the best run federal agencies in the country. The pay was one of the best, much better than commercial banks then. I was in my game. I’d been blessed. I took off where my dad left off when it came to generosity.

I ensured the entire clan was fed. I ensured I put all my cousins on my payroll. I extended a hand of help to my siblings. At the height of my innocence, my father pulled me aside one day and taught me a lesson. He said to me, almost in passing, “if they gave medals for all acts of generosity, there would be no place in my breast for medals.” My father never said a word on the subject again until he breathed his last. At about the same time I read a quotation from Machiavelli, which said, “if you earn a reputation for generosity, you will come to grief.”

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Source by Paul Uduk

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