When Doing Good Is Costly

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SATURDAY Counterpoint

By Femi Akintunde Johnson

Lastline: We continue on Princess’ story as the partners faced a decision: should they help the needy when they too were in some sort of need?  

Princess and partner started a new set of fasting and prayer session… seeking God’s face and voice. More like biblical David’s eternal mantra: “Shall we pursue and overtake, or…?”

We were not told if God answered Princess directly or through a vision, dream or sent-man – two days into the fasting, Princess was stimulated somehow to ignite a fundraiser for Shaqirat. This time, she also enlisted the help of a sympathetic ear in a television station, who plugged it into the station’s top human-interest show. The show’s hosts were electric, and surprisingly energised… something Princess’ partner insisted was a sign that God was behind the intervention, in spite of their own conditions.

 Incredibly, within two weeks, using different social media platforms, and in conjunction with the massive radio appeal, the N1.5m target was outstripped by a healthy N500,000! As stunningly confirmed by Shaqirat’s father who had earlier opened the personal account being used in her name.

It was a tearily grateful Maliq and Risqat that sought to visit Princess and partner…but they refused to take the glory – asking Shaqirat’s mother to begin arrangements for getting Nigerian passports, US visas and air-tickets. None of them had ever left the country – not even to Togo! So from the scratch, the Boli seller had to acquire the stamina to overcome the rigour and machinations of the Nigerian Immigration, the tigerish US consulate and the grumpy foreign airlines, among other exigencies. With Princess’ help and strategic interventions, passports were fast-tracked (on humanitarian grounds), visa processing was unusually smooth – apparently, the US charity group had muscles, and had moved their senator to pull some strings. Tickets were a matter of cash. They were ready! Four days to the deadline! Praise God!

Then tragedy struck… completely unrelated to man. A scenario that sent Princess and partner wondering where and how they had offended God, again! One of these feminine tornadoes struck America three days to departure. And as if the devil was the chief architect, the worst hit was the state, the city where the Christian group and children’s specialist hospital domiciled!

Of course, all homeland services were in emergency mode – there was no space nor personnel to cater to new inbound patients. The journey stagnated. Tithered! The disappointment was palpable. Princess and partner were hit by a fresh wave of doubts and dismay: “Could this be God? Was God angry that they didn’t wait long enough for Him? Did they mishear? Or heard their own voices, substituting for that of God? Could it be because Shaqirat’s parents were moslems? Of course, Shaqirat was too young to be a cause…or could she? Was it from past sins not exhaustively confessed? Or other acts of disobedience disguised as affirmative actions? Could it be because…”  So many divergent, and sometimes crazy thoughts seized the two mobilizers within the first three days after the disappointing international incident, vividly captured on CNN.

 So, they resumed their fast. One week after, the US group reverted: they were sorry for the elemental hiccups, but new dates had been guaranteed for the surgeries (less than 14 days); all other plans were as earlier arranged. And the icing – Princess had been told much earlier by Maliq that the airline only refunded about 70% of the actual cost of the botched return tickets – the US group expressed their regret on the ticket matter, and offered to provide free return tickets for mother and child! Hope restored! “The devil is a liar” became the favourite punchline.

When we reviewed the scenarios with Princess and partner after the return of Risqat and the ‘brand-new’ Shaqirat from the US, we joined hands to thank God…yet struck by the quiet wonder of the reality that the electrician, Maliq, was now richer, many times, than his benefactors, Princess and partner! Such irony still baffles me.

To be fair, Maliq was not ungrateful. Earlier, even while his family were still abroad, in expressing his indescribable joy at the incredible turn-around of his situation, he had offered to turn over the close to N2m cash – since none was spent, apart from the airline’s penalty deduction and cost of pre-travel expenses. Princess told Maliq that from the onset, it must have been God’s plan to enrich Maliq in a bizarre and completely disarming way, so as to know that Shaqirat is a special child, to be well taken care of; and that God did not see her as a Moslem – but a special child of God. She advised Maliq to invest and spend the money wisely – for the sake of Shaqirat. The electrician was shocked! I could only assume the position of his mouth on the phone while thanking Princess and partner for their selfless service in the aid of his family, when yet he had not met his helpers nor seen them physically! All their interactions had been through telephone voice calls or WhatsApp!

Now, I am unable to second-guess God, who could use Princess – broke, broken and bruised – to raise help, relief, health and plenty of cash for an indigent man she didn’t know…of a different faith, virtually unsophisticated… yet Princess and partner were not sure of how to survive the next week. Even as I write, though Princess is not begging for bread –  she is not giving out bread free on the streets either, though she wanted to – she couldn’t pay for it. She insisted God is not unkind; nor would she ever contemplate that God was punishing her for one unforgivable sin. Or for doing good. She hopes to do more to help any other Shaqirat God brings their way – succumbing to the possibility that though God may not be ready to answer their own prayers at the moment – He seems to derive some kind of satisfaction in granting the prayers of others using Princess and partner as the conveyor belts.

Without a scent of doubt, I agree with Princess, and anyone in the same valley – that, because your prayers are not answered, yet, does not mean you cannot be an answer to some other person’s prayers.  While waiting for your “time and chance”, make out time to be someone’s God-sent. You may, like biblical Abraham, be entertaining angels inadvertently. Even if it is not so – you cannot be in error doing good. Therefore, wary not in doing good. Try it!