The Tough Art of Making Generational Impact
What it takes to make a lasting and permanent positive change
I see them every time I walk into the town. Many see the same sight with me every day but I wonder what really goes through their minds. It doesn’t matter what day it is, the hopelessness stares at you in the face. When some see them, they feel joy and happiness but when I do, I see the opposite of hope in their faces.
What I’m talking about is not some creepy sight — it is the sight of little kids playing outside. It doesn’t matter when you go out, whether it’s Sunday or Wednesday or Friday, you find these kids playing outside. Initially, I didn’t give it a thought but then one day it dawned on me. I asked the colleague that was with me, don’t these kids go to school?
I know there are many cases and stories of children not going to school. But have you ever been intimate with one? There was this boy who cannot be more than 5 years old who already has a potbelly. You have to believe me — it wasn’t looking like a disease or anything of such. He was pretty fat and his tummy was just the right size to be pot.
Each time we see him when we walked, he smiles and gestures in a friendly way. But when I make my best possible projections into his future, it is heartbreaking. His hopeless has no synonym. He doesn’t go to school, the parents are “it” already and “it” is quite bad. He has probably started downing some liquid mixtures and the future looks bleak.
Yes, there are ingredients that change people’s lives. But the chances of any of the ingredients finding him are very slim. But as of now, he still has hope whether he knows it or not. So, what is his hope hinged on? That is just one boy and he is a point of reference to all the others.
In the society of the remote town, it is pretty normal to have 9–10 children born in a family. Most of the time, the family is polygamous. Imagine a community that speaks about “having faith” only when it comes to getting married and having children. “If you give birth to the children, God will take care of them”. But they see how the majority of lives turn out and then hope that theirs will be like the few “lucky” ones.
This is not hope, rather it’s an expression of a mind programmed for a crash. If you disagree, then tell me what future you see when you go out on a Tuesday morning into the town. School is in session and you find scores of young people playing and watching soccer on a sandy pitch. This is not London or Madrid or Manchester — this is a remote town in northern Nigeria. Someone can wake up and build them a stadium but if you do that, are you feeding their hope or hopelessness?
I discovered something very interesting. The communities in Africa that enjoy civilization are those penetrated by the missionaries. The communities that were not, still remain backward to this day. Today, many organizations have more money and resources than those missionaries. Yet they struggle to make any reasonable impact. While the missionaries succeeded, these organizations are struggling not to admit failure.
The question is — what did the missionaries give? What do they have that made the difference that these organizations lack?
What the missionaries gave is simple — they gave themselves
I made another observation. People who worked firsthand with educated foreigners were the most educated. Although they were not the most intelligent or the most certified. And the education I mean is the one that transcends all areas of life. They think differently. The arrangement of their house is different. Their thoughts about achievement are different.
They picked up personal hygiene, cleanliness, and neatness from those educated foreigners. Then the knowledge they got passes on and on but it diminishes it goes farther. Until it gets to a local whose life remains unchanged.
I am speaking of how education broke out (in Africa) — those who had it gave themselves. The missionaries made not less than 80% of the difference. The places unpenetrated by the missionaries remain backward even to this day. Maybe because they received some other kinds of missionaries first.
Selfishness has brought the world to the negative spot it is today. And sometimes, selfishness is not an obvious hoarding. It is a mindset and mentality delivered from generation to generation. And nobody tries to think differently.
For example, it seems obvious (to me) that the world of people started with one male and one female. If everybody in the world came from one couple, then it means every person is related to you in some way. Just because you can’t trace the link doesn’t mean there is no connection. And this means that every child is related to you in some way.
Do you need to have your own child before you feel a sense of responsibility towards a child?
There will always be stupid and foolish people. There will always be people that will give birth to 9–10 children who cannot even take care of one. The hope children like that have is the selfless person.
The selfless person is the person who can look beyond himself, beyond what he wants, to go the road less traveled, to positively affect a person he has no obligation to
The hope of the hopeless man is the selfless man. And that’s what those missionaries were and that’s why they succeeded. It may not look like their success to you but believe me, it is.
A selfless man is not a man that decided to be selfless or choose to be selfless or became lucky to be selfless. A selfless person is a person that has made up enough reasons within himself to be selfless. And also has reasons stronger than adversity to remain selfless.
I hope you understand who the difference makers are now.
This article was written in 2015/2016 from my experience in a community service initiative. Read the entire collection in the order it was written here.