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You know, two or three years ago, I was returning to Lagos from Prayer City, after the Power Must Change Hands programme.
It's one of the only times that I went alone, and I was driving. So there was space in the car.
If you know the Prayer City, then you know transportation is inadequate, so people often wait by the gates when service is done.
I remember my mum and I after countless crusades by Uma Ukpai, or Reinhand Bonnke, or even Lekki '98 hoping for a lift from someone.
And being flogged by the relentless sun. It's one of the lazing memories from my childhood, because we did go to many crusades.
[It's also one of my dearest repeated memories of my mum. Suffering the heat, but focused not on her own welfare but always on mine.]
And so, after almost driving off in a hurry, I caught myself and went looking for mothers with 2 or 3 kids who were looking for a lift.
There were a lot of people clamouring but I had to say no, because I specifically wanted my memories to guide me. I saw a woman.
I asked someone to help me call her, and told her to come in, I would take her, at least, to Ojota,
Her child, presumably the first child, was relieved and started making his fast towards the car. And the mother took one step...
But it was a tentative step. And in that couple dozen seconds, you could see her mind make several calculations.
Calculations only a person born, bred & buttered in Nigeria CM perhaps understand: Why did he single us out? Why does he want us in his car?
Is this not how rititualists behave? Is this not wat we just prayed against in the church? I waited as she held back her son and calculated
Then she decided the risk was too much. It was easier to assume the worst intention, than to assume the best.
Living in a country as buffered by cynicism and fear as she - and I - were, it was easier not to believe that this simple act was positive.
And so she said, no thank you sir. And you cld see her son's face fall. He couldnt understand what his mother had just done. Under this sun?
It broke my heart to see the cloud from across his face, but broke my heart even more because I fully and truly empathized with his mother.
I could imagine my mother do the same, to protect me. Because, that's how it is in Nigeria. Positivity is so rare, it is high risk.
And so I had to call other adults who were ready to take this risk into the car, and I had to the woman and her kids.
And often after that day I have asked myself: What have we done to the heart of that little boy? What have we said to him about life?
What message will get to him about hope, about fear, about vulnerability? Will he be able to find a way to get to that, somehow?
On my first day here at Yale, the cohort decided on what our mutual values for the programme would be. And one of the most popular was:
"Always assume the best intention."
This has always been an idea that has struck me, and that has often guided my life. But I had never in fact encountered it in these words.
I think of that often in a world gone so angry, and especially in my home country where our hearts have been broken too many time.
How do you raise a child, especially a disadvantaged child, in that environment to hope, to love, to trust, to believe?
*strongest memories
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