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Opinion: Let me know who my own Man of the Year is

black family

by Ayomitan Stevens

Heroes also are the teachers and tutors, spread across this fair land of ours. Those patient builders who are everyday moulding nations in those small and oft ill-equipped rooms called classrooms more than deserve our respect.

Well, gentle folks; it’s that time of the year again, the season of carols and holiday gifts and man of the year awards. Of course, awards like these are mostly left to the discretion of big media to give out – Time, Economist, AIT, Silverbird etc. But see, common folks like us too have our views, we too have people we’ll love to see get acclaim for their outstanding efforts through the year: and thank God for the democracy of the internet, our voices can be heard. Hurrah!!

A couple of years ago, a prominent noodles company had an advert out that best makes my point. In this ad, a group of kids were being asked by their teacher who their hero was; one of the kids answered and told the teacher that her hero was the retail trader who sold that particular brand of noodles to her family, and thus helped them get fed with nutritious food.

True, it was quite funny and a bit ludicrous, but within that ad was an important kernel of truth – the fact that our most important and relevant heroes are not necessarily amidst the crowd that breaks record, make landmark speeches or push through far-reaching reforms: they usually are ordinary people around us, people who make our lives richer and better in ways we cannot easily count. It is those simple heroes I wish to nominate for my man of the year.

I wish to nominate mothers and fathers around the nation for their incomparable excellence in raising, caring and loving us all. Their everyday hard-work and desperate living just to ensure we are provided for and that we are given the best of opportunities they can seize from the stingy hands of life more than speaks for them; their heroism cannot be overstated. Because the sacrifices and hard choices they are forced to make, they do without flinching – and nurturing us from birth, crying with and for us, hoping, worrying; through the anxious and joyful times, they are there. True heroes are they.

I especially hail single parents, lone fighters in this battlefield called life. These ones who are often without a listening companion to help with their struggles, a solid shoulder to lean on in dire moments or even at times a lover who they can share their joys with, deserve special mention.

I will be greatly remiss if I do not give the most honourable of mentions to Foster parents, that awesome lot of people who take children who are not their flesh and blood, who are not in any way kin, and still bring them close as family, loving them unconditionally. This counts as one of the noblest of deeds, something worth its price in affection. I whisper to them, their blessed hearts: “thank you, heroes of our time.”

Next to the stately role of parents is family. Older siblings who protect us as best as they can and put up with our immaturity and many times, our irresponsible selfishness; younger ones that tolerate our dictatorial shenanigans: Uncles that care, Aunties that listen, lovers who share unselfishly. Their places are ever assured in our lives, and even though we often take them for granted, we really would not find it easy living without them. Through health and sickness they stick around, in high and low you’ll find them a mere step away. These every day heroes, familiar legends – they made our year fuller and in many ways lovely.

Friends. How do I begin with these special people? Is it their generosity – of their time, their ears, their heart; or the risks they take with and for us? Or those numerous periods that they laughed heartily to our boring jokes just to make us feel good about ourselves – an unacknowledged confidence boost? Maybe it’s for when they stood right by us, shoulder-to-shoulder as most of the world stood against us? Oh, where do I begin? But only these I say: heroes are known for their passion and no passion can be exceeded by the love of a true friend.

Heroes also are the teachers and tutors, spread across this fair land of ours. Those patient builders who are everyday moulding nations in those small and oft ill-equipped rooms called classrooms more than deserve our respect. Rooting out ignorance from us, grooming our minds from childhood to reach for greatness – many even go on to shape our moral fibre, give it strength and make it exemplary for others. These are real heroes, personal and national.

Can we forget our clerics, simple and dedicated servants who keep pouring out of themselves to enrich our lives? They fast, they pray, they reach out to the supernatural while abjuring worldly pleasure and crass materialism just to be used to bless us. Many give up promising careers, comfortable lifestyles and a simple existence to achieve these noble aims. While it’s true they have great reward awaiting them in the hereafter, yet in this world we can’t but appreciate them and the blessing their lives are to us and say to them: Bravo, for lightening the stress of living through the year.

Think of a life without a caregiver –doctors, nurses, midwives- or a year without them. Think of those joyful moments of welcoming new lives into the world, gone; think of the times we or a loved one was mired in sickness and pain, and having such situations ending in sorrow; or the opportunity of just getting someone to listen to us and help us sort through our issues, not being possible. Imagine the nightmare of that life and heave a sigh of relief because we don’t have to go through all that, thanks to these warriors standing at the grand portals of life, snatching lives away from death’s cold grasp and its brother’s –Pain- also, gently guiding in new lives to beautify ours, and saving us from fates and situations at times worse than death – mental breakdowns, emotional meltdowns, divorce and so. They are heroes, sworn to heal, avowed to saving lives.

We often miss the importance of hard workers across our economy. They are those who in a society that encourages mediocrity, laggardness, and shoddy work still manage to standout by the brilliance of their work, the enthusiasm they show every day at their desks, bringing smiles of satisfaction to the face of clients and customers. They are in government, floating clean in the sea of crony corruption, in the corporate private sector providing quality goods and wholesome service, and the informal sector where they act as more than mere customers but take the time to know us and our loved ones and even ask about our days bringing cheer to the dour ones. For even if they get paid for their services, yet we must recognize the genius of their heroism in slowly but surely building a new nation that prizes excellence, encourages diligence and promotes a moral enterprise.

What of those who are taking daring initiatives around our country in rebuilding broken lives and hence our nation by their altruistic projects designed to offer help and services to people who often cannot afford to pay for it and without it would suffer perilously and in some cases fatally. Young graduates who during their service year decide to shun the sedate attitude popular with their fellow youth corps members and really serve their nation. They design and carry out impactful schemes- build schools and clinics, provide water, erect critical infrastructure like electricity – in the communities they are posted to. Women and men who leave the finer life and take to the more rudimentary hinterlands to serve people in various life-changing ways, or those in the cities who spend time, money and effort to take care of orphans, juveniles, the homeless, helpless and afflicted. All these they do despite the challenges of bureaucratic red-tape, financing and societal pessimism. These are the stuff of real heroes – impacting lives, easing life’s burdens, helping others despite oneself.

While it’s only these that immediately come to mind, yet there are so many of them – these everyday heroes, pimpled across the face of this nation.

Now this year, I wish to nominate them all, each and every precious one of them, for the man of the year. Each one playing his/her part in this great tapestry of the human story, all standing as one, differently loved, equally loving. I nominate them – my man of the year.

So wherever they are- it may even be you, good reader, or someone you know- lets raise a glass to them, a glass filled with the bubbly of gratitude; let’s raise hearts of appreciation to them and applaud the beauty they are to these drear world of ours.

Favour them this season with a smile, sincere gifts (if we can afford), a soulful prayer, a touch, a kiss – all as appropriate. This closing year, they have again fulfilled a grand destiny in our lives, and this is hoping they stick around a while longer and continue to be our man of the year, year upon year. And that their perfect aims in our lives, they will see perfected.

Cheers to each of them, cheers to all of them.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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