Ololade Ajekigbe: How to know if you are poor

by Ololade Ajekigbe

I have never considered myself rich, in monetary terms. But in the last couple of weeks, my “acute” financial limitations ha,ve become more apparent. Apart from the generally reduced purchasing power caused by inflation and the prevailing economic circumstances, the pervading poverty in the land and my helplessness in the face of it all has me feeling frustrated. And then it dawned on me – many of us are deluded that we are comfortable when we are in actual fact poor.

“Speak for yourself. I am not poor” I can hear you mutter. Easy…I am about to prove it to you. So I have been around a couple of people who are in precarious financial circumstances in recent times, and I find myself not able to do much to ease their burden, not because I am not willing to help, but because it’s practically impossible to do so at this time, and I find that extremely frustrating.

Take this mum of 5 kids who just lost her husband to the cold hands of death all of a sudden. To make matters worse, she is unemployed, does not run any business venture, was a full-time housewife taking care of her children who are all under 9 years, while her husband worked to make the family comfortable. And she wasn’t lazy. She had begged her husband that she needed to be gainfully engaged in a job or trade, she needed to be doing something apart from taking care of the home all day long, but he had insisted that she held the home front together while he hustled for the time being.

They had 3 children under the age of 4, and I guess he had reasoned that they were better off under the full care of their mother. Unfortunately, he died. It was sudden. Painful. Heartbreaking. And now, this woman is all alone, not just broke, but completely penniless, abandoned by her husband’s family, and with 5 other mouths to feed, many bills unpaid, and children currently out of school. I see her every day, and my heart breaks into tiny little pieces. I can’t do much to help, in between my own monthly bills and responsibilities, I am not even in a position to commit to taking over paying the school fees of one of her children for a while. It’s a profound reflection of my own poverty.

I can afford decent meals and take care of my bills, but at the end of the day I have very little to spare for others, and that’s how I know I am poor. And you are too if you have so many people living in penury around you and you find yourself incapable of doing much to alleviate their suffering.

I am aware that there will always be people who need financial help (some would argue that almost everyone needs that kind of assistance), and it’s tantamount to embarking on a suicide mission to attempt to be there for everyone who’s plagued by a financial burden.

But this reality doesn’t take away the feeling of inadequacy you are left to nurse when they have to turn people away because even you whom they assume would have some extra to give away are struggling to keep body and soul together. Forget all the lovely pictures and appearance of wealth we all put up on social media.

Another way to know you are poor is this; What if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness during one random medical checkup? (Again, this is the part where you go all religious on me with the “God forbid, I reject it in Jesus’ name” mantra, but those who found themselves in that situation never bargained for it too). Are you likely to be able to afford the N15 million or N20 million you’ll need to get the required treatment? If your answer is no, then, you’re poor. Because it simply means you’re only one terminal illness away from launching a GofundMe account.

Many of us aspire to wealth. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I want to be rich too. I believe life is easier for the rich. I also know that some of us get philosophical about being able to afford the basic things of life and having good health as enough wealth. But let’s face it, it really is easier when you can not only take care of yourself and your family but have something tangible left to share with others. And I just feel it’s a good reason to desire to be rich apart from the quest for vain glory.

People are suffering. People have pressing needs, and they are too broke and overwhelmed to carry the burden alone. And so beyond our desire to flex and show that we have arrived, these people are a reason to be determined to have something more than good health and a salary that’s just enough to keep you off the streets.

I am not talking about wisdom, a kind word or a shoulder to lean on in this case. I am talking money. Good old cash.

P.S: I really don’t care how wealthy your husband is; as a woman you should be doing something on your own to earn some money. We really shouldn’t be talking about this in 2017, but hey…

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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