Monday, 24 August 2009

The Girl Whisperer: Hearts of gold

I HAD the opportunity to meet with an exceptional woman a short while ago, and by extension, a number of equally exceptional people. The meeting made me question the meaning of many things and what one should consider as really important. The name of this person who gave me food for thought? Laja Adedoyin, the founder of a children’s hospice located in the heart of the mainland of Lagos, a rest home for abandoned children with unimaginable ailments and I do not use that phrase, “unimaginable”, lightly.

She told me of the struggles the home had encountered in seeking to be truly functional and all around me as I looked, there was living proof of children who came into the world with the odds stacked heavily against them.
The children were afflicted by things I cannot even begin to mention here, things beyond the grasp of normal day-to-day conversations.
That day, as I walked in the midst of those children, looking down at some immobile in their beds and destined to be so for the rest of their lives, I remembered Mrs. Adedoyin telling me, how she worked with the physically challenged in England for many years before coming to Nigeria to continue the same work. And then she spoke of how this vocation brought her into contact with a well-known gentleman, a gentleman who would pay an unpublicised visit to the hospice along with a retinue of his aides. Let us call him Babatunde Raji Fashola for the purposes of this article.
She said he looked at the children for a long while and then picked up each bed-ridden one, tears in his eyes as he did so. What brought the tears to his eyes? The way the cards have been dealt to some? The fact that the world is full of pain and misery and sometimes, we all are so cocooned in our own sense of well-being and good health that we fail to see what others have to go through. For whatever reason it might have been, Mr. Fashola cried as he held these children, he grew larger-than-life in my perception of him.

AS I stood looking down at these children and pondering on how true it is that sometimes the weak and the helpless are the ones who suffer the most; a group of very good-looking young women came in spotting sea-green Tee-shirts, alive and very vibrant.
They had come to visit the children too and on each shirt was the legend, “Shaggy Babe”. It took me a while to realise they were former students of the Federal Government Girls’ College, Sagamu, graduands of the class of ’99. They laughed, joked and played with the children, putting many of them at ease and I saw the occasional “Shaggy Babe”, wedding band on finger, carrying one of those children and lost in thought, searching out hidden meanings and answers to things that troubled many of us, but which we may never find out on this side of the fence.
That hospice is a place to grow up in, to learn some of life’s heavy lessons and to realise we come to the earth in many forms, and not all of them are near perfect.

SO, the Whisperer asks today, can you really claim to truly love if you have not loved the seemingly unlovable? When we profess to love other people, is it not also because of accidents of fate that we do so? The perfection of the teeth? The charming pout of the upper lip? The unblemished complexion? Do we not love others for their graceful necks and their long, tapering fingers? For almond-shaped eyes and pert noses? For accents from distant shores whether real, affected or imagined? Do we not love for delicate frames and lovely hair? But if these things were all to be stripped away, would our love still be the same, as wild and free? Can we truly love if it is not to our advantage, sometimes in ways we cannot even put into words?

THE Whisperer has severally professed his undying adoration till the end of time to the inimitable on-air-personality known as Lamide Akintobi (Don’t ask questions, just keep reading), but would this unrequited love be the same if she wasn’t as, well...stunning, as she has looked all her life?
Would her inner nature, arguably the truest reflection of the person, alone, be enough to hold one’s attention if she wasn’t as intelligent and confident as she is now? And if it is not enough, does that not reflect a shortcoming in the admirer’s own make-up?
Do you love another person for that person’s essence alone or for the total package? And if it is for the essence of that person, where ends the essence and where does the person’s personality begins? The Whisperer will disagree with all those who say the personality and the essence are one and the same thing. Personalities, you must agree, may be influenced by many external things — family affluence, education and things of that nature — your very essence may not.
How hard can it be to look at anything beyond the physical? Isn’t our own worth improved when we can strip the outer, superfluous wrappings to look to the real person? It is a person with a heart of gold that can look beyond the outer layers and look to the very spirit of a man, woman or child.

THE Whisperer’s mother sat with him today as other mothers have sat with their sons, to shared her wisdom with him, non-purchasable because it stems from a deep pool of experiences spanning many decades. He was reminded of the times she had told him as he searched the world with immature eyes years ago, that “there is no perfect woman”. With hindsight, he realises now that there is no perfect man either and we should not only be tolerant of imperfections in others, but suspicious of our own reasons for seeking physical standards alone. Our driving passion must be primarily to ensure that the heart we seek to make ours is forged with gold. If the heart is made of that unalloyed metal, there can be no greater foundation for a relationship.

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