I pass by a certain roadside shop whenever I’m going to the City (Kampala) with the intention of bartering normally a Ushs 2,000 note into several coins of Ushs 200. I do this so that I can have enough change on me to drop a coin at every street beggar I land my eyes on across the streets. Here is why; the guilt of not giving when I have is more burdensome to me to an extent that I cannot find the peace of mind to fall asleep in my own room.
This morning (Monday), a volunteers from Save a Buddy come into my class to compel the soft hearts of therein who had something to share it and save a semester of others including their classmates that had failed to meet the gruesome deadline. To my surprise, only a handful complied and this is not because they had plenty but because they had the willingness to give. I personally I gave up the last coin I had on me even when I hadn’t cleared my very own tuition.
Why Give Anyway?
While in a personal conversation with Martha Amelia, a thoughtful young lady who doubles as my classmate, I learnt something that I thought would help if shared with you all. She bought me pancakes for my birthday and then later said; “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It took me about three days to decode the message outside a Christian perspective and it’ from that viewpoint that I write this article.
The African culture is one of the most generous societies in the world with Latin America especially Ecuador being our fierce competitor. We attach a lot of meaning to generosity in Africa because it is a product of our social consciousness with which we should proudly identify.
Quoting from Wilber O’Donovan’s writings on Traditional African society which are stipulated in Worldviews Handbooks produced by the Foundations Department, attachment to relationships and community were more intense that in other societies and generosity formed a benchmark of these relationships. In the Ankole Kingdom where I hail for example, we give cows to those with whom we relate a sign of friendship and bond consolidation as opposed to public opinion that assumes it is because we have a lot of them (cows).
With this background then, why are Africans in the contemporary world shunning this strong cultural heritage? Is giving Ushs 5,000 to Save a Buddy, donating a shirt to an orphanage or even buying ones’ roommate lunch too big a sacrifice to offer?
I brought this issue to the attention of my mentor and good friend Pastor Gerald Rovis Masinde who also is a lecturer with the Department of Mass Communication. Mr. Gerald had in 2012 been there for me as I battled financial problems that resulted into a Dead Semester and we have been friends ever since.
Pastor Gerald said that in order to inculcate giving or sharing for that matter in with our social psyche, we should make it a habit so that we can actually get addicted to it. He in his human relations had observed that the young easily get addicted to non-constructive activities like betting and football, drugs and alcohol where they spent most of their finances and that there’s less value attached to giving because its benefits aka blessings are non-tangible hence attracting little responses.
That should be an easy task given the Christian background of our institution because sharing is a virtue that the Bible emphasizes. The threat to giving is materialism in a sense that it is “cooler” to have than not to have; a purely capitalistic feature that the one who has is the one who actually disguises themselves as financially incapable so that they can cash in on the scattered shillings of their poor generous counterpart.
As Christ followers, we are called to live our lives as a reflection of Jesus. Giving is at the core of becoming a follower of Christ, whether we are giving our time, our energy or our resources. Jesus gave His life and by His example we should be givers, as well.
It is easy to be cynical about it, but who hasn’t felt the thrill of excitement and happiness at receiving a gift parcel on their birthday? What new Mother doesn’t feel delight at opening a present for their new baby? And who can say that they don’t feel the same joy from knowing that they have made someone else happy with their contribution?
Giving is are important not only as our way of staying in touch but also saying I’m glad I’m apart of those seeking to find a solution to a common problem. And that is something we all should be seeking to be a part of in my view.