The magic of Twenty Naira and an elderly Nigerian “boli” seller
I love it whenever I do this.
I stopped to buy boli (roasted plantain) on the streets of Lagos. You can’t beat the experience of hot fresh boli on a rainy evening. I pointed at the boli of my choice and the elderly woman selling it muttered that it’s N80 (Eighty Naira). She was naturally expecting me to beat it down to maybe N60 before agreeing to buy it at N70, but then I surprised her, I gave her a N100 note, collected my precious looking boli, and as she tried to reach out for change, I told her not to worry, and I started walking away. She called back to me in Yoruba and asks with so much curiosity “do you know me before?” I could see from her face that this is not something that happens to her everyday. I just smiled back at her, told her no, and kept walking. I didn’t need to know her to give an old woman N20, haba.
Boy, you could see her looking at herself and her colleagues with this “that’s strange” look. But one thing that could not hide was the excitement on her face. And I said to myself, if N20 can buy such a smile on an old woman’s face, then why can’t I make 10 women smile everyday? I sure got more value for the N20 than even the N80 boli I supposedly paid for.
Thinking to myself later, I give bigger tips to people who don’t even seem to appreciate it (let me not start giving instances), but why in the world would I be dragging over N10 or N20 with a woman who is trying to feed her family, or the little child forced to hawk fruits so they can have a meal at home, or the old man driving a local taxi so he can be the man and provide for his waiting family? As bad as the Nigerian economy may look, it really doesn’t cost so much to buy a genuine smile from people who already have a thousand and one reasons to be angry. By the way, I was still very angry that due to successive irresponsible governments, I had just spent 8 hours traveling the 2 hour drive from Ibadan to Lagos, had missed a flight as a result and was spending money I did not plan for, but all that this old woman needed to give her a fabulous evening was a 20 Naira gift.
There’s so much hurt, pain and suffering in the world that a little kindness looks like an ocean in a desert. I’m so much humbled, and each time I have such opportunities and experiences, it’s worth more than a million and I’m grateful for such. For me, these are what it means to spread the fragrance of His Glory.