One Life To Live

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The 21st of May 2011 has come and gone and the world did not end. As a matter of fact, it was a most uneventful day. For those who may have missed it, Harold Camping and his followers were under the impression that the world would end on that day. They stood at the top of escalators and handed out leaflets to people emerging from subways. They stood at corners of busy spots and silently offered their leaflets to anyone who would accept them. Some of them even sold their belongings while others stopped paying their mortgages, insurance, car loans and other bills, reasoning that there was no point since the world was coming to an end. They certainly have a lot of catching up to do now. The world keeps on turning, time keeps on ticking and people continue to live their lives as always. Practically everyone jeered at Harold Camping for making such frivolous claims and he has provided comedians with fodder for their shows. Still, they also gave some people food for thought. Not that they believed in Camping’s prediction that the world would end but it made them reflect on their lives so far. What if your time on earth is done today, can you honestly look back and be happy with the way you have lived your life? Despite the failed rapture, people still lost their lives in deadly tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri and in other disasters around the world. For these people, their world has come to an end.

People have dreams and visions of things they hope to achieve or experience in their lifetime. We all have gifts and abilities that we were born with or which we have developed through hard work. It doesn’t have to be something monumental like finding the cure for cancer. It could be the ability to make people smile. That is a precious gift which some people do not use often enough. It could be the gift of making peace where there is strife. Some people are incredibly blessed with a gift for numbers which they choose to use in engaging in fraud and 419-related activities. Others might find themselves in a position of leadership where they have the power to make decisions that could affect the lives of millions of people who look up to them for guidance. I honestly don’t know how many leaders can honestly look back and feel a sense of accomplishment and joy at the positive difference they have made in the lives of those they led. It seems like most of the ex-governors, ex-bank CEOs and other leaders too often end up under the microscope of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for unbelievable personal enrichment at the expense of those who trusted them. Really, the amount of money some leaders steal is ridiculous. Anything you did not acquire in an upstanding manner has this funny habit of having repercussions beyond the immediate self-gratification. Besides, no matter how much you steal, you can’t take any of it when you leave this world.

A dear old gentleman I knew was a notorious skinflint. He was quite rich and could afford to live a very comfortable life. Instead, he chose to deprive himself of even some bare necessities. Instead of trash bags, he would use plastic shopping bags. He never went on any holiday and never treated himself to anything special in any way. His daughter often called my mother to complain about how her father wouldn’t take care of himself, nor let anyone else help him out. He never gave anything to charity and just seemed to be storing the money for purposes best known to him. Well, everyone’s got a right to live his/her life how he/she chooses and that was his choice. He was talking to his housekeeper a few weeks ago when he had a severe heart attack that killed him on the spot. He wound up on the floor and his housekeeper called an ambulance. Then, she called his daughter who got there a few minutes after the ambulance did. Believe it or not, she was already offering to sell her father’s car to the person with her while her father’s lifeless body was still on the ground. Needless to say, she and her brother shared the assets and sold their father’s house within the week and she and her boyfriend went on an extended fantasy cruise on a ship. It just seems incredibly futile that he had saved all that he had for people who didn’t particularly care for him. It also seems like a waste that he did not use what he had to do something good for people less fortunate. It also seems to apply to those who squander the resources meant for a whole nation. All the private jets and houses in different parts of the world will not buy you one more day when your time is up. The one thing that will outlive you is your legacy.

The elections have ended and we wonder if things are going to change for the better, or if it will be business as usual. Every appointed leader, from the councilor to the president, has an opportunity to make the coming four years count. This is a chance to make an impact on the lives of the citizens of this country. There is no reason why we should not have constant electricity, clean water, good roads, good schools, security, and a good healthcare system. Wouldn’t it be a thing of pride for a state governor to look back at the end of his tenure and know for sure that he made a positive difference in the lives of the people he had the privilege to govern?

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•Akuna Ejim wrote this piece for TheNEWS magazine.