Glancing out of the window, I saw a boy, probably 17 or 18 years old, who looked familiar. His lanky height, yellow eyes, pale skin and his teeth with a slight over bite..... I watched him for about a minute, wondering what he was up to, as he kept looking all around him.
Then, he came up to the window and knocked timidly. I lowered the glass and asked: "Yes, how can I help you?"
He looked at me through his clear glasses and said. "I was summing up courage to knock, I am a 200L student in University of Lagos; and I am asking for assistance to pay my department fees..... I just need XX naira to pay the fees and to buy my drugs, because I am a sickler and....."
I jumped in "Yes I know you are a sickler, I have been watching you actually. I have a brother with your condition, he looks just like you. You shouldn't be out here in this hot sun". I knew dehydration is a killer for these guys.
Curiosity got the better of me and I asked: "Where are your parents?"
He gave a weak laugh and said "they have done their part, I need to do this to support."
Immediately, my eyes filled with tears, and with a shaky voice, fighting to maintain my composure, I said to him: "young man, I don't know if you are telling the truth or not, you may or may not be in school, but if there is one thing I know, it is that you are a sickler, and staying under the sun is not good for your health."
I reached in my bag, and gave him the money he asked for. All of it. "Go home my dear, go and take care of your health."
He looked at me, and trembling, he kept repeating "O my God, are you an angel, are you an angel?"
I asked for his name and number and told him "if you truly are a student, call me over the weekend, and we will find people that can collectively assist you through school."
He gave me his details and asked for mine. I wanted to call so he could save my number, but his battery was dead. He brought out his pen and said - "I will write it on my hand', so I tore out a piece of paper from an envelope in my bag and wrote down my details for him.
It was too much for him I guess . "See, she even tore her envelope for me. She tore paper for me. How can I thank you? God bless you ma, God bless you."
I told him goodbye and watched him shuffle down the car park, that tell tale gait that shows years of fighting swollen joints.
My driver was speechless- he started "Madam, its only God that can bless" ......... I said to him "Wale, I don't have a brother like him, I HAD a brother like him, who died 7 years ago. We did the best we could, but sickle cell won in the end. In the end, we do the best we can to help, not because we have a lot, but because we just have to."
Then, I let go of the emotions I kept a tight rein on and in the silence that ensued, I let the tears fall. And they fell...
- for the sickle cell kid, who had no option but to beg under the harsh sunlight,
-for my brother, who died 'in my arms' and the fact that I miss him everyday,
-and for Nigeria, where poverty stalks every corner, and we sometimes wonder how much we can do and what difference we can make.
I dried my eyes with my handkerchief, gave a smile to my dear Wale, and got down from the car.
Tomorrow, may God use me to bring a smile to another person's face.