WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT…

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This is a new month. Every day is a new beginning. Try to be positive about life. Speak to someone about your fears. Don’t die in silence. Never be afraid to face life as it comes. Good or bad; we are in it together. As it ever crossed your mind that since the days of old, the world is filled with the rich and the poor; the good and the bad; the righteous and the wicked;  the contented and the greedy; the wise and the fool; the happy and the sad. These are the stark realities of our everyday life. While we continuously work for an egalitarian society bear in mind that even humanity is unequal; we have male and female; the strong and the weak; the healthy and the sick. While some are born others are dying; while some are in the prime of their days, others are singing the nunc dimittis…

It’s a new month try to encourage your friends; speak comforting words; give away the smile it could brighten someone’s day; make excuses for others attitude; never crucify before you listen. Many people are burning deep within they only need to be listened to. Unfortunately, we are all in a rush and seem to have no time to listen to those who just want to share some moments with us. Listen to your friends old and new. Listen to the young and the old. Listening to them can reinvigorate them and give them some reasons to smile. Don’t be too far away from those that care. After a hard day’s labour, we always go back home. Make peace at home. Do not make your home a war zone: if there is no peace at home then there may be none elsewhere in this present life…

Above all radiate joy! Take pictures of you: you won’t take them again when you are gone. Go to places: it is part of education and self-development. Take a walk: it helps burn out some calories and makes you smart. Visit friends: it makes them feel loved. Don’t mind those who snob you. Appreciate those who have time for you. Care is reciprocal. There are things money cannot buy. A terminally sick patient who has been told when he will die can relate this… Eat healthy food: if you don’t eat your food as medicine you will soon eat medicine as food. Dress decently. There are enough pornographic images already scattered everywhere don’t make yourself one of such collections. There is a difference between wealth and riches. Be conscious of the source of your income: Never eat fat on someone´s else sorrows. Integrity is earned. Respect the difference in opinion of others. Think before you speak. Speak words that build and unite not destroy or divide.  

You are a champion already. Nobody can be you. You are unique. Stop comparisons. Work on your potentials. Envy kills faster than malaria. It corrupts self-perception. We are all gifted differently. We are precious in God’s eyes. Because you have it all today doesn’t mean you look down on others. Tomorrow is pregnant with a million possibilities. No one stays on top or in power forever. Ambition devoid of morality is catastrophic. Hard work pays but grace is real as well.

Let me conclude with the Pauline words of admonition: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble (honourable), whatever is right (just), whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious (admirable), if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4: 8-9). 

Stay safe…

Valentine Umoh
Universidad de Navarra
02.06.2019

DO NOT BE AFRAID, NEVER BE DISCOURAGED: IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER!

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Yes, times are hard! “I am not getting younger.” “I have finished secondary school, admission for higher education has become an uphill task.” After NYSC there is no work. There is no money for feeding. “I am the first child, everyone depends on me, while I have nothing substantial doing to meet these cumbersome budgets.” “My Father is well advanced and not working and my Mother is a petty trader with little or no income.” “Those who would have helped me are making demands that I cannot meet: I should join their secret cult (swear an oath of allegiance) or I should be their sex slave before they could help me.” “My uncle or aunt is excessively wealthy (all their children study abroad) but wouldn’t help me nor any of his brother´s or sister´s children.” “I was the best in my high school.” “Those I was better off (at least academically) are making it far in life. Here am I with little or no hope that things will change tomorrow.” “I am getting tired of this life.” God is unjust. The world is wicked.

These are some of the groanings from young promising talents that I have been opportune to have meet by virtue of my life and ministry as a priest. Times are hard, and the society makes it harder. A typical Nigerian youth is intelligent, hardworking and wants to succeed like his peers. He wants to explore. There is an inner zeal in him or her to live his or her dreams. Most Nigerian Youths are very virtuous and as such will not want to succeed via “Get rich quick” means that are easily and readily available. They are knowledgeable enough to know the aftermath of those evil means. In a society where you struggle for everything: food, housing, education, healthcare, a society where there is no social security, the youths feel the impact the most and they find life so hard. Indeed, in Nigeria, life is a real struggle!

In the last two or three months, I have read of so many cases of suicide. 70 % of these cases are youths in their mid-30s. While, I cannot defend nor support this attitude in any way, they are clear expressions of the state of hopelessness and desperation. A society where nothing seems working forces some of her youths to consider suicide as an option. God forbid, we always say but unless you put yourselves in their shoes, you will never understand why anyone will want to take his own life. Is there anyone who doesn’t want to own a house, have a car, eat well at least daily, have the luxury of a good wardrobe, have a comfortable bank account, have a promising career job, get married, have lovely kids, etc? Desperation sets in when these yearnings are far beyond reach and there is no convincing hope that things would change soon. Things gets worse, when you look around and see some of your mates who have started living their dreams. Despair and a sense of worthlessness or ill-luck sets in. If you have found yourself in these situations and these descriptions suits you, it is precisely because of you that I put this up: “Do not be afraid, never be discouraged, it can only get better!”

There is a story I heard of a man with three kids and a lovely wife who met a travelling agent in Lagos to ask him to find any country for him where he can move in with his family. They man said: “ANY COUNTRY OTHER THAN NIGERIA.” He wants to get out, he wants to move away. He is ready to sell the few things he has. He is ready to seek asylum in a country as poor as Gabon. He is ready to abandon his fatherland just to see if he can meet earns meet and secure a better life for his three kids. For him, any country other than Nigeria will be better. Why?

Yes, any country where the basic need of education from primary, secondary and even up to university level is free or at least affordable; any country where healthcare is guaranteed; any country where government know their work; any country where electricity is not a luxury; Any country where a “common” cleaner or gardener is guaranteed the established minimum wage and respect; Any country where the police know their work and do not harass innocent citizens, Any country which allows a man to fulfill his potentials and express himself; Any country where the needs of the poor and common man determines government policies; Any country where traffic rules are observed to the letter; Any country where youths are not condemned to hang around politicians for their daily bread; Any country where human life is valued and respected; Any country which does not become a GIANT in GDP, on economic tabloids and in IMF rating but with the greatest poverty and unemployment rate; Any country where jobs are advertised and employments are based on merit and not on “Who do you know? Or who is your father?” Any country where government workers due for retirement are not afraid to retire because of a never-ending tradition of owing gratuities and pensions; These countries will always be a better country than Nigeria.

Sometimes, it is sad to realize that almost all the countries that fought the second world war, where able to put behind them the ravages of the war to build a strong and solid economic and political structure for the years that followed; these countries have the strongest economies today. Unfortunately, in Nigeria the same issues that led to the civil war had never been overcome to date. The poor masses and the youths become exposed to a high rate of vulnerability and there is a mad rush out of the country to just anywhere better and safer.   

Wait a minute! Do not be afraid, never be discouraged, it can only get better! All hope is not yet lost because there is life. Take life easy and be easy on yourself. You can only do what you can. You are not a magician. Believe in yourself and avoid unnecessary comparisons. The pain of being human is the uncertainties that we must combat with every day. Sometimes we try so hard to predict, pierce or glance into tomorrow (the future) only to find out that we were wrong after all. Take and deep breath and for once congratulate yourself for being where you are at the moment: it can only get better. A flashback at yesterday could encourage you to keep moving for no matter how dark the clouds are there will always be a silver lining in the end. Be filled with more thanksgivings and gratefulness than regrets. Many people you see smiling and taking mouth-watering pictures of themselves and of places they have visited suffer so much pain behind the smiles and the beauty of those pictures you see. What kills people easily today is depression. Depression comes when you put so much pressure on yourself. So, my dear, cheer up, give a smile and keep moving: it can only get better. There is no better encouragement than self-encouragement; there is no better determination than self-determination.

That you tried and fail doesn’t mean you cannot try again. There is no harm in continuous trial. Build yourself, develop yourself, build your self-confidence. Learn from the mistakes of others, never wait until you make them yourself. Read wide and always be updated. We are in the age of social media. So many useful information is now closer to your door steps than before: make a good use of them. I am a strong advocate of a new and better society called Nigeria, but we must stay alive to see this come to reality. Never allow your vulnerability to be exploited by political pundits, aim to build your personal career. Forgive those who have wronged you and live joyfully because tomorrow promises to be a better time.

Valentine Umoh

17.01.2019
Pamplona