Thursday, December 06, 2007

The 99th good thing about Lagos: Charity work around the holidays

Tomorrow morning we'll be heading back to the States (hooray!). I've still got some packing to do -- but with a house still in Houston, we don't need to bring very much going back that direction. Returning to Lagos, our bags are packed to the brim with things we can't find here or things that are very expensive here. In the past week we've been able to attend a number of Christmas parties and events to get us in the Christmas spirit. When I went to the grocery store, it was decorated for Christmas with carols playing on the speaker system. That felt very much like home. With most organizations here around the holidays, there is an even bigger focus on charity drives and there has been many opportunities to give donations and help. That's a good thing. I just got an email from a Houston friend about a robbery in the Hobby Lobby parking lot near our home in Katy -- crime like that is also on an increase here before the holidays as some with a criminal mind use this method to get funding for their Christmas gifts. We have (thankfully) not encountered this as yet, though there was recently a big wahalla (uproar) on the street just outside our apartment building where there was a robbery attempt and a crowd of people set themselves on the thief and held him till police arrived. The police then shot the robber in the leg to keep him from escape. I'm glad there are people here still willing to confront robbers -- I had heard that recently most people have been turning a blind eye to crime for fear of getting hurt in a conflict. But I am glad that they restrained themselves from the traditional method of meting out justice to the criminal -- it has been a fairly common thing for a crowd, after beating up a criminal, to put a tire around the thief and light it on fire and watch him burn to death. Nigerians are quite passionate people -- and their passions lead to good and bad. I'm glad I've had more exposure to the good side of Nigerian passion.

Last Saturday I took a small part in assembling some gift bags for the staff of the charities that are supported by the American Women's Club. Many women had done a lot of work in gathering and buying supplies and getting them divided and organized. I was a small cog in the assembly line in stuffing 100 large gift bags with food and goods. It went so quickly because it was so well organized. But it is a bit sobering to remember that these weren't the sweets and luxuries that many charities in the States would give to staff for holiday gifts. We were giving them beans and rice and oil and dry milk and matches and candles and much more of the basic supplies of life. I'm sure they will be extremely glad to get these needed goods. There are other organizations gathering toys, magazines, and, of course, there are many opportunities to give donations of money to help organizations buy what they need. Seeing the poverty here does make me question why we spend money each year on gifts for things that we don't really need. I'm really ready to scale back my Christmas list -- I have sufficient for my needs. The opportunity to be together with my children and grandchildren will fill my greatest desire.

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