Some weeks ago, I had a conversation with a dear friend and she asked a poignant question. “Gabriel, how do I make an impact in life? How do I make my life count?” I told her, “You make impact by “being”. Just be. Don’t try to make impact, just be yourself and that is all the impact you need to make”. We talked about it at length and she was grateful we spoke. After that, I have given much thought about our conversation and here are the things I have come up with.
I speak with people about this, I have discovered that the real question that lurks in their hearts is not really about impact. It can be phrased as thus: “When my life is compared with that of Nelson Mandela, John Rockefeller, Mother Theresa, would it amount to much, given what these giants have achieved?”
This is a time for self-introspection. Is this the question you ask yourself? Or do you really think about impact as per affecting other humans positively?
How does a tree make an impact? By being a tree — rooted in the spot it was planted and providing shade, food, nutrients to the environment. “But other trees are bigger than this particular tree?”. “It is ok. In life others would be bigger, smaller, shorter, lovelier, taller, richer than you. Get use to it”.
Compare this to your life. You make impact by being you. There would be no other you. If you are teaching in a village, please teach well. You will not always be there. If you are a police officer, be the best. If you are a business person, serve your customers with all your heart. If you are a parent, take that calling seriously. Do what you can, with what you have because what you do echoes in eternity.
If you are looking at others, do so to draw inspiration. Do not be intimated by their successes or feel superior to them. Keep doing your bit and do it well. That is impact.
Just to add…there is that little boy/girl that looks up to you. They hardly engage you neither been say “hello”. But they draw inspiration from you. They may be from broken families but they use yours as a model. You are the well of idealism that they drink from. That is impact. Living your life well and not being pushed to and fro is impacting.
My folks, chasing after money and security is like chasing the wind. There is always something to add and so being contented with what you have makes a difference. A famous rich man was once asked what would make him satisfied and he said “Just a little more”. You see, chasing the things that look like the real stuff that will make you satisfied in life is a never-ending pursuit. You will wear out your soul in that endeavour.
Be like the tree. It makes impac. But how does a tree make impact? By staying where it was planted.
One of the biggest influences in my life is my late paternal grandmother, Madam Alice Esoh Omin. She usually calls herself “Iquo Esoh” but was popularly known by others as “Eka Anthony”. Eka Anthony loses translates to “Anthony’s mother”. As you can deduce, my dad is Anthony. I can actually write a whole book about her but for today I will settle on the issue of impact. She loved us her grandchildren; dearly. She introduced me to a life of faith, in the best form she knew. I am forever grateful for that.
I started fasting as a child because she taught me and took me to religious programmes. Apart from that, she lived out her beliefs. One was generosity. When the “Ghana-Must-Go” incident hit, we had Ghanaians as her tenants. When the economy turned and they could not pay their rents, she let them stay in their apartments for free until they left for Ghana voluntarily. That took years but she endured the financial losses and let her generosity bail them out in that difficult situation.
I also recalled vividly when a certain gentleman was killed in an accident. His widow came over to pay his debts and my grandmother told her not to bother. I saw joy infused into the soul of that widow. That was my grandmother in quintessence form.
She also taught me — not to waste time arguing when you have to make a decision. She would tell you what she intends to do and then do it. It might be unpopular but she will do it. One was that I never saw her wear lipstick. When asked — she said she does not like it. Period. You see it did upset me a bit when the mortician put did her a lipstick during her layin-in-state. Really I felt she would wake up and issue him a stern warning. Lol. The second was that she refused to join two popular organisation that defined your status — one in society and the other in the church. She told me her reasons —“they don’t pray in those gatherings”. Many people tried so hard to make her wear lipstick or join those organisations but she would just smile and the issue would dissolve. She never argued or fought back — she just did it.
That influenced me a lot. People wonder why I write when I do not speak the best of English or have a good grip on the best of grammar. Well, the simple reason is because of a proverb she told me — “it is the relatives of the senile man that care about dignity. The senile is just fine. Because they don’t know that they are senile” (If you bother about my grammar, just help me with the corrections, biko).
Her brother, Baba Celestine Esoh, (my siblings call him, “Uncle Samo” (Sampson) because he was the strongest and most industrious person we knew as kids) was the biggest influence in my dad’s life. He made him learn a trade that became his source of livelihood. In a time when folks were not educating their kids especially the girl children, Uncle Samo sent his daughters to the best schools around. That influenced my dad greatly. I am a product of that influence. I am a graduate today because of that influence. The few times I spent with Uncle Samo, he gave great advise and one was to chart my path in life and never be afraid to stand alone on whatsoever I believed in. He also told me to take my education seriously. He was a man of deep faith and conviction. During the harvest in our local church, when others are giving gifts that were easy to bring to the church, he would bring the biggest goat he had. It was a spectacle to watch. But that was Uncle Samo for you. He did things that were groundbreaking and outstanding that formed a model for my father to follow. I have observed both of them and I follow in their steps.
My colleague, Excel Ukpohor runs The Youth Resource Centre in Bonny, Rivers State. He created a safe space for kids to come and learn and interact. If you go there on a Saturday afternoon (pre and post COVID), you will see many kids coming to learn, read, write, attend a seminar, make presentations, work in groups, chit chat etc. The place buzzes with activities. These are the same kids that would have been doing other things that lead to juvenile delinquencies but just because someone created a space for them to be, they are thriving. How do I know this? During my TEDx Rivers State University talk, I stayed back after the event to interact with a lot of students. A number of them told me they were from Bonny and ALL of them told me Excel, his partners and staff at the YRC made a difference in their lives and hence they decided to pursue a university education.
The difference between Oprah opening a school in rural Nigerian and a less known indigenous missionary doing is the media platform that they have access to. One will be reported around the world. The other would only be heard in the village. However, the school would serve its purpose irrespective of who built it. So are you waiting to be reported around the globe before you can do what is in your soul to do?
“I have observed, throughout life, that a man may do an immense deal of good, if he does not care who gets the credit for it.” — Rev Fr Strickland, an English Jesuit Priest
My grandmother and her brother might never be featured in Forbes Magazine (except of course if I buy over the publication and decide to report about their lives). I doubt if they will report about you also. Don’t bother about me because I care less about appearing in Forbes. If I have to, I will but for now, I am just fine. I am here doing my bit to make the world a better place for myself and those around me. We have to do what we have to do. Live a life of impact — just be.