Many people, I included, make New Year resolutions. Something common in most of these resolutions is that they are usually self-centered. “I shall lose weight,” “I shall go back to school,” “I will be more committed in my relationships,” “I will make more money,” “I will buy a new home…” Absolutely nothing wrong with this, but think for a moment what difference it would make if you added one resolution that does not focus on yourself. Let me suggest one for 2014 – reach back and bring others along.
No matter how smart and talented you are, you did not become successful without the help of others. Maybe you had great teachers in school, supportive parents and great mentors at the workplace, or trusted friends and advisers, but you had to have help to get to the level you are today. How can I forget those who have made me who I am today? My mathematics teachers at O- and A-levels, Mr. Delsi and Margaret Nyagah; my journalism lecturer, Peter Mwaura; various bosses I have worked under…(God bless you all wherever you are); and of course my loving and caring mother (God rest her soul in peace).
Whoever you are, whatever you do, rich or poor, there is so much to thank God for in this New Year. You definitely have something you can share with others. You can make a resolution to reach out to others and help them achieve their goals in a more meaningful way. You can give back to society. Each one of us can teach one. You owe it to yourself and to those on whose shoulders you stand, to help others. Giving back can be done in a number of ways. Mentoring, donating your time, giving advice and feedback, exposing others to new opportunities and experiences, serving on boards of nonprofit organisations, leading neighborhood and church groups, volunteering – these are all ways you can contribute to your communities.
Many people think giving back means giving money out – you can give money if you have it and if it is needed, but usually money is the least of the needs for most people who have set life’s goals they wish to achieve and need some help. Many just need someone to hold their hand, someone to show them the way, someone to open a door, someone to teach them the ropes…
A great way to help younger people, for example, is to mentor them. Although becoming a mentor is a great responsibility, you should do it whenever you can. As a trusted counselor and mentor to younger people who look up to you, you can listen, guide and ‘show them the ropes’ so they can move ahead. Being a mentor should not be taken lightly, as it means giving of your time and expertise and opening doors whenever possible.
Sometimes we feel that we don’t need to help others because we have had so little help ourselves and have the attitude: “If I can do it, someone else can do it, too.” Those who have had a difficult life, either growing up at home or at the workplace, may feel justified to hold this view. A hard life can make one feel, “I’ve got mine the hard way and you should go get yours and feel my pain.” It is not rare to hear successful people say, “No one helped me, so why should I help anybody else?”
Even if we couldn’t see the helpers, they were there lurking in the shadows. We must always remember that many people sacrificed a great deal so that we could have the opportunities we have now. We have just celebrated Kenya’s 50th independence anniversary. Can we forget those who died or sacrificed so much so the country could be free? Is it not because of the blood they shed that we enjoy so many freedoms today, which enable us to climb ladders of success and achieve so much?
We know many individuals and groups who help others to achieve success in their lives including philanthropists, churches and non-governmental organisations – by paying school fees, mentoring, providing a roof over their heads, meeting their health needs, rehabilitating those in need, or just feeding them – why shouldn’t we do the same? We know how hard it can be for some people to get opportunities in life due to no fault of their own, and we owe it to ourselves and humanity to help them whenever possible.
That doesn’t mean that we have to trust everyone who looks needy or we deny ourselves to give to others. It does mean, however, that we should always be willing to offer a helping hand, share our knowledge and our contacts and wherever possible open the door so that others can get in to where we are sitting comfortably. Even the small things we can do, like making a phone call to help a person in need, letting others know of available opportunities, or stopping by someone’s home to check on them, can make a huge difference in someone else’s life. We should be willing to share with others what has worked well for us, as well as the pitfalls we have encountered and how we have overcome them.
We should especially be willing to reach back to help young people (our future) so that they can learn from us and fall into line, and when the time comes we can hand over the torch to them. We can mentor them to do well in their current positions and prepare them for their next steps, while instilling living values in them, as well as imparting knowledge and expertise. Remember that helping others helps us to grow. And if you believe in karma, reaching back and bringing others along is a very good thing.
I urge you this year to each teach one, contribute to something larger than yourself, and remember no gift is too small. Live by the mantra: “I have because I give, I give because I have and, therefore, I am never without.”