Weekly Blogger – There is more joy in giving.

By Samuel Chamboko – Sawubona! In life Claire Squires lived what would be described as an ordinary life but in death this young Brit will probably have the most profound effect on a lot of people in need. This young lady who collapsed and passed away tragically metres from the finish at the London Marathon would, in life, would have probably raised a modest amount for the Samaritans, a charity she was running in aid of, but after her death touched so many people around the world, she has just raised over a £1m for them. While all this was unfolding I was moved by the spirit of generosity shown especially by Brits around the country and it made me think about our views on giving to charity. These are my own observations and they could be wrong. Here in the UK a lot of people donate to charity through various ways, however as Africans, I feel that we do not give as much to charity, rather we keep charity at home. A westerner is more inclined to give to a stranger rather than an African. We are more comfortable giving to familiar face; I suppose people will know will remember and in some way give back to us. Westerners have been known to bequeath huge estates to charitable causes like the SPCA, university scholarship funds, local church organisations etc. I am not belittling our form of charity; I am just drawing cultural parallels. This is quite understandable given the cultural differences. As Africans, our families, at least most of them are closely knit and we maintain contact with our extended families. In my mother tongue, we do not have a word for ‘cousin’; we are all brothers and sisters. It is this ‘extended family’ that one thinks about when able to give back. Also while most of us are not able to help materially like westerners do, there is one thing that family offers that no amount of money can buy; human company. Our culture places a lot of emphasis on visiting each other (even without giving prior notice), and breaking bread together. Where I’m from people come to visit for no apparent reason at all, just to see how you are doing. In comparison Westerners live very individualistic lives, preferring to keep to themselves. One of my colleagues recently informed me that it is a way of avoiding conflict, limiting interaction with other human beings. To me though it seems it is one of the root causes of mental health problems. More and more people have less human contact and end up becoming depressed. I am not saying we have no depression in Africa, but in most cases it is caused by other issues rather than a lack of human contact. Just today I read in the paper that a guy committed suicide because his pet cat had recently died and he could not take the loss. We live in such confined spaces but we hardly make an effort to connect. I feel more human contact could solve a few of the world’s problems.

As a lifetime student of literature, English and otherwise, I am fascinated by anything remotely connected to this subject. Recently was I in the English Midlands and had the opportunity to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. My family and friends know that I very much get into the spirit of things, in other words I am very excitable, and this visit was no different. I normally loathe taking pictures and only do so, in most cases on the insistence of wife, of cause, but I found myself grabbing the camera and snapping away excitedly. I took pictures of anything remotely associated with the great playwright. In my state of euphoria, I nearly bought the book of ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare’ in the bookshop next door to his birthplace, but briefly came to my senses and realised that I could probably get it cheaper on Amazon. I really felt like a kid in a candy store until one inebriated ignoramus came from the pub around the corner with a football in hand. He then kicked the ball towards a group of Chinese tourists who were busy snapping away, shouting ‘I hate tourists!!’ and other expletives that you and I were taught never to say, especially in public. I have always maintained that being drunk is not an excuse; he probably meant every single word that came out of his mouth. It was such an ironic statement coming from a Brit. Anyway I decided to dismiss him; every village has its own idiot. I could not afford to let anything spoil this pilgrimage for me.

My new pet peeve is people jumping onto trains just before doors close and getting their bags or other paraphernalia stuck between the closing doors, thereby holding up the train and causing delays and inconvenience to thousands other commuters. To me this is the ultimate act of selfishness!! Londoners moan about their transport system but I have been to a few places and checked out other public transport networks, the system in London is by far the best.  Just to put things into perspective, during ‘peak hour’, on the underground, there are trains almost every 60secs, so if you miss one there is another coming within the minute and also the safety mechanism on the trains is such that if any door is not closed properly the train will not move. Why one would chose to hold up an entire train just because they are impatient to wait 60seconds beats me. Yes, time is money, but society and the economy lose more when an entire train is held up rather than when one person misses a train.

So I understand back home Big Brother Africa has started amid huge excitement and a change of format. For the first time couples have entered the house and also there is a house for celebrities. Whatever one may think about the whole concept of Big Brother on the telly, the fact is, the programme is clearly very popular otherwise Multichoice and its sponsors would not to be ploughing millions of dollars into it. I am more intrigued by the entry of two celebrities in the celebrity house, I guess because they are the two I’m familiar with; that is South African ex-model Babalwa Mneno and Zim musician and producer Roki (his mother calls him Rockford Josphat). For those who may not know Barbs used to be a famous model in South Africa but is more famous for dating 3 times African Footballer of the Year, Ghanaian Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew.  She was in the papers a few years back publicly proclaiming that she is not into South African men, she prefers men from ‘Africa’, whom she referred to as real men. I’m not sure what she meant. Anyway in the blue corner is the undoubtedly musically talented Roki, who recently has become more famous for sowing his wild oats everywhere, than for his music. He was reported on another online publication as having said he wanted enough children to make up a football team. Anyway, what am I getting at? A thought just crossed my mind, given Barbs’ penchant for ‘men from Africa’ and Roki’s uncanny habit of enjoying things mostly with his clothes off, there could be fireworks in the Big Brother House.

Follow me @SamuelChamboko.