Walk a mile in those shoes

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Last week, I went AWOL on these streets.

The short story is that it was a crazy, busy week.

The long story is that last week, I was a brand ambassador for a campaign to end bullying in schools.

I participated in the campaign for four straight days, and it was as exhilarating as it was demanding. Hence: AWOL.

My part in the campaign entailed interacting with and inviting individuals to lend their voice to the campaign. On behalf of each person who added their voice, a donation would be made to a foundation focused on ending bullying in schools.

(Why am I sharing? Keep reading)

See... I had never really been subjected to school bullying as a child. Well... other than the "seniority" complex expressed in Nigerian boarding secondary schools by senior students, which juniors like me found innovative ways of getting around them.

(But that is gist for another day)

So prior to this, my only understanding of bullying in North American schools was through movies such as Mean Girls and One Tree Hill.

The reality of the effect bullying had on people became apparent to me from this exercise. A lot of the people who signed up shared their stories of how they had been subjected to bullying when they were younger.

This became personal for me.
  
By the time my work in the campaign was done, bullying in schools stopped being a pseudo-abstract thing for me. I learnt first-hand the need to decisively put an end to this menace, especially with the “facelessness” of social media and its abuse vide online bullying.

Asides this immediate lesson I learnt from the campaign, my inner eyes were also opened to something I'd been oblivious of.

This campaign entailed interacting with total strangers, explaining this was purely humanitarian cause and not a bid to sell some products, and getting people to add their voice to the campaign. It entailed a lot of walking, and talking and standing for 6-12 hours.


When I started, it was all fun and games for me. Until the second hour in, and my legs began to quake. Even though there were scheduled breaks... it was more physically demanding than activities I had been used to in the past.

Then there was the part of having to repeat the same message over and over, with equal (and undiluted) enthusiasm.

And the varied reactions to the gospel against bullying. From people happily welcoming your message and signing up, to flicking you off with one look.

Like a housefly.

Prior to this experience, I'd always pride myself on being able to work long hours, late into the morning.

But at least, I'd be sitting down, working at my pace, and I did not have to talk to absolute strangers every 30 seconds or so.

Right???

Maaaahhhn... this was something different, and hard. This made me to realise the stuff that retail attendants, sales persons and even flight attendants go through. 

Maybe due to my short-sight (or just the fear of turning into a tortoise when spoken to by strangers, as a child growing on the streets of Lagos), I'd become accustomed to basically ignoring people at a public place, even when trying to get my attention for a product, service or a cause.

I am was that person who would flick the person talking like a housefly and walk right past. And on maybe one occasion or the other, I have in the past been a tad bit impatient with attendants, who I deemed ‘wasted’ my time more than necessary.

But there was that day during the campaign when my body was screaming "I'm tired!!", yet, my mouth had to keep preaching the message to end bullying all the while smiling.

And it hit me how some of these attendants must be dropping dead-tired, yet, obliged to keep providing services, while dealing with impatient strangers.

I apologise in arrears for the times I have been the impatient stranger. (*insert crying face*)

Truth is, the most of us go through life feeling that our circumstances is the most difficult. But walk a mile in another's shoes, and you'd understand you just may be living their dream life.

I am happy for the exposure I gained during this very short campaign, and the privilege to have viewed life from totally different pairs of lenses.

While I am still not likely to be stopping for random strangers at Oshodi bridge (I don't want to turn into a snail), I will empathise more and exhibit a little more patience with others who have to interact with and provide services to strangers daily, all the while standing or walking the whole (or most of) the time.

I have rocked those shoes, albeit for the shortest time. And I have nothing but RESPECT for the ones who wear them.

Paz,

Meg.

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6 comments

  1. Good one Meg, the nicest part of boarding school was the provision of 'turn-by-turn'.
    Once you're being bullied, in three years you have the power to either bully or stop others from getting bullied.

    Sweet memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I remember... you have the power to stop others from being bullied. We should just end this culture of bullying as a whole.

      Delete
  2. Nice post, so people actually stand and work for 12 hours? Damm

    ReplyDelete