The Gift of Empathy

Let me tell you a short story.

When was I was studying for my masters degree , I used to live about 30 minutes away from campus. I will catch 5-minute bus to get to school every morning. All I needed put my monthly bus pass and all my transport expenses was covered.

However in the first few months I had issues with my visa and and that created problems

<– The text was written entirely with Google text to speech and I haven’t gotten round to edit it. You might like to the audio better.–>

…with my student status. I couldn’t open a bank account so I couldn’t get money from Nigeria. I also could not start working part-time like other students. Luckily I stayed in school accommodation so I was only indebted to my school for both tuition and accommodation. It was stressful.

While I sorted out this stuff over a period of three months, I had to manage my finances such that I will not run out of cash for my feeding or transport expenses. In March winter ended and spring came along thinking in terms of how to reduce my transport expenses.

The school was just 30 minutes walk away. If I got up thirty minutes earlier, I could make it and I would benefit from the exercise. A lot of students a lot of students were biking to school . I tried that for a while but that’s for another blog post.

The first week of the month of April, I started to walk to school. It’s a easy journey walking from Hamstead to Perry Barr. I walk along the main road just by the same route the bus will take. This means that other students was see me working. I I don’t think that was a big deal a lot of the students will leave them closer to the school we are walking anyway the sporty group we are going to school using their bicycles. After trying the bicycle for a week , I decided that riding a bicycle uphill wasn’t meant for me so I started walking.

The first thing I realised was that all along a lot of students we’re walking to school anyway. Most of them we get to school as early as 7 a.m. so nobody except for the of the trekkers saw them coming. Mostly British and Jamaican students, I was a sole Nigerian. I’m not trying to give impression that will walked together as a pack; each person was finding his own pace. Yet, there was this feeling that we were a movement .

Then one evening, as I was finding my way home, walking as usual , the route bus stopped at the bus stop just ahead of me. One of the guys stepped out of the bus was Emeka, a fellow Naija student. We exchange greetings . He asked me how was doing, how was work, and questions like that. When we Nigerians greet, it is not complete until we ask a litany of questions. Usually the right answer to the questions is fine thank you. But, there is also a saying that he who keeps quite might not get served at a Naija party. Or it the person that announces his grandma’s death to his age group that benefits from the group’s token contribution. If you keep quiet, they will leave you alone.

So with this thought on my mind especially since I felt that Emeka was a guy around town, I I’ll let you know about my visa situation and how it was messing up my job situation as well as mine financial situation. He would prove to be very useful. He gave me the phone number of an agent they will get me a job and pay me cash, no questions asked. What surprised me most was that he sent me a one week bus pass. Throughout my stay in the UK I have not ever seeing a more generous person. I tried to pay it forward, as much as I could.

Sometime after that I met Emeka at a gathering. He was his Irish wife/girlfriend. She was heavily pregnant and it was obvious that she demanded to be recognised as the de facto madam. I got talking with her and she invited me to their house. I never went though. I don’t do couples very well. Also I didn’t know Emeka well enough and I suspected that the Irish bar was just looking for an opportunity together more information about whether my guy has a family back home in Nigeria , that kind of thing. Like I said I didn’t know Emeka well enough. I had no idea about the situation in Nigeria.

It was much later than I will find out that even though Emeka started his Masters 2 years before me, before I arrived he had dropped out of school and was focused on supporting his wife and coming kid. They will get married and he would go on to get British residency as a result. I guess he was really genuinely in love with her so much so he gave up his academic plans to pursue love and family ties.

It was kind of surprising to me that while he was pursuing is 5 years a bae program, he could still be generous and helpful to someone like me who had nothing to give him in return and especially since I was on track to get the goal that he had abandoned. Thanks to Emeka, I was able to hang on for a few more weeks by which time the UKBA had resolved my issues . Emeka also linked me to my first student job.

What can I say? I think some people genuinely have the gift of empathy, the ability to appreciate what others are going through and to try and help in anyway they can.

I have heard other stories of how he was an all round great guy , the kind of a guy that would let an out of luck brother squat on his couch till the other guy was back on his feet. I have not been in touch with Emeka since I left the UK and I hope he is well. And as for his Irish bae, I have no doubt now that she snagged one of the best of us.

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