My daughter at just six years old was my savior. When I married my husband, David, he was working with a very reputable company and making so much money. “I don’t want you to work. Just stay at home and take care of my children. I will provide everything you need,” my husband would always say. And true to his words, he provided everything I needed.
Whenever I asked for anything, he gave it to me without any hesitation. I initially did not like the idea of me staying at home all day like a spoilt car beyond repair but when my husband did not renege in his promise and the monthly upkeep kept coming as and when due, I got used to it. I became a full housewife and ballooned into a mother whale. I did not bother to learn a trade or invest my money in any venture. My husband was doing great. We lived in a big house with house helps at my beck and call. What else should I ask for?
One morning as I prepared my kids for school, my six years old daughter, Sarah echoed; “Mummy, what job do you do? When my teacher asked me at school yesterday I was speechless and embarrassed. My classmates laughed at me when I said you do nothing. They all had something to say about what their mothers do. I was the only one who said my mother doesn’t do anything. My teacher said it was wrong for people not to do anything because it shortens their life span.”
When she said that, Gabriel, who was four at the time challenged rather indignantly. “But Mummy prepares us for school and sometimes cooks the food we eat. Isn’t that work?” I felt stung by what Sarah had said and thought Gabriel was right. Sarah turned to him. “No, she cannot get her own money when she does that. She has to work and earn some money or engage in a trade so that she could make more money. What if Daddy stops to give her money? What will she do?” I was pregnant with my third child at the time. As I wore Gabriel his uniform, my mind began to wander aimlessly. I felt like a bomb that was just seconds away from being detonated.
My anger was kindled against Sarah’s teacher. Why on earth would she talk to a little girl like that? Why would she tell her that people who didn’t work would die young? Was that what she was paid to teach a six years old child? Was she crazy? As I drove the kids to school that morning, my heart was filled with so much loathe and anger. I wanted to meet with my daughter’s teacher and tear her to shreds. At the school gate I inquired if the proprietress was in the school. “Yes,” the gate man, a tall fellow with patches of grey hairs on his scalp nodded. “She just drove in a while ago. She should be in her office.”
I handed the kids to a teacher who led them away and headed to the woman’s office.
Mrs. Obiageli, the proprietress was making a call when I came in. with the wave of the hand; she pointed me to a chair. And no sooner had I sat on it than she ended the call and turned to me.
“Good morning Mummy Sarah. This one that you came to see us today, hope all is well.”
She was a small woman who had done so well for herself. Her school was said to have started from a one room and blossomed into a gigantic edifice within a decade.
I cleared my throat and coldly began to tell her what my daughter had told me that morning.
“Why would a teacher tell a little girl a thing of that nature? My daughter has been very worried that was why she had told me this morning. Please talk to that teacher. I am terribly upset right now.” When I had finished talking to Mrs. Obiageli, she looked at me the way an elderly woman would look at her teenage daughter who had said a foolish thing and yet did not know. Holding my hands across her desk, she looked me straight in the eyes and asked; “Do you know bitter leaf?”
I could not fathom why she had asked the question. Of course I knew bitter leaf. Everyone knew what bitter leaf was. I wondered where she was driving at. “Mrs. Obiageli, why ask me such question?” my face was crumpled now like a rumpled newspaper. I could not understand at that moment what my complaint had to do with bitter leaf.
“Bitter leaf is like the truth.” She said. “You hate to chew it as it is but when you use it to make a pot of soup, you will be glad you did. When people tell you things like this which makes you feel bitter, just relax and ponder on it. You might end up making a delicious pot of soup from it.”
She went on to tell me how her late husband who was a business man and was very successful had insisted that she should be a stay-at-home wife. “I did not object to that because I didn’t want to be labeled a recalcitrant wife.” Mrs. Obiageli went on. “But I told him that as a trained teacher I would love to be teaching little children at home. He agreed and I began the school in our boys’ quarters. Thank God I had already bought this land before he died. His kinsmen scrambled all his properties like wolves because according to them I did not have a male child for him and have no inheritance.
My three girls and I began from the scratch when I made a makeshift building on this land and constantly prayed to God for direction. Two of my daughters who were writing JAMB and IELTS at that time helped me to teach here. They couldn’t go to school for years. Look at me today. All my girls studied abroad. When my first daughter now a medical doctor came home last year for her marriage; my in-laws could not look her in the eye. They were all ashamed of what they did to us. One even had the guts to beg my daughter to take his first son along with her.” I heaved a long sigh.
“My sister, go and ponder on what your daughter had come to tell you. It might just be a message God is trying to pass across to you. Go and make a good soup with these bitter leaves. I am sure you and your children will enjoy it when it is dinner time. There is nothing as good as making your own money.”
I felt reoriented when I left her office that morning. By the time I got home, I was already thinking of what to do to be making my own money. Many ideas floated into my head but left almost immediately. I was not a buying and selling kind of person. I would fail woefully if I ventured into any business of buying and selling.
That evening, I called my younger brother, Eric. I told him what was bothering me.
“Don’t start thinking of big big businesses for now since you have never done any before.” Eric advised. “Assume that you don’t have any money. Start little. The business will grow gradually while you are thinking of the bigger ones. And don’t do a business of buying and selling for now. Render services instead. Better to have businesses that do not require your attention much since Oga does not want you to work. All that you should be thinking about is how to satisfy human wants. Identify the problem that people have and think of how to help them solve it. That’s the quickest way to making good money.” That was what Eric my brother told me on the phone that evening.
I had just about five hundred thousand naira in my account. I decided to drive around town the next day and see if I could identify one problem that people have. Not too far from my estate, I saw people carrying water on their heads. I parked the car and began to count the number of people carrying water on their heads. When I counted about a hundred, I sensed that I had just discovered my goldmine. I noticed that the distance from where the only borehole was to the place where people were coming from was very long. If they got one closed to them, they would be happy and I too would make more money.
After my research, I told my husband that I needed a million naira for the project and surprisingly he gave me the money without delay. “I hope you will not be leaving the house,” he threw. “I won’t leave the house dear,” I replied. That was how I built my first borehole. Within a year, the money I made from there, built two more in other locations. I don’t stay there. I have people there who sell the water and send money to me. I have ten scattered in five states of the country now and they all bring me money – my money.
One thing about business is that it exposes you to other businesses. I am now doing other businesses now that fetch me more than what my husband earn as salary. We have now shared responsibilities in the house. I take care of all the domestic needs of the family and send money to our aged parents in the village for their upkeep while he handles all the other bigger projects.
Three days ago, I visited Mrs. Obiageli. My kids are no longer in her school because they are now grown. I went there to give her a bottle of wine and thank her for the advice she gave me years before. “Thank you so much,” I told her. “You told me many years ago to take the bitter leaf home and make soup with it. I took your advice and I am very glad I did. I have made good soup with it and my family is now happy and nourishing it. Thank you so perceived
I inquired about the teacher who years ago asked Sarah if I worked. “She is married now and living with her husband in Kano.” The proprietress told me. I collected the woman’s number and called her that day. Later she sent me her account number and I sent her the sum of one hundred thousand naira. I thanked her for giving me some bitter leaves. “I have made good soup with them,” I chuckled and she laughed at the other end after I had told her what she did for me without knowing.
This is how our lives are shaped. It all depends on how we react to the bitter leaf some people give to us. When those words that are meant to sting are thrown at us, we must always not get angry over them but try to meditate on them and take positive actions. Sometimes God speaks to us even through our perceived enemies.
1. Look around and within you, take note of the bitter truth people tell you about yourself and give consideration.
2. If you look carefully, there might be a very small business around you that serves the people and which you may prosper in. Yours may not be a water business.
3. Look carefully into your character, there may be some bitter truths people tell you about your pride and ego. That may be a bitter leave that can refurbish you for a better future.
4. Look deep into the inside of you, there may be a bitter truth about your relationship with people that may need adjustment and which may serve you hundreds of delicious meals tomorrow.
5. Your speech mannerism may require deep conscious bitter pills that would porch and edify you with better dinner tables in future.
Consider bitter leaf today!
A QUESTION TO YOU
If you have followed this bitter story up to this point, answer this simple question. Between the teacher and the proprietress, who gave the bitter leaf to her, why and how?