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Opinions of Friday, 2 April 2021

Columnist: Kwame Yeboah

Take a chance on someone today

I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be

Have you ever taken a chance to help someone who later became the source of your own success? Success, they say, is a team’s sports. We all need help at some point in our life’s journey. You are who you are today because someone took a chance on you. I am where I am today because someone chose to take a chance on me.

It all started many years ago, when in reaction to harsh economic conditions in Ghana, a man journeyed to a neighbouring country in West Africa, hoping to eventually make it to the United States or Europe for greener pastures.

While waiting for his breakthrough visa, he secured a job as a language instructor at a local high school. There he encountered many students but one young man we will call, Kofi, stood out.

As I heard the story, Kofi lived with the grandmother in a remote part of the diamond-rich rural area which required him to commute several hours to school. Although academically gifted, Kofi never saw himself pursuing education beyond high school. Indeed, when the results of Kofi’s final exams were released, he never bothered to go and check it, as in his own words, “I am done with school.”

Despite the teacher seeking his own economic emancipation at the time, he chose to take a chance on Kofi. He mentored and intervened with the student’s own reluctant mother and convinced her to allow her son to attend college. After several failed attempts by the teacher to realize his own dreams of travelling overseas, he returned to Ghana but kept in touch with Kofi, who would go on to secure a scholarship to study in the United States.

Two decades later, I began my college education in Ghana. The teacher connected me to Kofi who was now a professor at a University in America. In one of our occasional correspondence, Kofi encouraged me to apply for an international scholarship at the university where he taught, which I gladly obliged. Several months later, I received a rare phone call from an international number.

I picked it up and it was Kofi. In his gentle calming voice he asked: “Kwame, have you checked your email recently? I understand the scholarship committee has made a decision”. I rushed to the internet café immediately and was excited to be greeted with the good news that I had been awarded the scholarship.

This story reminds me of an adage by our elders that if you don’t allow or support others to reach the 9th step on life’s ladder, you will not reach the 10th. For you may need those who reach the 9th to push you to the 10th.

That teacher’s decision to take a chance on Kofi even at a time of his own economic desperation made the achievement of my graduate academic goals possible. And thanks to that decision, my younger brother joined me in the US 6 years later on the same scholarship. Oh, and thanks to that decision, the teacher, who is also my father was able to fulfil his dream of travelling overseas when he visited my brother and me in the US in 2015.

Beyond the trappings of academic achievement, this experience has taught me to be kind and supportive of others regardless of their present circumstances and to not despise small beginnings. It has also taught me that no good deed goes unrewarded. One good turn certainly deserves another.

Dr King once said, “whatever affects one directly affects us all. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” This statement rings true today. In a year where our lives have been disrupted by a global pandemic and the future seems uncertain, it is human that we focus on our own challenges and survival.

But if anything at all, this pandemic has taught us of our shared humanity, interdependence, and interconnectedness. Therefore, I challenge you to take a chance to help someone in need today. Who knows? That decision and a single act of kindness could be the catalyst for you or generations to come to reach their goals.

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