A song writer says of God; You have done so much for me and I cannot tell it all. If I had a thousand tongues, it still won’t be enough’. Trust me, those are the exact words reverberating in my heart right now.
Today, I turn 50. Oh how time flies! Cynthia of yesterday has officially joined the golden jubilee league table. Do I feel older and wiser today than I felt yesterday? Maybe. Have I been looking forward to 50? Yeah! Am I excited about turning 50? Trust me, nothing beats that feeling! Am I wondering about the body aches and wrinkles that comes with ageing? Well, I don’t but those are a part of life processes and I’d better be thankful for life than worry about such. Many would have loved to live to see 50 but their journeys were shorter. There’s so much to be thankful to God for the gift of 50.
What am I grateful to God for? A lot! He spared my life not just once but twice. Being alive today is enough reason to be thankful. Once upon a time, I was diagnosed with cancer, (need to do another post on this soon). I didn’t believe I would live to be 40 but I am 50 today. When I was once attacked by armed robbers, I lost my money and possessions including a car to them but not my life. God has protected and preserved me against all odds. I’m grateful that He has been gracious to me.
When I think of fifty, my heart gleefully praises God. Who I am and what I am is all for the glory of God. When I reflect on my life’s journey up until this point, I can only say, it’s been by grace all along. I’ve come this far by God’s grace. I’m grateful to God for my parents, family and friends. God purposefully placed these people in my path at every stage of the journey. Some were for a reason and others for a season but they all served their purpose. Of course there are still some playing their roles in my life and I in theirs. To me, these are angels wrapped in human bodies. I see people God put in our lives as angels. Angels to me are not just some humongous spirit-beings with wings flying about as messengers. Angels are all the people God puts in our path through this journey called life.
A saying has it that, it takes a village to raise a child and I must admit I am a living testimony of that adage. I have experienced it growing up. Besides my core role models; my grand-mum and mum, I have had other women and men being there for me in times that I needed them the most. My cousins who cared for me as brothers and sisters would for their sister. My uncles and aunties who were ever ready to offer help when I needed it. Talk of the drivers that sent me to school and back daily; the house-helps who made sure I always had food to eat; the teachers who taught me to read, reason and imagine amazing things. All these people through their little contributions have made me who I am today. I am an example of what it is to have a village raise a child of their own. I’m grateful to God for all of them.
And YES, I am eternally grateful and thankful to God for the gift of the six children He has given me. They are the reason I find the strength to go out each day and shine so bright in my space. I always look at them and feel proud that posterity will be kind to me because I left a part of me in them.
Not forgetting my wonderful work family. I’m thankful and grateful for each one of them. They make the daily hustle less hectic and ensure that every effort is definitely worth every bit of our sweat. They care enough to show up rain or shine so we can grow together whilst working at making the dream come true. I’m grateful.
I’m thankful and grateful for the many mistakes I made and how each of those have taught me about life and shaped me on how life should be better lived.
Over the course of my fifty years on this earth, there are a lot of lessons life has taught me either consciously or unconsciously. I could list 50 life lessons; each one representing a year that I have lived but time and space would not permit me to do that today. I will do that in my memoir someday soon. Nonetheless, for the purpose of this post, I would like to sum up those into five distinctive lessons I have learnt in the five decades of my life. Here we go:
- The Value Of Relationships
Relationships make life worth living. Everyone needs someone to get by each day. Everyone that ever walked on this earth, regardless of their status in life has had to deal with other people. Almost on a daily basis, we all get involved with people in one way or the other. People matter to our life’s purposes and that makes relationships valuable. This is one major lesson life has taught me in my five decades of existence on earth. I cannot overemphasize the value of relationships and connections in my life.
I am a lawyer today because a former lecturer of mine suggested I apply for law school. At the time, I had graduated with a degree in Economics as my major and law being the minor. I landed a job at the Bank of England working as an Analyst and later a job with PwC doing advisory work. After a few years at the Bank of England, I felt it was time to challenge myself and take on a new professional path. I did enjoy my job and it afforded me the opportunity to earn some money to support my grwoing family. But then, the time was right for me to move on and explore new passions.I discussed this concern with one of my former lecturers over lunch and she suggested that I apply for law school. She actually said she thought I was good at law when I studied it as a minor during my undergraduate studies. Initially, I was reluctant to respond to her suggestion because I was raising three kids at the time and starting law school was the last on my list of options. But then she seemed very sure that I would make a good lawyer and even went on to suggest that I apply for an academic scholarship from the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn. I did as she advised, got awarded two scholarships and today, I am a lawyer.
In 2004, I brought my children to Ghana from the UK. My plan then was to work and save some money for a while before eventually joining them here in Ghana. Whilst back in London, I put a call through to check-up on one of my former bosses at PwC and we agreed to meet up and chat over lunch. In the middle of our conversation, he asked of my family and I told him they had relocated to Ghana and that I’ll be joining them. This opened up a new conversation and he hinted me on an opportunity I could use. At the time, Price Water Coopers (PwC) were the official liquidators of Ghana Airways. Cut a long story short, on my next trip back to Ghana, I initiated the process which lead to me working on one of most complicated insolvencies in Africa.
Our next level is always a person away. There is always someone who can connect us to our next opportunity but that can only happen when we have a good relationship with them. On countless occasions, I’ve advised young people who approach me for advice that they should learn to stay connected with people. Knowing how to connect and staying connected to the right people is a game changer any-day.
Relationships are valuable for advancement in every regard and we must respect the people God brings our way. How you relate to a superior should not be any different from how you relate to a subordinate. People are the same everywhere. Treat all people with some respect and dignity. Treat your driver or house-help the same way you would your boss. Sometimes people we consider to be of lower status than us can be the lifeline we have when in dire situations. There is value in relationships. Use them well. Don’t burn bridges.
- The Value of Being God-centred.
God is my all-in-all and it is not a cliché. I have experienced God myself and I speak of Him as I have come to know Him. Knowing God as my source and living my life in that consciousness has made a lot of difference for me over the past five decades of my life. If I were a product, I consider God to be my manufacturer and His word (the Bible) as the manual for my life. This consciousness has always helped me to consult God before I take any major decision in my life. It’s been God at the centre at all times. Of course, I admit there have been times that I have been angry at God because I thought He looked on and permitted some circumstances to happen in my life. But with hindsight, I have come to realise that God used both the good and bad moments and experiences to teach me and refine me into a better person.
Being God-centred is not really about being religious but being conscious of the existence of God and connecting to Him as your source. I have lived the Words in the Bible and per my personal experience, no book is full of spirit and life as the Bible. I have witnessed the fulfilment of some promises and no one can convince me into believing there is no God. There is God! All we see around us points to a supreme being who conceptualized and created them. There should be a divine architect behind all the beautiful things we see in nature. And that I believe is no other but God, our source.
I may not be able to memorise and recite scripture but I have lived it and know it is real. The Word of God is spirit and life. I have lived the scripture that says; ‘God is a healer’. I lived the scripture that says; ‘God is a provider’. And that which says; ‘God is a protector’. I have experienced God myself and I can relate to Him as my source.
For me, God is Love and He certainly is Love personified. Jesus Christ also demonstrated the love of God when He walked on earth. He spent His time with people society considered as outcasts, redefining and showing them what love truly is. Some Christians of today show self-righteousness in character and conduct, trying to sideline other people who don’t believe what they believe. Christ welcomed all. That is Love and it is being God-centred. Being God-centred is loving God and showing His love to others. Having God at the centre of your life is giving Him first place in your heart and being a living testimony of His love through your expressions; words and deeds. Be God-centred by letting others see God in action through you. This is one of the greatest lessons I have learnt on this journey of life.
- The Value Of Unconditional Love
When you love people unconditionally, it inspires hope in them and helps them cope with life. I’ve seen people who have been tagged as some of the meanest human beings on earth turn sober and sweet because someone showed them love. Some of such people are so tagged because of the things they have been through in life. They act the way they do because they are angry at the world for not being there for them. But then, when they are shown love, they reach into the core of their humanity and respond to situations and people with love.
In my younger years in the UK, I worked in Harrods, the famous departmental store. There was a supervisor of mine who hated me for no reason. I did my very best on the job but it became obvious amongst all the team members that she didn’t like me. For some period of time, I thought to myself that she could be hating me because I was black but I later got to know that her father was apparently black. Her black heritage didn’t show on her because she was a bit ‘whiter’ than your everyday mixed race girl.
There was a particular day that she came into the staff canteen during lunch time and couldn’t find a place to sit. One of the very few seats available was a seat closer to mine. Naturally, one would expect that as people in the same department, she would have just joined me but she went and sat somewhere else.
That singular act of hers broke my heart that day. I wondered why someone like her would make it her business to hate a ‘poor black girl’ like me for no apparent reason. I wasn’t in a position to even take her place on the job, I was a young girl trying to earn a living and figure out what I wanted to do in life. Having reasoned and reflected on it for a while, I resorted to speak to her and find out why she seemed to hate me so much.
I lifted my eyes towards her direction and noticed she had left for the wash-room. I followed her into the wash-room. She didn’t expect me to enter because of her but I did. As soon as I got in, she turned her face towards another direction so I wouldn’t see her face-to-face. But then, I noticed she had gone into the bathroom to cry and I felt I should try consoling her for whatever she must have been going through. My kind gesture was met with an outburst from her. She tried being rude to me to the extent of using swear words on me but I didn’t budge.
When she seemed to have calmed down, I asked her; ‘Are you okay?’ She retorted in a hash tone; ‘What does it matter to you? I said leave me alone!’ Naturally, this should have been the point where I would take leave of her but something compelled me to move closer and ask for a hug. I did. I moved forward with my arms wide open and said to her; ‘Do you mind if I hug you?’ She sort of clamoured a bit but I hugged her regardless. She broke out uncontrollably in tears. I was touched by her tears and wanted to be there for her. I then said to her;’ Whatever it is,… will be okay’. I requested to pray for her and she reluctantly agreed. I did and we parted ways.
Because she was my supervisor I had to report to her office for something later that day. I went in and she was acting funny towards me. She actually told me that; ‘whatever you did, didn’t matter to me’. Well, what was I to say? I kept my cool and went out after she spoke. She didn’t show up for work the following day. She returned on the third day and I noticed she had changed my lunch period so she and I could go for lunch at the same time.
When we met at the canteen she was unusually nice to me. She came closer to me and asked; ‘Are you alright?’ It was such a pleasant surprise to me. I couldn’t believe my eyes nor did I my ears. She sat with me on the same table and whilst we ate she said to me; ‘Thank you for the other day’. It was then that she confided in me. I realised she was harbouring a lot of bitterness in her heart and that made her act the way she did sometimes.
It was during our discourse that I discovered that she was born to a Scottish mum and an African father but was actually adopted and raised by white parents. She revealed to me that she only got to know about her parents when she turned 18. She found her mum and she helped her look for her dad. However, it turned out that her biological father didn’t want to have anything to do with her. For that reason, she developed some resentment towards black people and I unfortunately became her victim. But love found us. We became very close friends ever since. What made the difference? Your guess is as good as mine. Love! Showing her unconditional love despite her resentment towards me made a huge impact on her. It brought her some emotional healing of a sort. We became very close friends and the rest is history as they say.
Truth is, if I had allowed what she did to get to me, I wouldn’t have helped her heal. But my show of unconditional love to her did her a lot of good. In many situations, we have to be conscious of the fact that, people are going through the changing scenes of life at any given time. Circumstances are constantly swinging towards both the good and bad sides of life, changing people and making them act weirdly. The sad reality is, we don’t have control over most of these circumstances. We only try to get by. A lot of times, people tend to react as they do based on the current circumstance in their lives. It only takes a little sensitivity to help them cope with life. If only we can love people unconditionally, without being judgmental, then we can help them take back their lives and make a difference when it matters most.
I believe a lot of Christians are unable to win more souls to Christ because they are too judgmental sometimes. Some Christians would often say that they are not supposed to be unequally yoked with unbelievers but I think that scripture has either been misinterpreted or misapplied to some extent. Jesus made friends with sinners. He moved with Mary Magdalene the prostitute. He moved and dinned with a thief, Judas. He had dinner with Zacchaeus the tax collector and many others people considered the worst sinners of His time. And He showed all these people unconditional love so He could win them over to His side. Shouldn’t we be doing same as Christians?
Our Christ-likeness should be expressed in our love towards others. We ought to exude the love of God at all times. We must accept people just the way they are and through love have them come to Christ. I’ve experienced Christ’s unconditional love and I am sharing it the best way I can every day. It is a lesson worth sharing with the world and I hope I just shared it with you.
- The Value of Being Authentic
Knowing who you are forms the foundation for doing exploits in any area of pursuit in life. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is crucial when it comes to designing and creating the future you desire. Being conscious of who you are inside-out and being your authentic self has a way of making you stand-out in every space you occupy.
Truth is, both your highs and lows in life are for a purpose. Knowing your truth, sticking to it and speaking it is liberating. Don’t deceive yourself by portraying success when you are actually struggling. Speak your truth at all times. We all make mistakes. What matters is to make-up by fixing the mess and moving on. You must express your authenticity but don’t do it because you want to impress others. Life is too short and you had better live it for yourself than living it to please others.
I grew up in a society where parents make their children believe that they were first-class students whilst growing up J Every parent says they were perfect children. They hardly speak their truth. And sadly, they have passed that on to many children who are now grown-ups. It is as if most parents don’t want to be ever seen or perceived as frail and fallible. They don’t want to be seen as vulnerable let alone identify with failure for even once in the eyes of their kids. But it is okay to be. Being a parent doesn’t mean you are no more a human. Your weaknesses would show up every once in a while but it is okay to admit it and stay true to yourself.
When we open up and let our children get to know our difficulties , challenges and understand our journeys, we gain much more by being honest. There is no need being pretentious or keeping up appearances to create a good impression before others. People do identify more with us when they realise they have a shared experience with us. And it is the same with children. They can relate well to you when they know you have been through what they are currently going through in their lives. When it becomes clear to them that you got through it, they become hopeful they can get through it too. Being real about the situations of life brings some relief to others. People can relate well to you when they know you are human too and that you have made some mistakes in the past.
In my twenties, I wanted to please everyone that I came across. Probably a consequence of me being an only child for a long time. I yearned people’s approval and validation although even at that age, I was never one to succumb to peer pressure. I always tried to do me. I lived with that conflict for many years. But I grew up and realised I can’t live life pleasing people all the time. In my forties, I learnt to be more authentic and let anyone that comes my way take me for who I am or move on without me. Essentially, being and staying authentic has helped me appreciate life more and live it on my own terms. Everyone is already taken and you cannot be anyone else nor please anyone. Life has taught me that people would have qualms about both the good and the bad you do and you must come to terms with that reality and live life being the real you. Be authentic!
- The Value of Being A Good Confidant
One inestimable value of life is trust. When trust is broken a lot is lost. When people trust you they can put their lives on the line for you. In fact, life becomes bearable when you know that there are people you can trust at any point in time and not think twice about it.
I was raised as an only child until I turned 15. Whilst young, I learned the skill of listening because I was not expected to speak as much as I was expected to listen when adults were chatting. That training stuck with me and has become very helpful in my practice as a lawyer.
Today, for some reason people are drawn towards me. They open up to me and say things they wouldn’t want to share with some others. Most of my friends would come to me to share their problems with me. There are times some of them have jokingly said, we all come to you to confidently share our challenges with you but you hardly come to any of us. Of course I do laugh it off but it tells me I am worth trusting.
I learnt very early in life that when people trust you enough to share their secrets with you, it is not in your place to pass it on. There have been a few instances where I couldn’t keep up but the repercussions taught me to keep things to myself when it matters the most.
In my line of work as a lawyer, I’ve learnt the value of being a good confidant. Being someone another person can repose their confidence in and share their fears with is a great quality. A good confidant is one who others speak to and feel they have been listened to and heard. Being such a person makes you a saviour of some sort. There are instances where people have healed because they were heard and not that they were given solutions to their problems.
As a mother and a lawyer, I’ve learnt that it is a privilege to be someone that other people can trust with their secrets. Being a person whom other people can confidently walk up to and share their weaknesses and vulnerabilities with shouldn’t make you a judge over their lives. Your role in that regard is bearing the responsibility of keeping their secret safe. They spoke to your ears and not your mouth.
Not many are able to do that. Some keep things to themselves and die with guilt. Be someone another person can share stuff with. It makes you a sensitive and trustworthy person. Keeping the confidence of someone is a responsibility you shouldn’t take lightly. They chose YOU… respect that.
There are instances where some people have blackmailed others with sensitive information they shared in confidence with them. Don’t use what people shared with you (often whilst vulnerable) against them. Be your brother’s/sister’s keeper. Sometimes, all people need is someone whom they can confide in and speak away their cares and fears. When you become a sounding board for others, you help them heal.
Placing value on confidence and certainly being a good confidant is a lesson life has taught me and I wish many would learn it too. Be a trustworthy person. Be a confidant and help heal the world one person at a time.