There is a tiredness, a cranky feeling that you can feel as you navigate around the city. You can almost see, smell, and hear the manifestation of it as you drive and the car exhaust/dust mixture hangs in the air as a light haze cakes your nostrils and eyes. Vehicles cut each other off, tailgating and crowding non-existent lanes, screeching beeping sounds every few seconds, the rattle of the motorized tricycles (Keke) and the droning powerful engine of a truck. People walk to their destinations with a glazed over look in their eye looking straight ahead with blinders on. They don’t particularly look deep in thought but putting one foot in front of the other as if guided solely muscle memory.
A jovial and soulful traditional music blares as a backdrop amid it all, serving as a foil as if the song Happy by Pharrell Williams was playing in a gloomy alley. The disparity leaves you with a pensive, light skepticism to start the day for you know the day won’t be a compromise of “clapping that happiness is the truth”. You know there will be challenges and things likely will not go as expected.
This is Aba, Abia State. An industrial Nigerian city that is a more frustrated Detroit, Michigan. Business goes from sun-up to sun-down- 6 days a week. There’s very little time or venues for recreation.
Whether it’s a plumber committing to come to do a job on a Monday who proceeds to unreachable for the rest of the week, or you are buying what a vendor claim is 32 millimeter bolt and after you buy and try it you find out its actually 34 millimeters, the city has its way of frustrating you.
Following a tough day in the marketplace, I find myself more irritable and cranky. Even as an optimist, when nothing seemed to be going right, a dark cloud rises above my head carrying my frustrations and doubts. And I eventually learn this cloud its only small dark droplet compared to the magnitude of the continuing unfurling cloud of pain and frustration. I can that there are decades of unfulfilled dreams, stress and constant reminders of the daily struggle. It is smothering, just as I am about to suffocate I see a a bright light piercing through the cloudy membrane.
I squint at the slight, rapidly blinking to bring it into focus. I begin make out the shape of small children. Dancing, singing, skipping, and trotting. In multi-colored school uniforms. Teal blue, royal purple, lime green, and crimson red.
Their presence causes the dull, gray environment around me to give way to saturation and color. Hues deepen and the sky brightens. Its a Claritin Clear tablet that illuminates the entire world around me.
They giggle with laughter and delight in their eyes. Clearly untroubled, no thoughts of pain or weariness.
They play age-old game of rolling a hoop with a stick. A young child veers off and instead begins running down her friend with a thin stick hoisted above her shoulder as if she will throw it. Mischievous but not malicious.
I realize the bright light was emanating from the beaming faces of these young children. Their blissful spirit carries an energy that places gentle smiles on those that cross their path. Seeing their optimism and the next step a little bit easier than the previous one.
From a humble and oblivious brilliance; they are the force that allows people to continue to labor each day and endure.
These children are beauty and hope. These are the children that have the strength to ease yokes and lighten burdens. These are children that keep me going.