A Continuing Search
01 July 1990

Sometimes I have sought after things hoping they will satisfy but, like those chocolate cookies, found they are sweet but short-lived.

An American friend's daughter came back from school one day and said to her mother, `Mum, there is this girl in my class who is always unhappy. So I share my chocolate cookies with her to cheer her up.' Her mother, obviously pleased with her, said, `Good for you. Tomorrow I will make even more cookies for you so that you will have enough to share with your friend.' The little girl looked up at her mother and said, `But there aren't any chocolate cookies in real life, are there?' She went on to disclose that her friend was unhappy not because she lacked chocolate cookies but because she missed her father who had recently been divorced from her mother.

Sometimes I have sought after things hoping they will satisfy but, like those chocolate cookies, found they are sweet but short-lived.

In the past few months I have spent time in England, Jamaica and Brazil. Coming from Nigeria with its own problems, I have been constantly brought face to face with people who want to know whether life makes sense or not, others who wonder whether they matter to anyone or not, and yet others who would like to see things different but don't know what to do about it. This has set me on a search for a meaning for my life at a deeper level.

Amazing turn
The search has led to some questions which may not be unique to me. What do I need to find solutions for in my own life so that other people can find hope and a purpose? Does it matter how I live? Who gets hurt when I don't insist on maintaining my integrity? An uncomfortable experience has helped me to answer some of these questions.

I had a friend who is from a different country, different culture, religion and language. She was making life miserable for everyone because she was depressed. I was torn between `caring' for her, and loving her enough to be honest with her even when it would hurt. I decided to be open about what I thought because I felt it was more important than saving face. It turned her round in an amazing way.

I had to face up to impatience because I felt that I could not give genuine love if I harboured an impatient spirit. I realized how easy it was for me to want to get on with my life and ignore the fact that others' happiness could depend on me and the way I live.

Boredom defeated
It does matter how I live, especially in a world that is growing more fragile and closer together by the day. Not too long ago, things happening in other countries came across as distant news. Now, other countries feel like next door. Humanity recognizes more the need to listen to others. But what use will it be if the desire to listen does not come from deep down in our hearts? More and more, I see myself in relation to the world and not just to myself or my country. When I am tempted to be sad or sceptical, I deliberately pick myself up and let my heart reach out to the millions all over the world who need love, and then I find that God gives me the strength to care for other people. And that defeats sadness and boredom. I also find singing and smiling helpful - to my own spirit, anyway!

I have almost come to the conclusion that there is a continuing search for a purpose and meaning for life and that I am a part of that process. Maybe everyone is, in one way or another. And it seems to me that irrespective of our religion, age, sex or creed, there are needs which we can satisfy; sometimes just by the way we live our lives, and at other times by lending a helping hand.

It is helpful to identify what constitutes `real food' in my life and indeed those of people around me and how to provide accordingly. This food may be different things to different people. For some it is love, security, self-confidence or real friends to trust. For others it could be faith, purpose or happiness. Whatever the needs are, maybe God is already giving us the resources to meet them if we would only listen to his voice, obey it and be grateful for life and what it brings.

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