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It is good to know when to be selfish


A friend’s father-in-law is terminally ill and the responsibility of taking care of him has been left to her. At a family meeting, it was agreed that since she has a spacious compound and servants’ quarters, the old man would be more comfortable there.

At the meeting, they also agreed that each of the mzee’s seven sons and daughters would be contributing towards the patient’s expenses and the figures worked upon. It has been two months since and no contribution has been forthcoming. It is her good nature and generosity that made the others readily shovel this responsibility on her.

When she sought a shoulder to cry on and get a solution, her mother told her: “God will reward you abundantly for doing this. Just don’t complain.”

I don’t dispute rewards from above, but it is not advisable to show the world you are ‘good’ while you are suffering inside and actually providing the care while feeling you are being ‘used’ by the family.

The truth is many siblings really exploit their sisters or brothers who were created with a generous heart. Even parents exploit such children – they get money from them to boost another of their children’s lifestyle.

In most cases those in this category are women. You must have heard a common expression in a family that if you want money just ask so and so.

The unfortunate thing about this kind of arrangement is that the person who is generous is usually disadvantaged; while the others invest and prosper, the generous ones are busy ensuring everyone is comfortable and well taken care of. It is good to be overly generous, but it is also important to be selfish. What about your future? What about your children? What kind of education are you giving them? Are you sacrificing their comfort for the sake of helping others?

This generosity can be really costly. My friend who is taking care of the father-in-law is straining so much that her children are feeling the impact. When I visited her recently, one of the children whispered to me that she was so grateful I had taken them a bread spread they love which their mother had not bought for two months!

This simple illustration demonstrates why you should not be consumed in your generosity and forget your other responsibilities. My advice to my friend, and others in a similar situation, is:

Follow up:

Pester those who commit themselves to assist. Make it unbearable for them to ignore this commitment. In fact, at some point, get to their home and pick fruits, vegetables and the like. Make it clear what you have collected is for the patient and you will be back for more.

Hold on:

Do not use your generosity as an excuse to abscond other responsibilities. If you are saving a certain amount of money towards your retirement or paying a mortgage, do not adjust the amounts unless, of course, you are an only child and the patient is your sole responsibility.

Take turns:

At a meeting where you are given the responsibility to take of a patient, insist on rotational care. That he or she should go round the homes, say two weeks at each of the sons and daughters’ homes. It is financially draining to take care of a patient as the meals are special and therefore costly and so are the medicines.

In this column, it is my desire that you, dear reader, learn something to make you a better manager of your finances.

Last week’s article on why you should check out on a property before making that crucial decision to pay for it received quite some feedback.

One of the e-mails was from a lady in Eldoret who wrote in part, “...I have consistently made wrong purchases of property in an effort to secure my future. In short, I only realise I made a mistake after the deal has been signed and I have to live with it.”

She said, she felt the article was ‘talking’ about her. She had bought land without going to the site only to discover the land was a road reserve.

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