Don’t expect gratitude

I haven’t had an interesting passenger all week. Or maybe I have, but wasn’t paying attention to them. I was too busy staying buried inside my head to pay much attention to anything else.

Like the other night I boarded a matatu home after a long day at work. It was around 10PM and people seated next to the windows were dozing off because maybe they too had had a long day. Or maybe their spouses came to bed with very cold feet that kept them awake the previous night. You just never know with these things.

Halfway home, the matatu decided to take on more passengers than its seats could hold. These extra passengers would have to travel standing. Among them was this couple with a baby being held by the man. I like babies. Especially when they are not crying and filling their diapers with horrid stench.

This baby was not crying but since the father didn’t have a seat, I figured with the way the matatu was being driven by a mad person, it would start wailing its lungs out any second now.

Thankless father

So I surrendered my seat to the father who gladly took it without even mumbling a word of gratitude. Sigh.

I looked at the other passengers to see if they had noticed my heroic act, but if they did, they didn’t seem to care. They were too glued to their smart phones to even notice if somebody dropped a grenade in the bus. If these people continue like this, I can guarantee they will miss the Second Coming of Christ.

The longer I stayed in that matatu, the more I dwelt on what I had done and how I needed an audience to ululate and celebrate and break out dance moves for me. But not even one person seemed to notice.

I felt guilty for not being able to ‘tenda wema nenda zangu’ (do good and go my way). Not even a “God has seen what you’ve done and recorded it in His Book,” thought seemed to help matters.

I alighted a few kilometres prior to my destination, not because the lack of recognition for my action irked me, but because the thoughts of hoping to be lauded by strangers were becoming overwhelming.

As soon as I alighted, my first instinct was to call my wife and tell her all about it. About how I had saved a young father and his toddler from the devilish fatigue of travelling standing.

I called her but I didn’t tell her about it. It took everything inside me not to because if I told her, I would have expected an, “Oh, you are such a good soul, you!” from her and maybe with any luck, our bed would creak all night.

The following morning, after a Facebook friend spent a World War III kind of night with his wife, he took to Facebook, telling people about how his wife was a ‘sumbua’ and how he rescued her from the perils of poverty when she couldn’t afford pads.

This got me thinking; it’s very hard being a decent human being, isn’t it? And when you are decent, you want a crowd taking note of all your good deeds, because what good is being good if there is nobody to see it? 

Where is the pleasure in the right hand doing good without the left hand finding out about it? There is zero satisfaction in that, isn’t there?

But I believe in Karma. So I figure the universe will find a way to return the favour and as I walk the rest of the way home breathing in the cold night air and shoving my hands deeper into my pockets, I feel good. Turns out you can do good, walk away in silence and still feel good about it. I wish people would try that more.

Maybe then we could all be spared horrible sentences like, “When I met you, you were nothing! I built you to who you are and this is how you pay me back?” ‘Tenda wema nenda zako’. If there has to be a choir singing your praises every time you do well; just keep your goodness to yourself.