On Wednesday, 13th September 1989, my father passed away aged almost eight nine years. He was the most generous person I knew; he gave his time, energy, efforts and money to others without taking away their dignity or expecting anything back.
Kahlil Gibran rightly said: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?”
Most of my siblings followed their hearts and dreams and are currently living and working outside Uganda. To mark the 30th anniversary of our father’s passing, we decided to celebrate his rich life by holding a Memorial and Thanksgiving Service on that day in the church in whose very grounds he was laid to rest. We felt that remembering him was the best way of reminding ourselves of his generosity. His memory remains alive and useful to the children and their children.
He was a busy politician who joined politics simply to serve and contribute to the development of his country but he also worked as a volunteer in many organizations like Uganda Red Cross Society, Young Men Christian Association, Uganda Bible Society, Uganda Scouts Association, Lions Club of Uganda to name but a few. He was also an active member of his church community and clan.
We grew up seeing him go out to serve others with a big smile. Unknowingly, he was bequeathing to us the best gift: Giving to express your gratitude for the good things in your life. I now know for sure that generous giving be it time or resources comes from a generous heart and displays courageous confidence in God’s loving and faithful provision. My father always gave gladly not out of a sense of duty; not that he had a lot to spare but because he wanted to do it and it felt right to do it. He gave from the heart and his reward was the self-respect that came from doing what was needed at the right time.
Despite running such a hectic life in politics and charity organizations, his family came first. He was indeed a hands-on father.He was always there especially in the evenings to spend quality time with us
He taught me how to hold the pencil and write bold easy-to-read letters. I practiced regularly under his watchful eye on the Ladybird Books, the famous children’s books of the time. And it paid off, I won many prizes in the form of books from the Children’s press of London, at the prestigious Gayaza High School for neatness and the best handwriting. I took the responsibility to pass on the art to the young generation. He taught us to read newspapers every day with him and summarize the most important news items, he taught us how to debate and practice public speaking.
“Stand boldly, hold your head tall, look at your audience and speak,” he would emphasize.
He taught us that it was important to stand up for what you believed in- never to compromise your core values. If we did this over time we would develop a strong sense of self, develop self-respect, would build our integrity and it would help us become independent people not having to rely on others for validation.
He made us aware that we had some rights as children but they had to be enjoyed responsibly and that having fun was essential for living a good life.
Early in our lives, he encouraged us to read books and bought us all the African Writers books- blue for the fiction ones and orange for the nonfiction, from Heinemann publishers.
He encouraged us to compete among ourselves in writing, bicycle racing, indoor games like Ludo and crosswords, preparing us for the competitive world.
He encouraged us to be each other friend and keeper. He considered his loyal and genuine friends his greatest wealth on earth. He could drop everything to help any one of them. We did not know until late adulthood that some of those friends were not our relatives!Thankfully , the majority of us inherited this trait from him and find it extremely rewarding.
We would spend the long Christmas holiday on our farm in the village and this would give him the opportunity to teach us how to pick ripe coffee berries and how to take care of the herd of cows. We shared all the household chores irrespective of our gender. He always rewarded good behavior but punished you appropriately for the wrong done.
Later, in his sixties, he was humble enough to learn new subjects like Biology from us or how electric items worked. Had he been around in this Digital technology-driven era, he would have asked one of his grandchildren to teach him how the Mobile phone worked and then he would have started using it and respecting it.
Little wonder then, that thirty years on, we remember him for his love and generosity. Many of us accompanied by our children flew miles to hold a service to express our gratitude to him. The service turned out to be another learning experience to the children, grandchildren and our guests about good parenting and writing your legacy by your daily actions and behaviuor.
They say: “
It is not what you leave for your children that matters most as what you leave in them.”
Myles Munroe said: “True leaders don’t invest in buildings. Jesus never built a building. They invest in people.”
Our father invested in us, he instilled into us the virtues of honesty, integrity, and discipline,a sense of responsibility, reliability and having fun. This is exactly what we are passing on to our children and they will pass on to their own. To be women and men of values and principles while at the same time respecting their traditions.
Psychologists like Paul. J. Zak reveal to us the science behind generosity.
You give because you understand the perspective of the one in need. Being generous connects us to other people; we engage with them and feel the joy of giving.
Your happiness increases with your usefulness to others. You feel happier when you give to others than when you give to yourself.
When you give out love, gratitude and compassion, your brain releases the hormone Oxytocin into the blood stream. Oxytocin is one of the ‘feel good’ hormones and is specifically associated with bonding and trust which are essential for human relationships. An oxytocin surge causes us to feel pleasure and to trust and to connect with others. This is what is referred to as the joy of giving.
This feel good experience has a ripple effect in that when we give to people, we make them feel like giving to others and the cycle goes on. Generosity improves our mental health and well being.
The best way of teaching a child to give to others is for it to see you practice it because children always do what they see not what you tell them to do or to be.
We grew up seeing our father going out to serve and give to others and for sure it rubbed off on us.
It is was therefore most befitting for us to remember to give something back to him in acknowledgement of what he had given to us so gladly and abundantly!
Mother Teresa said: “We can’t all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
QUESTION: Are you aware that by doing simple acts of kindness and generosity and standing up to do what is right, just and fair, you are writing your own legacy?