Home Blog A Lesson From An Intellectually Disabled Man by Michael Ogbonnaya.

A Lesson From An Intellectually Disabled Man by Michael Ogbonnaya.


“Oga, abeg try am again,” I said pleadingly, as I hoped that the POS machine doesn’t reject my ATM card this time.

All my gaze fell on the machine as the POS operator inserted my ATM card into it again. The little optimism I had was dashed and the feeling of disappointment crept all over me when the machine declined my transaction. I glowered at the POS machine with intense anger and frustration. After a long pause, I dawdled wearily back to my lodge.

It had been a long day for me. I had missed an impromptu test earlier due to my lateness. I was preparing rice for breakfast when one of my coursemates called to inform me of the unscheduled test. Hurriedly, I left the rice underdone and zoomed off to school. On reaching the lecture hall, the door had already been closed. Not only was I exasperated because I missed the test, I had also left my rice insufficiently cooked and it could spoil before I return to my lodge. Remembering that the rice was the only food I had left made my predicament even more gut-wrenching. Around 12 noon, my fluid mechanics lecturer walked into the class and that was supposed to be our last class for the day. The fluid mechanics class which was scheduled to last for two hours was taught for three hours much to everyone’s chagrin. While some constantly looked at their wristwatches, others stretched and stifled a yawn. We all heaved a euphoric sigh of relief when the lecturer said, “we’ve come to the end of our class today.”

I walked home in a hurried, frenetic pace, like someone who literally wanted to walk faster than his shadow. On reaching my lodge, I immediately went to my kitchen hoping that my half-cooked rice hadn’t spoiled. Thankfully, it hadn’t. I tried to ignite my gas burner to continue cooking. Just then, I realized that my gas has finished. Immediately, I felt this itchy sensation on my head and armpit. I scratched my head and armpit as though I was scratching away my disappointment. Beads of perspiration had already begun to form on my face.

“Nawao! which kind life be this?” I exclaimed angrily.

Having undergone a lot of emotional stress, all I wanted to do was to sleep. But I couldn’t, especially on an empty stomach. I took a deep breath before deciding to withdraw the #1000 Naira I had remaining in my bank account to buy gas. I picked my ATM card, carried my gas cylinder, and sluggishly set off to the POS shop to withdraw the money before proceeding to buy the gas.

The fact that the POS machine rejected my card severally aggravated my already disappointing day. There was only one option left; to trek from my lodge to the diamond bank situated afar off my lodge. If I got to the bank, I could use the withdrawal slip to get the money.

I wore a long face as I began my journey. I decided to follow a bushy path that served as a shortcut to the bank. The chirruping sounds of birds reverberated in my ears like noise. The cool breeze from the trees felt like salt to injury. I frowned at the waving trees as though they were making fun of me. The scorching sun flexed its muscles on my puckered forehead forcing hot, salty sweat to roll down my head. Soon, my cloth was soaked in sweat. My mind wandered from one disappointment to another. I wondered if life could be crueler. Numerous questions ran through my mind.

“Would I be suffering like this if my parents were rich?”

“Why was I not born into a rich family?”

“Would I get more disappointments today?,” I asked myself as I jealously watched other students who were on bikes heading to the bank.

My mind-brain interaction was truncated when I sighted one intellectually disabled man who notoriously begs for money at different lecture halls, coming towards me. I felt the adrenaline rush in my body as I prepared for verbal fisticuffs that would ensue if he dared ask me for money. As he drew closer, I noticed the smile on his face.

“Werey dey disguise,” I said, as I thought the smile was a strategy to successfully beg.

“Wait oo, e be like say this mugu dey laugh me,” I mumbled again.

He was speaking some words which were slurred and indistinct. I paid rapt attention seeking for the slightest of reasons to pour out my frustration on him. His words became clearer and I realized that he had been singing.

He sang these words, “Jehovah Idi mma, n’ime onodu’m niile, idiri obim mma.

Translated as, “Jehovah you are good, in all my circumstances, you are good to my soul.”

I was awestruck and I immediately felt this warmness in my heart. The gratitude with which he sang those words gave me goosebumps which seemed as though my disappointments and anger were leaving my body through my skin pores. His voice sounded like a pure expression of joy.

Just before he walked past me, he smiled and said, “Brother, God is good. No matter wetin we dey pass through, we suppose dey praise am,” while showing me the #20 Naira note he had received from someone.

I lowered my head in shame and guilt. I realized I hadn’t been thankful to God. I shook my head in remorse and wondered how thankful this man would have been if he was mentally okay. He wasn’t in school, he doesn’t have a bank account, he doesn’t talk or walk properly, yet he showed gratitude to God. I turned back and watched as he continued in his melody until I could no longer hear him.

His song sank deep into my heart. I couldn’t help but start singing those words as I continued my journey. I withdrew the cash, returned back to my lodge, bought cooking gas, finished cooking my rice, ate my fill. The man’s words kept on resonating, and it created a ripple effect in my head. I sang the song again for the umpteenth time. It was night already and soon I fell asleep.

Michael Ogbonnaya is a graduate of mechanical engineering from the Federal University of Technology Owerri. He is a creative writer who tries to tackle societal problems with his writing and can be reached via elevatedmikey@gmail.com

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