Recently I listened to an epic rant by a friend who was sick to death of educating other people’s children, of building other people’s houses, of funding other people’s dreams, of doing anything and everything financial for everyone and anyone. Naturally I was intrigued as to why he continued to do these things if he was that unhappy about it. At the end of the day humanity will be lost as soon as helping one another becomes a tedious annoying chore. I thought about broaching the subject, but worried I might become yet another thing he needed to wipe off the surface of earth. However, some things have to be said out loud otherwise they eat at your soul until there’s nothing left but a hollow shell.
“Why do you do these things if you are so unhappy about it? What is the point of doing them…?”
He looked at me pensively before speaking. He spoke calmly at first but with a calculated gradual increase in loudness and agitation. At the crescendo the whole of London could hear him.
“Once upon a time I did these things willingly and happily. Now I’m in my late 50s and have no intention of retiring in the UK as much as I love this country. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the cold and the eat or heat debate will only get worse. Recently I found out I have been swindled hundreds of thousands of pounds by my closest and dearest. I’m on a war path but nothing will bring the money back. I am livid and beside myself with anger, hate, and regret. I feel defeated, deflated, depressed and hopeless. I have nothing to show for my 30 odd years in UK. I am seething.”
I sympathised but could not relate. All I could say to him was that he had to think positive and that whoever stole from him probably needed it more. The money will not make him (the thief) rich or him (my friend) poor. His look alone told me my words meant nothing. Offering to help him destroy his atrocious relatives would have been a better response. The next best thing was to tell him that he could take solace in the fact that he was not alone. In fact most relatives back home think that every morning when we wake, we take a basket, go to the park and start plucking money off trees. That put a little smile on his face. I didn’t ask for details of how he was swindled, that would come later when his thirst for blood was not so immediate. Over the years, however, I’ve heard a few stories of real swindlers, merciless stealth stealers who like the proverbial rat will bite and blow.
I decided to narrate the story of Lantei to my friend so he could see it could have been worse.
Lantei was a hardworking girl in her thirties. She too wanted to save and build her dream retirement home in Kenya. At the time she didn’t have the ability to travel and do these things herself, so she enlisted the help of a trusted closer than close relative. They spoke endlessly on the phone of her plans. He assured her he would facilitate the project and see it to the end. He promised not to do a thing without her explicit go ahead, and she promised to compensate him handsomely for his efforts. He assured her there was no need unless she felt he needed a reward now and then. This trusted relative went beyond the call of duty: he found a piece of land for sale in her desired location: he found a cheap surveyor who was going to develop a comprehensive design for her home for a fraction of the price – in hindsight she wished she got a second opinion because it was going too well to be true. He also advised her to open a bank account and send the money there so it will be easier for expenditure and accounting. It made sense and fortified the trust – ‘someone who wants to steal from you does not advise you to open an account for accountability’ she justified without anyone asking. She sent countless dollars and now with the cheap instant money transfer services, she didn’t have to queue for hours at western union’s offices. If he texted in the middle of night that he needed to buy nails or top up cement, she would send the money first thing from the comfort of her own home. Power to the internet. In return he kept her up to date with the progress – her email was bursting at the seams with pictures of every progress from barren land to fenced land to first dig on the foundation to first stone on the house. Since she only wanted the best – the exported the bathroom suites and kitchen from the States.
For six years hundreds of thousands of dollars was sent and finally she had a home. Since she began the project, Trump happened and she made a conscious decision that she would return to Kenya because chances of citizenship were now next to zero, and besides Seattle was becoming a snoozefest. She spent the next year preparing to leave. She bought furniture, furnishings, and everything a house needs and shipped to the trusted relative. A few weeks later he acknowledged receipt and sent pictures as usual. She had a home. The trusted relative asked casually when they can expect her to move in. She wanted to tell him but decided against it because she wanted to surprise him and his present for all his hard work. By Trump’s first anniversary in the White House, it would be goodbye rainy snowy Seattle hello sunny Kenya.
On arrival at JKIA, she texted the trusted relative and asked him to meet a friend of hers at intercontinental hotel Nairobi. He replied and said he would be there but wanted to know why. She explained she’d sent her with things for the house. At the hotel, she waited eagerly to surprise him. He did not show up [now she knows he turned up saw her and left]. She called his number only to get a message ‘Samahani, mteja hapatikani kwa sasa [Sorry the mobile subscriber is unavailable] – this message played for days as she tried frantically to reach him. She tried the email too but got returned messages that the email was undeliverable. Lantei could not understand what was happening – her sixth sense told her what was happening but she didn’t want to believe it. Thoughts of terrible accidents were a better alternative. And then a dreaded thought occurred – she’d been swindled. She couldn’t bring herself to believe that, so the next logical step was to travel upcountry to her home. She knew the location, she had pictures. On arrival, all there she saw was a barren piece of land that had seen not a soul or a drop of rain. Her other relatives didn’t know the whereabouts of the trusted one, but someone did say that he got a good job and moved somewhere in the Rift Valley.
“Wow!” was all my friend could say.
“So you see, it happens and it could have been worse for you. Lantei now resides in Kenya, has no money or home, no faith in humanity and absolutely no way of returning to Seattle”.
Word to the wise – it’s better to save under the mattress than trust anyone with your hard-earned cash. Although they say a thief is better than a fool, is this justifiable if it’s at the expense of someone else? It turned out my friend did in fact for several years fund ‘fake’ and made up situations – sick relatives, funerals that never happened.
Some people totally believe in the phrase ‘guilt is a small price to pay for happiness’ and will gladly relieve you of your possessions. #wiseup