My nephew is too good for this modern world, he says thank you

Seven years ago, the son of a female cousin sent me an SOS. He was in his second year studying IT at a private university and his family had run out of money to pay for his course.

Apparently I had the capacity to intervene, so I did so, and the young man stayed at college for the remaining one and a half years needed to successfully earn his degree.

Around the same time, I left the country and forgot about the whole episode. He didn’t. Last week, he managed to trace me, but careless me, I could not even recognise his name — you know how large extended families can be.

Moreover, being a female cousin’s son, his father is from a different clan from mine so his name did not immediately ring a bell. Anyway, I connected the face to the name and my ageing memory finally placed him.

After I had got over my surprise, he updated me about his current position – a mid-level IT specialist in some government office. He declared his modest salary and asked what he could do for me! I realised he was serious and was absolutely stunned. He insisted he owed his station in life to me.

I could not remember when a young man or woman last expressed gratitude at being given a helping hand. Rather than telling him what I wanted him to do for me, I wished I had more to offer him instead. And I did give him some aice about saving and investment.

Later in the day, I shared the what had happened with friends on social media. I was in for round two of being surprised. Apparently, there is a multitude out there living in silent disappointment with ungrateful young relatives. From the comments that poured out, most people have come to accept that ingratitude is part of our new culture.

Some said that relatives tend to treat whatever donation or sponsorship they get from you as a right, and even feel cheated over what you fail to give them. Others declared me very lucky to have such a nephew. Several actually shocked me by saying that beneficiaries of your generosity tend to become your bitter enemies for what you fail to give them!

The contributions to the discussion came rapidly as people I had not heard from for a long time joined in and gave their opinion. They all described me as a very lucky person to have such a rare nephew. From their posts, most have never received a word of appreciation from the people they have helped.

But as the middle aged express chagrin at what they consider lack of manners and decency, it is beginning to look like decency is no longer a necessary character trait in developing countries, otherwise social evolution wouldn’t have allowed it to die out.

Apparently, being modern means demanding everything as if it were a right.

Maybe treating privileges like rights is the surest way to get ahead in life these days. If some elderly fellows expect you to thank them for extending a privilege to you, tell them they can thank themselves if they want! You are too important to say “thank you.” Unless you are my wonderful nephew.

Joachim Buwembo is a Knight International Fellow for development journalism. E-mail:

SOURCE: The East African