The Price of Sacrifice

“Should I use the machete or my dagger? Last time my dagger didn’t cut clean through when I was skinning that goat. I want this to be as quick as possible. Do I even have time to sharpen it? But if I lose this one do I have enough energy to make another one? Maybe he’ll send another one. A brunette. One who can hunt and cook. Yeah, a brunette will be cool. But what will I tell the missus? He saw a bird and ran after it and I was too slow to catch up? 99 years of waiting and then boom! He’s gone because I sacrificed him yet I have plenty of fat goats. But of importance is life, bora uhai.”

I’m not saying this is what was going through Abraham’s head when he was going to sacrifice Isaac but intel from reliable sources confirm this is what actually happened. I cannot begin to imagine how confusing it must have been for a man to lose a son he had spent almost a century trying to make. Let me put this in context. You’ve saved to buy your dream car after ten years without a job then your ancestor tells you to give it away because he helped you get it. I would go on about this legendary story if I could but I have more relevant stories on sacrifice. In high school, there’s a guy that almost lost his life because of a plate of ugali and heavily moisturized sautéed kales served with a side of steamed meat.

The guy, who I’ll call Sam for his security, had a plate of food and half a loaf of bread on the other hand. As he gingerly, with the motion of a gracious stag, weaved through the traffic of sweat and drool drenched teenagers, he slipped on a banana peel. We weren’t even eating bananas so we don’t even know where it came from. What followed was the bravest sacrifice I have personally witnessed. Sam flew into the air, paused turned at us and let gravity take its course. But he was a determined man. He had a not so courteous interaction with the floor. The usually busy bickering boys went silent. Was he alive? But more importantly, what happened to his food? As the second of silence from the fallen soldier was met with all manners of laughter, he rose, bruised and battered but all the content last in his hand were safe. We were all tears but lauded his brevity. The sacrifice of a hungry boy had paid in kind.

In life, objectivity is a rare gem. Even when facing truth, which is undeniable, being objective is a luxury most do not afford. So I will be very subjective in my objective description of sacrifice. Not the dictionary definition. A breakdown of sacrifice. I’ll use it interchangeably with compromise. It’s my story. This is one of the few things you experience at a personal level. There is standard way to look at sacrifice. It’s as simple as giving time and as complex as giving your life. And sometimes it’s not life in the literal sense. Sacrifice is all about giving something of value. It can be ten minutes of your time and in those ten minutes you were probably going through the toughest time but you made time to make someone else comfortable. It can be years of your time.

The sacrifice a mother makes for her child or  a father makes for his family are all important but viewed differently. And can you blame people for using their lenses to see the world in a way they understand? Sometimes our roles are downplayed because people don’t know how much we give up to give. A mother struggling with self-esteem will feed her baby in public without stopping to think, “what will people think of my stretch marks?” A father wakes up to walk over 20km to earn less than $3 but will still find a way to make sure his kids are fed and educated. In certain scenarios, your sacrifice is your responsibility but it doesn’t take away that you are making a sacrifice.

Gratitude is not as natural as we assume it should be. Some people will never see your sacrifice sufficing. They will find a reason to make you feel like you haven’t done enough. Like you always need to dig deeper, take from yourself and give them till you have nothing left to give. People don’t realize a simple thank you at times is the best thing you can hear. It’s the simple things in life that have the greatest impact in our lives. I believe sacrifices are just like doing good. If you do it expecting something in return you may end up feeling used and abused. Whenever you feel you have a lot to lose you can always say no. It’s not the easiest thing to say especially when it’s to someone you have built a relationship with. But sometimes your greatest pain comes from the smallest sacrifices for the dearest people.

Sacrifice comes in different forms and people react to it differently. Some are strong enough to handle the results of it, others not so much. I have experienced sacrifice on both ends of the spectrum. As the one who offers the sacrifice and as the recipient. At times, it hurts when you sacrifice or compromise and someone takes advantage of that but there’s an equally fulfilling feeling that engulfs you when your sacrifice does some good. You’ll feel the need to give up and not give in given scenarios and that’s okay. You don’t always have to give. Sometimes you need to be selfish and just say, I’m taking the front seat this time. There comes a time when you have to sacrifice everyone else to save yourself, just as you may have to sacrifice yourself to save everyone else. Whatever the case, make your sacrifices worthwhile.

Time Over All

“How do you do it?” She asked as she stared into the distance as if to implore her ancestors to send a signal. At this point, she wasn’t even trying. She had thrown in the towel and bucket. It was depressing to see her in this state. I had many answers but would they really be helpful? Would I be adding any value to her situation or further distorting an already chaotic situation? Cindy and I had been friends for a while but we had never been in a situation where she was at rock bottom. We’d both had our lows but never to this point.

“I don’t know what to say. Sometimes no words can really make a difference. I can say many things to try and make the situation better but sometimes all I can do is listen,” I calmly said as I passed her the joint. Cindy had lost her dad who was her world. The loss was harder than anything she had ever experienced in her life. She was an only child that was brought up by her dad after her mother died when she was a toddler. He had dedicated his life to making her comfortable and she never lacked when he was around. He was a beam of bliss to anyone that interacted with him. I had the privilege of having him as my boss and potential father-in-law.

He was involved in a grisly accident when a drunk driver rammed into him barely a kilometer to his home. I took a heavy hit of the blunt and as I let out the smoke, I walked over to the edge of the balcony and stood over Cindy. “I’m not sure what I’m about to tell you will have any bearing in your life but I’m just going to tell you anyway. I haven’t even thought it over but I’ll just wing it. When I lost my dad, I felt the loss but at the back of mind I kept on thinking, shouldn’t this happen? It is a part of life, isn’t it?

We live well only to leave, well, everything. I didn’t even shed a tear. Everyone else broke down and I just moved on like this was all part of a bigger picture. But as months, years went by, I kept wondering, did I really do the right thing?” Everytime something happened and my mum wasn’t there to support me, I kept on thinking, maybe things would have been different with my dad around. And maybe they could have been. He was a great guy. He would have shown me the way. Told me that the world didn’t stop at a barrier. He’d give me advise on how to approach a girl, deal with a heartbreak and be a better man. And just lead a better life, you know?

But it wasn’t going to happen and I had to deal with it. You know my mum has always had my back at any given point. She would stand against her god to defend me. But despite all this I felt there was something lacking. I got everything I needed and love more than anything else but was that really enough? Sometimes I wouldn’t even talk to my dad when he was here but knowing he was there gave me comfort. When I see you in this state, I wish there was something I could say that would make you smile. Just to get a glimpse of your dimples. And your beautiful eyes. But even in all your sadness, I’m happy to see you grieve. It’s the one thing I wish I did. I would probably have accepted it like my mum did. I wouldn’t find different ways to deal with pain I could easily have solved with tears.

So when I don’t tell you to stop crying, it’s not that I don’t care. I know how it feels to not let out the pain. You’re doing something people struggle with. Facing your pain and trying to find your feet. You may find the balance immediately I finish this weird monologue or you may take years because we all heal at our own pace but eventually with trial, most of us heal.” Cindy stood from her seat walked toward me, put her hands around my neck, looked up to me and asked, “But have you healed though?” In my life nobody had ever asked me such a simple complex question. “I…I don’t really know. You know me, have I?” I stammered trying to stop the tears from falling onto Cindy’s face. Suddenly, I was the one in need of the comfort I was trying to offer.

“I really can’t tell. I’m never sure whether I suppressed the pain or dealt with it over time. What I do know is I want to be with you as you navigate this path. It gets lonely and sometimes you don’t need anyone with you even in that loneliness but knowing there’s always someone who can listen and give you comfort is very important. You’ve probably heard me say I don’t need anyone at some point but that’s probably because nobody would understand what I’m going through at that point in time. But sometimes you don’t really need someone to understand you, you just need them to be there and listen. I know I’ve said a whole lot of nothing but at the end of the day I’m here for you. It’ll take time but that’s all we have when
dealing with a loss.”

Cindy smiled as she looked into my eyes and whispered, “I know,” tears flowing down her cheeks.