An image from the Nigerian Civil War, BBC
My mother lived through the Nigerian Civil War as a very young child. It was a political-ethnic conflict that lasted three years and killed at least one million people. I know it as the Igbo genocide which began years after Nigeria gained its independence from Great Britain. The world watched as some of Nigeria’s people experienced human suffering and violence.
Thousands of people died daily because of the wide occurrences of starvation and disease. She would tell me about the experience of devastation that people experienced, and the stress and anxiety felt by people who anxiously waited to learn the fate of their relatives in badly affected regions where there was anti-Igbo violence. Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes about this event in Half of a Yellow Sun whereby she utilizes fiction to depict an event in African history that has been historically overlooked.
Through my mother’s narratives, I have learned about my grandmother, a community leader who cared very much for her family, including her siblings and their children. She was a trader who was well-known in her town for her cooking, industry, and generosity to those who were less fortunate.
One particular story with regard to my grandmother and the Nigerian Civil War often comes to my mind. As my mother recalls, during the war, my grandmother learned her relatives (nieces and nephews) were located in the interior of Asaba, miles (about 31 km away from her town). Worried about their well-being and safety, my grandmother trekked from her home with photographs of the relatives (in case anyone had seen them) and a loaf of bread, to rescue and feed them. I do think about the love and devotion she had for her family when I remember this story and I also think about the risks she took and also, personal boundaries. Ultimately, she was able to bring back her relatives but as she eventually entered into her old age, and passed away, those very relatives she rescued were nowhere to be found. Locating them was such a risk for her to take knowing that she had a husband, children, and grandchild that also needed her. Acts of altruism are commendable, but boundaries are also important too because one has to also look out for themselves.
I learned from my grandmother and mother that it is good to be good, it’s great to have a big heart. God also asks us to guard our hearts, even our creator asks us to keep healthy boundaries. Below are some examples of healthy boundaries one can make for themselves:
1) Create a budget and honour that commitment; if buying a pack of gum, which is just a few dollars goes over that budget, do not get the gum.
2) Choosing a time to answer emails; you might decide that on weekends or holidays, emails do not get attended to
3) Deciding to say no to things that do not honour you or exhaust you
4) Filtering the shows you watch on tv; for example, I personally choose not to watch horror movies, or demonic shows or even discuss them
My mother taught me that one can learn from another’s experience. Relationships are healthy when they are balanced. They are healthy when you are not left financially or emotionally bankrupt.
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