Little stories in this big world
All of us have stories to tell; stories about ourselves, about our families, our parents, our grandparents- maternal and paternal, our friends, our enemies, and our past. Some of the stories are heartrending, evoking pity and fear. Some are disgraceful; they ‘tingle’ the ears and make our earth tremble. Certainly the big men of the world have big stories which dominate the big space; sometimes however they have stories which make them little in the eyes of the world. But the little people of the world who are invariably more in number have stories to tell too. Little people, little stories in a big world. In the scheme of things their stories are little. But for them the stories are big, as big as the stories of the big men, the power brokers.
It is the story of their lives, their ancestry, their past and what has made them what they are. Whatever we do therefore we must remember that our stories are not the only stories of the world.
Some of the stories are sweet; they are stories about struggles, about determination, about how one managed to set up in life, in spite of the odds. They may be stories about how a one-legged man played football or table tennis or track events and became world a champion. They may be stories about being the only survivor in a family after an accident, about how one got to the top of a business career after many years of hardship. They often end with a lesson: hard work pays, integrity pays, determination is key; anything, something; not something evanescent, but something eternal that will outlive all of us.
In a sense, every man, every woman is a story being told or waiting to be told. The size of a man’s head is a story; same with the height of the man or the shape of a woman. A woman’s beauty is a story just as an ugly woman has a story to tell. So that groundnut seller or roadside car mechanic or Mallam selling water or maize seller, is a mobile story. Have you ever thought about what the collective stories told under the moon would be like? Can the narrative end in a day a week a month a year? Can one man tell our stories all by himself? You see the ‘mad man’ sitting by the road side? Do you know his story? There is a story behind why he may not have gone far in life. Little stories can also turn a region or a country into a snowball of fire; like the rivalry between the wives of two politicians which snowballed into a regional crisis. Or the petty-minded woman who wanted the head of a man as a birthday gift!
It is true that some do not even have people to tell the stories to, no ears to listen to them. Sad. Tragic. Frustrating. The story remains locked inside the mind till the end of time, till the end of the world. Only his Maker knows his full story. His mother or father or brother or sister may not have the head and tail of his story. How much about the story of your spouse do you know or your brother who lives next door or the next street or three thousand kilometers away? How much of your story, how well do you know your story and how well can you tell it to the world? Have you ever encountered a little person telling a big story, telling a big story without flash or pomp? Have you heard the story of Ant while Elephant was passing by? Like the bus conductor who dropped out of a polytechnic because his father died, and his uncle seized the property and smashed his brother’s wife’s life and threw the frightened boy into the streets!
The big men too; they have stories. Some of the stories they will never tell; they would be too ashamed to tell the story, very very bad stories. The wealth, the high position, the wives, the women, the obsessions, the fetish rituals for, of success; there are stories behind them. Some die before the story is told. Some have snippets of their stories in circulation, bits of truth bits of untruth all over the place. It is the way of mankind.
As earlier observed, it is the way of the world that most people in the world do not have the ears of an audience to listen to their narratives. ‘If you are not important then your story cannot be important,’ people of the world seem to say. But the apparently unimportant people may have better stories to tell, no matter how little we consider the stories to be. We who subscribe to the Christian faith are familiar with the story of the woman who gave a mite while others gave thousands; the Perfect Master recorded and transmitted her story to eternity. Little woman, little contribution, big story!
But there are some stories that should not be told too. These are stories of disgrace, of failure of inhuman behaviour. Achebe says that a man who comes begging that he wants to serve your deity with you has a story he does not want to tell, or which he does not want others to hear. It is a story you should not pry into too. When the story comes out the man would be stripped of his dignity, his manhood, his future.
Ethnic groups and nations have stories too. The collective stories of individuals may be different from the story of the group. This is because some people remain outsiders in the plot of their group’s stories. They are kept in the margins. They are not heroes, not excellent men and women whose tongue or legs or skills have made the world a different place. They are not the ones that enter the story books. The heart aches of the hero’s wife do not enter the big books. They are kept in the hearts of family, of friends, of the children.
When nations fight bloody wars, the little stories are never told on the national stage; those acts of kindness to an ‘enemy’, or the sacrificial acts are forgotten. Those who protect their friends who have been declared public enemy do not have the cameras to capture their humanity in an inhuman world. The little stories in the big world may turn out to be more interesting and worthy than the loud-mouthed proclamations of those who control the megaphone of the world. Most of the little people who have big stories never reach the media, not even social media. That petty trader whose son was knocked down by a stray bullet while the python danced in Umuahia; how would you classify her story? Big? Small? Or two siblings who lost their lives while returning from the market; would that be a little story? Or the wife of a man who went on a walk in the estate and never returned home; is that a little story? What about the woman, she an only child, whose only child suffered and died from sickle cell anemia; would that be a little story?
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