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Kindness' Risk-Reward Ratio

January 23 , 2021
By Eden Sahle ( Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at )

A friend of a friend recently went into a series of difficult spells in his life. First, his wife left for another country, leaving him behind. Then most recently, he got hit by a car.

One morning, full of stress and frustration about his life, he walked into oncoming traffic on Africa Avenue in Bole District. By the time he woke up from his daydream (or day-mare), with people shouting and the car horns blaring, it was too late.

When he woke up once again, he found himself admitted at Black Lion Hospital. Up until my friend arrived at the emergency room, he was not seeing familiar faces.

But the whole time there was a stranger there, holding his hand, comforting him by his bedside as his wounds were cleaned and stitched. He heard the man he does not recognise ask the doctors about his condition and rate of recovery. He even brought medicine with money provided by the man whose vehicle did the damage.

It was also the Good Samaritan that notified a friend about the man's accident. He got the number from the call log of his phone.

Shortly after, they were able to speak to this selfless person. It turns out that he was just a passerby rushing to his construction job in the morning, a daily labourer.

He was one of the people waiting to cross the road when he witnessed the accident and lent his helping hand. He carried the person to a vehicle that drove to a hospital, then the emergency room. With him were also his brick hammer, sawing tool and a lunch box.

Considering that he is paid by the day, this good deed meant that he was not getting a salary that day. It was a personal sacrifice. When he said goodbye and was rushing to catch a bus to his neighbourhood, he did not ask for compensation.

Impressed by what he had done, they did not just buy him a fancy dinner. They also gave him a large amount of cash that surpassed several months’ income. It turns out, kindness pays. When he sacrificed a day’s income to help a stranger, he was paid back in appreciation and financial reward, the latter much bigger than he could have anticipated.

There are countless people and stories showing how being selfish does pay off. There may be bias about this. Some may claim that we only hear about these things once those people have already received some sort of reward for going out of their way. They would argue that there are countless folks that can be considered selfless but do not get anywhere in life. Sometimes, they do not even get appreciated for their work.

They have some point. Karma is not scientifically provable. People are not guaranteed good things just because they have acted kindly. If there were an obvious direct correlation, almost everyone would be doing it today.

In fact, it is because the reward is not obviously forthcoming that kindness from people is extraordinary. What makes the labourer exceptional is that he risked not just expending energy and time for no reward, but he did it knowing that he will not be paid by his employers that day. It was a conscious risk that he took, with no direct knowledge of the consequences to his life.

Like him, we are making decisions every moment of every day. Whether we realise it or not, we are making decisions of how to spend our time, of what to pay attention to, of where to direct our support to others. And as an outcome, our good or bad deeds define what we choose to find important in our lives that can either benefit or hurt others profoundly.

There is hence a Catch-22. Looking out for personal interest is admirable. But nothing is more fulfilling than working for the common good. But the latter may or may not pay. We may never even get appreciated for it. Whether it is getting someone injured to a hospital, feeding the hungry, helping someone get a job or comforting the grieving, kindness is a choice made with risks. When we act this way under uncertainty, the reward to ourselves, in our eyes, is ever greater

PUBLISHED ON Jan 23,2021 [ VOL 21 , NO 1082]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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