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Prudence Versus Generosity

December 21 , 2019
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

There is a common culture in this country whenever someone buys a house or a car we expect them to invite us or treat us, what we call "ye des des," which is a way of sharing one’s happiness and success with a loved one. And usually, it is not something big. It is either a few beers or a nice meal.

This is usually with close relatives, friends or family members. One is not expected to invite a stranger. I do not know when this culture evolved, but I think it has its roots in Ethiopians’ togetherness and sense of community. My husband the other day was saying how "ye des des" is absurd. According to him, people who did not contribute in any way to an individual’s success should not expect to be invited. It is not fair that the individual, on top of spending money on a new house, car or possession, is also expected to invite everybody else who did not contribute much to their success.

Recently, I heard of a story about parents who came across a large amount of money. They bought a house and put the rest in the bank. They did not give a penny to their children. They have one daughter with kids and two sons. But they have put their children’s name on the deed.

Their life has not always been a bed of roses. They had to work very hard to earn that money, and nobody helped them. They are good, honest and kind people. They help the poor and give one-tenth of their earnings to the church. They are not seen flashing their money. They pretty much lead the same life they did before the money.

Now their neighbours have started gossiping, chiding them for not giving anything to their children or throwing a party for their relatives and friends. From what I have heard, their children did not really ask them for money. Are the parents expected to give money to their children?

After all, they raised them, and now it should be the children’s turn to return the favour and take care of them. And all their children are old enough to take care of themselves. Their daughter is married with kids and the others have their own thing going on. The parents did not touch the money, they put it in the bank and are living off the interest.

Personally, I would have spent the money on my children and relatives, and I know people who would have done the same, but that does not mean this couple were stingy or were not kind people. I learned that the couple used to throw money around in their youthful years and after some time turned broke. When that happened, there was nobody to help them pick up the pieces. So they learned their lessons.

They started to save money to become self-sufficient and to be able to provide for their family. Maybe that changed them, and people like me who have not really seen misfortune but have lived off family for their entire lives might not understand the value of money. But those people and others like them appreciate the value as they have come close to hitting rock bottom.

There are some people who spend whatever money they get throwing parties for their loved ones and who end up broke after a short time or people who spend money on their already rich relatives and friends in the name of sharing their happiness but who would neglect actual unfortunate people in need. There is a saying in Amharic that expresses this very issue, "yemayalfilet deha habtam yigabizal," which loosely translates to "an impoverished person spends money on the rich and never improves their livelihood."

Maybe we should cultivate a habit of giving to the less fortunate or for people in need whenever we buy a house, a car or start a business instead of spending the money on people who do not need it. And if our intention is to say thank you for the support given to us by family and friends, we should do both: treat our loved ones or do something good for them and at the same time give some money to the less fortunate as well.

The lesson I have learned this week is to not expect anyone to do certain things for me just because I would do those things for them. And not being able to do that does not necessarily make them the villain. But even saying that leaves me with disappointment, as I would have thrown a big party.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 21,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1025]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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