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The Baton of Sacrifice

August 1 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

A little girl is reading a letter she wrote to her dad in a television advertisement.

"My dad is the smartest. My dad is the cleverest. My dad is the kindest," the letter reads. But then it says, "My dad lies about having a job. He lies about not being tired. He lies about being full when he is hungry."

It brought tears to my eyes, although it evidently is a fictionalised account. There are perhaps few people in the world unacquainted with real stories of parents who struggle to raise their children. Most of our parents have sacrificed a great deal to make us the person we are today.

But the ad also brought to attention the generational disconnect on parenting. It is questionable whether my generational cohort, millennials, are capable of such sacrifice, men or women. Sure, we talk, but we rarely seem to walk the talk.

The case could be made that the generation before us had passion and determination. Not always but it was a perceptible trait of many of our parents and grandparents. They seemed to fight very hard for what they believed in.

People have changed now. This generation is much more individualistic and seems to be proud of that as well. There is much more currency in self-sufficiency and care of the self, instead of the community.

How many parents today are willing to make the same sort of sacrifice to secure the needs of their children?

I am not sure if our more Western psyche, further away from family values with a greater concern for individual worries, is accommodating of such behaviours. We can barely delay gratification - we are always in a rush, even when there is nowhere we need to be. This is not to mention our constant search for shortcuts. We want the prize without having to work too hard for things, without having to get mud on our shoes.

To give credit where it is due, most young parents want to spend more time with their children and be more understanding of their circumstances. But sacrifice is a big word, and it is doubtful we ever go that distance for our children's future.

Here too, there are exceptions: parents who show that they are willing to go the extra distance to secure their children's future. I met some of these people not long ago – one was young, and the other was much older.

The older man, who seemed to be in his late 70s, was wearing an over-sized expensive coat, a hat and well-polished black leather shoes while waiting at a roadside. Before him was a lady selling roasted corn, bekolo, with her two kids. It was a cold late afternoon, and the lady was not properly dressed for the weather. But it did not seem like she had a choice.

I stood there watching her and feeling uneasy. It seemed like the man was similarly touched.

"You're a very strong woman. Your children are going to grow up being strong like you," the man said to her, almost reading my mind. "If you don't mind me asking, where is your husband? Does he help you in any way?"

The lady grinned and said that her husband does labour work.

"He goes to different construction sites daily to find work," she added. "But he doesn't always get lucky."

The man told her that she should not worry.

"My life was worse than yours," he started to tell his own harrowing story. "I had to raise my three children working as a night guard and a day labourer. Back then, I only slept for four hours a day."

His wife started to sell vegetables when the children were old enough to go to school, he continued, and on weekends she used to take them with her. The man eventually won a promotion as a security guard and began taking night classes.

"It wasn't easy. Going back to school was the hardest part. But we pulled through," he told us as we were standing there. "My wife is an amazing lady who took very good care of our children and the house."

She pushed him to save money. By the man's account, they made it in the end, and the man has his own restaurant now.

"What can I say? All that sacrifice and hard work were worth it. They paid off," he added, leaving the lady and me speechless. "You kids these days give up hope easily and often opt for shortcuts to wealth."

With that, the guy took 100 Br and gave it to the lady and told her to keep the change.

"I'll come again and visit you, and we will work something out," he said. "Both for you and your husband."

The lady was in tears and not for the 100 Br, but because he gave her hope and promised her a helping hand. I only hope it was a baton of sacrifice, passed on to us.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 01,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1057]

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

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