What are you doing for Others?

July 18, 2013:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” These are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr.

Martin Luther King

Dr. King, a civil rights activist has during America’s struggle for civil rights, employed a strategy of non-violent resistance to demonstrate civil disobedience to some of the things he believed were not right. He was inspired by India’s Mahatma Gandhi whose stories of success with non-violent activisms influenced King’s decision to visit India. King while there reiterated that; “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity”.

Anyway, that’s a story for another day, because my quest is not to tell you stories of Martin Luther King; but it will form the basis of what I am going to tell you now. But believe me, Martin Luther King’s legacy has in so many ways inspired me, and those of Mahatma Gandhi wouldn’t be an exception too. Some of the inspiration lies in this story.

It’s a story about or rather a question about; “what are you doing for others?”

Dr. King Jr. in his “Conquering Self-Centeredness” Speech in Montgomery, Alabama said, “An Individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity. He went further to say; “Every person must decide at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?” he said.

Yes, I am also asking you, “What are you doing for others?”

I will really appreciate if you repeat the question silently to yourself, take some 30 seconds pause and see if you have an answer to that right away.

I am ‘Yar Fulani a Turai, join me in a quest to find out “what are we really doing for others”


On a bright sunny day in the ancient city of Kano; a small beggar popularly known as Almajiri came to my grandfather’s compound. Oh yes, Kano is my hometown and I love it more than any other place I’ve been to. There is a saying also; “there’s no place better than home”; oh yes home! Home sweet home! So Kano is home and that’s where that poor little boy called Almajiri was or is still living.

At the entrance to the house; called “Soro” in the Hausa language; the Almajiri sang his song in a loud tone:

Allazi Wahidin, Ina Sadaka?

Iya yunwa nake ji Iya, Sadaka, Ta Annabi,

Iya yunwa bata da hankali.”

He was singing, his words sending a message that he is actually begging for food, and his song did not go in vain. He indeed got the food he desperately needed at the moment, and even some things he wasn’t expecting. He left happily thinking that he has indeed made a huge gain. He may be happy for the gain, but what he didn’t realized was that he left something behind.

He left a big message! A message difficult to decode! His last statement; “Iya yunwa bata da hankali” literally saying something like “hunger is madness” (Yes we all know a hungry person can be an angry person, and hunger can make someone mad) was the message he left behind.

That happened some years back, but it’s afresh and new; all coming back to me now. I asked myself this question; “What made the little boy of 7 or 8years equate hunger with madness?”

The boy got more than what he asked for, and yes that’s a plus on the household, and we all can agree that it’s doing something for others. Similarly, if someone comes to you with a problem and asks your assistance and you rendered, It’s also doing something for others too but my question is must people even have to ask before you do things for them?

I think doing things for others as Dr. King said goes beyond doing just what one begged or asked for. It’s that piece of neighborly love we shared, or the warm smile that gladdens the hearts of those around us, and the thank yous and sorrys we took for granted.

Have you ever think of how a voluntary humanitarian service can make Nigeria better? It has more answers to the question; “what are you doing for others?”

Yes doing things for others voluntarily can change so many things for better. I always say, and will continue to say it; “I have hope for my country; Nigeria.” I believe the moment we suspend selfishness and employ selfless attitudes, things will be better; because that’s also part of doing things for others. For instance, yearly Americans provide answers to the question “what are you doing for others” by coming together on the Martin Luther King Day of Service to serve their neighbors and communities. They celebrate the day doing things that strengthen their communities, empower them, unite them and find solutions to their challenges.

When can we have such a moment in Nigeria to strengthen our communities, to empower ourselves, to unite as one, and to find solutions to our challenges?

MLK Quote

Martin Luther King once said “The time is always right to do the right thing” so let’s come together and do what is right. Let’s do something for others by strengthening our communities. Let’s do something for others by empowering our people. Let’s do something for others by uniting as one. Come on; let’s do something for others by finding solutions to their challenges. And yes, all these are doing things for others.

Dr. King once said; “Man is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy.” I am sure you will believe me when I said we all want everything good, and to do good. So why don’t we start by doing all the good things, so that together we can do things for one another? 


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