On one of my bus rides to work I sat behind a man wearing a dark grey oversize suit. This man was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and he was distributing copies of Awake! and Watchtower magazines. People were sampling them; others were selecting copies they wanted to buy.
I used to read Awake! a lot while I was in the university. I do not share the same faith with Jehovah’s Witnesses but I think Awake! is one of the most enlightening, well researched, and beautifully packaged magazines in the world today. Then, I guess I was paying about forty or fifty naira for a copy. Later, my friend — who supplied me with the magazines — told me that there was no fixed price any more, that I could just pick up as much copies as I wanted and make a voluntary contribution.
So, that morning, I declined picking a copy as the distributor flashed the colourful publications in my face. I had more than enough things on my Currently Reading list. A young man behind me collected a couple of magazines from the distributor and after looking through and selecting what he wanted passed the rest through me to the distributor. The following conversation went on between them:
Young Man: How much?
Distributor: No amount. You contribute.
Young Man: (I can’t remember what he said here but it was an expression of surprise.)
Distributor: I said nothing. You contribute anything you have.
Young Man: Do you have eighty naira change?
Distributor: How much do you have?
Young Man: A hundred naira.
Distributor: How many did you take?
Young Man: Two.
Distributor: Take one (this said with a tone so stern).
The young man returned a copy. When I briefly turned around to look at the young man I noticed his face was filled with embarrassment as he began to search the pocket of his trousers. It was when the distributor turned round to collect the one copy that I saw his face, filled with a subtle contempt.
Now, the rule was that we were to contribute whatever we had. So the distributor shouldn’t blame a man who wanted to pay ten naira for each magazine. He (or the Watchtower organization) opened wide the doors and bade everyone come in, so why the contempt?
I know that the quality and quantity of the magazines the young man selected were a far cry from the amount he offered to pay, and that if a deserving price tag were attached to each copy the young man might not have looked the way of the distributor. But they gave him the opportunity to offer whatever he had and he did just that. The distributor might have wondered how someone would be willing to pay that amount for a thing of such quality. He might have thought the young man was being such an opportunist because the items were free. But aren’t we all opportunists in the face of freebies? Most importantly, the rule remains: there was no price tag!
Hardly anybody is that patient or magnanimous or understanding to discern the value of what you have to offer. Not everyone will have enough resources or substance to afford it; or even if they did, ever heard the word “awoof” before? Not everyone will give you what you deserve even when they have perceived your worth and know that you are asking for less or nothing. Without your own price tag, people will help give you one and you don’t have to complain about it because you left the doors open.
I’m not advocating that Watchtower reverses its policy (that’s up to them). I would actually pay whatever amount is required to get a copy of Awake!. If they want to place a limit on the amount any person can contribute, that’s fine. Their distributors and members should just be willing to accept anything they are given, even if it is five naira for a copy. Otherwise they would have a hard time with circulation.
What you request for is, usually, what you get.
Lulu Oyigah blogs as Nkediche at www.nkediche.wordpress.com. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.