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  • Writer's pictureAbigael Ibikunle

Short story on Hope by Adebayo Ayomide

As the fifth child wheeled over to shake Rasheeda’s hand, she could not help but feel like a charlatan. Here she was, a role model for handicapped adults and children who were just like her, and yet she was completely discontented with her condition. There were children and adults at this forum, who had been handicapped from birth and were certainly not as privileged as her but had learned to adapt and accept their reality. Yet she on the other hand, their role model and beacon of hope for a better tomorrow, was praying for a way to get out the wheelchair.

Although she has been handicapped for the greater part of her life, she had faint memories of a time when she could walk, run and do things other people could do. She longed to feel that way again, and that was what made her feel terrible. She shook away her thoughts of hypocrisy when her assistant informed her that it was time for deliver her speech. She took the microphone and delivered her speech about the importance of self-confidence her manager had written for her. She read every word with passion and vigor, yet she did not believe a word of what was written on the paper.

“In conclusion, no matters what anyone tells you, you will always be different. You are not like others. Whether you allow this difference to hinder your progress, or you take advantage of it, is a choice that is solely yours. Thank you.”

Applause roared through the room. She smiled and signalled to her assistant to take her to the waiting room.

“Aunty mi, that was wonderful! Did you see those people’s faces? I’m sure they were in tears during your speech. And see oh, these news channels are still showing it, though it happened two weeks ago!”

Her sister Dami said. This was the third time she had seen her speech on TV, and she was quite tired of watching the act.

“Jo, ni tori Olorun, change the channel. I’m tired of watching this.”

Her sister gave her a pointed look before turning off the television. “Oya, tell me what the problem is.”

Rasheeda sighed, not sure where to start from, so she told her everything she was feeling, including the fact that she is contemplating surgery. Dami’s eyes widened. “Aunty mi! You’re paraplegic, not dead! Look at you! You’re an icon and you built a successful franchise, all while in that chair! Why are you letting it affect you now? It didn’t before!” “I’m disabled, Dami! it has always affected me. I would gladly trade all this success for a chance to walk again.”

Dami kissed her teeth, inciting Rasheeda. “But why are you talking like this na? Our parents would roll in their graves if they could hear you.” “Our parents would roll in their graves if they saw me like this! You know what, I knew you would react like this, but guess what? I’m carrying out the procedure whether you approve or not.” Dami looked at her sister incredulously, then sighed and put her hand on Rasheeda’s lap.

“I can’t stop you, but are you really willing to risk your life and everything you’ve worked for, for a 45 percent chance to walk again? You are willing to gamble with your life; abandon me and confirm to all your detractors and critics that you truly are a fraud? Because if you are, Olorun awa pelu yin. But do not expect me to support you.” She got up, picking up her purse and keys. “I have to go now. I’ll call you later.”

As her hand held the doorknob, she turned to her sister one last time. “But please, before you take a decision, I want you to do something for me. Write down a list of reasons why you decided to become an advocate and spokesperson for the disabled. Then show me tomorrow, so I can confirm if your reasons are truly as selfish as I think they are.” She walked out the door, leaving Rasheeda in tears.

That evening, Rasheeda decided to do as Dami had asked. She pulled out a sheet of paper and a pen from the drawer and began to think. Why did I decide to become an advocate? To help others, of course. She put that down. To make my late parents proud. She put that down. She continued to write other reasons: To be a role model, to be a guide. I became an advocate…because I was insecure. She jerked herself out of the daze she was in. It’s true, I became an advocate because… because I thought seeing people in situations worse than mine would make me feel better about myself. She was startled at her own revelation; one she knew was true. She ripped the list she was writing and started a new one.

The next day, Dami came over to read the list, and when she did, she burst into tears. “When I asked you to make a list, I didn’t expect this. Selfish, insecure; you are none of those things. I shouldn’t have questioned your intentions.” Rasheeda sighed and looked up at her sister. “No, you were right. I am selfish. I’m doing all of this for the wrong reasons, and that’s not fair to you or all the people who look up to me. I’m sorry.” Dami went on her knees and hugged her sister. “There’s no need to be sorry. I just want you to be happy. And realize that as long as there is life, there is hope.” “When did you become so smart?” Dami laughed and punched her sister playfully. “So, what now Aunty mi?” “Now, I do things the right way. Work on myself and build my confidence, starting with cancelling that surgery.” And so, she did. And with a little help from her sister and an infinite amount of hope, Rasheeda was able to move forward and succeed.

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