This is a slightly sensitive topic for people on both sides of the issue, and I want those of you who are based “back home” who have never exhibited any of the following behaviour or who fully understand what I’m saying to please rest assured that this entry is not at all written to you. I am writing to those abroad who have had to deal with situations like this and who feel that despite their efforts, they are unappreciated or looked down upon for the size of their contribution. I am also writing to people back home who feel like their family abroad are living the high life, while sending them scraps. I am sure there are some who do just this, but I would venture to say that they are the minority.
If you live abroad, and you have family in your home country, you have probably faced this idea of helping your family “back home”. I know, I’m so funny, calling it an idea, as if it’s a philosophy one can choose to adopt or not. I guess there is some choice, but from the perspective of most of our loved ones back home, it’s less of a choice and more of an expectation. Not all relatives are greedy, but there are some who definitely fit the label. This expectation is based on the belief that life where you are is better than life where they are (Nigeria, for example), so it is your job to help them attain a level where they too can be comfortable, or in some cases, more than just comfortable.
This concept of helping family back home can be explored from so many different sides, and I can’t fully address it in one entry, so this will likely be one of a few, spread out over the next while. I had a lively discussion with my brother on the idea of providing financial aid to family members last night, and that is what I’ll focus on right now.
If you went abroad as a student, you probably had or have some family members who
expected hoped that you would be able to send them something back regularly when you can. If you came here at a young age or were born abroad, then it was likely your parents that got the brunt of these expectations and requests. I fall into this latter category.
Like most, my parents are not the sort to make a big deal of supporting family members. When their counterparts were putting money aside for their annual vacations, my parents would be thinking about how best to maximize the money they were earning, so they could both support their expanding family and the families they were born into. They had to decide who to send to and when, and how much could be spared. I feel confident saying that those of you who have personally dealt with this approached the situation similarly: the money you sent home was never EXTRA (which implies that your wallets were just too full of money to contain it all), instead, you deprived yourself of things your counterparts enjoyed freely, be it buying your lunch, getting someone to do your hair, watching movies at the theatre (if you’re a student), or buying a brand new car when your 13 year old rusted one dies, renting a home for a few more years instead of saving a chunk of money to put toward a down payment on a house, or maybe shopping at secondhand stores (if you are an adult). Maybe you did all of the above at different times, but you did what you felt you had to do, this was/is life. You ensured your needs were met and probably treated yourself too, but tried to live relatively modestly so you could help family.
Now that I’m older, I am starting to see the full extent of what my parents do, and how little I do in comparison, but I am learning. It is my intention to do so much more than I currently do. Both of my younger brothers were born in Canada, and both are in school, which they are paying for primarily through loans. The elder of the two will tell you that he considers himself more Canadian than Nigerian and that as far as he is concerned, my parents’ obligations are to the family they created who live with them in Canada, and they should not be sending any money anywhere. Our debate or discussion yesterday hinged around this idea of giving even when it wasn’t comfortable for you. Mind you, he has no money to give anybody; he’s in debt himself, but it was the way he said that it’s only when he’s debt free and basically has a good job, a home and a car that he would think about seeing what he could do to help others. I know deep down he probably doesn’t mean it because he’s quite sensitive when he sees someone less fortunate than he is, but the way he said it, so uncaringly, angered me.
My argument was that if he doesn’t have a heart for generosity now, earning a six figure income will not bring that out. I bet many millionaires have not changed when it comes to that basic desire to help others, simply because they are earning more money (but maybe I’m wrong). I suspect that while some do share the wealth, others just graduate to a lifestyle that matches the extra money in the bank. There’s just something about saying you can’t help anyone out until you’re loaded that bothers me. I’m not saying give all that you have away then suffer, but we all know whether putting aside $200 every year to send home is possible or not (nevermind that it might not be considered a large enough sum by some recipients).
But not everyone that receives money back home is actually suffering are they? That’s a topic for another entry! Let’s just say that the more I learn about how things work in my family, the angrier I become when I hear that some don’t think my parents have done enough. I don’t know why I bother getting angry since it’s not like we have to prove anything to anyone. We are all accountable to a Higher Power.
Something tells me that at least some of you can relate, or share stories on the topic.