In early 2000s, I used to live in Port-Harcourt, South-South Nigeria. The city was safe and more peaceful then than now.
One rainy evening, I was on my way back from work; alighted from the bus at a popular bus-stop when rain started. I ran into the nearest petrol station with many other people. Whilst standing under the shed, a guy approached me. “Please, can you give me some money?” he said.
Normally, I try not to get involved with people who beg for money on the road. Those days, there were other ways to address your needs instead of begging strangers on the road. But something was different about this guy; his voice sounded like someone who needed help urgently. So, I had a quick glance at him to assess his state.
The guy looks very haggard and rough; dirty and tortured. He sounded really pitiful; he looked like someone that needed help urgently. “I was released from the prison this morning and I need transport fee to go back to my family” he said.
He then went on to give me a very pitiful story of how he landed in prison and the ordeals he had faced. I was genuinely touched by his story. I enquired to know why there was no one from his family to receive him after his release and he told me that he was miraculously released early. All the stories “added up”.
Now, this guy only asked for a small amount to take a bus to his supposed village which was a 2-hour drive from Port-Harcourt. But because of the pity I felt for him, I gave him nearly everything I had on me; I only took out the token I would use to take a bus home and handed the rest to me. As he began to say his “Thank you sir, God bless you Sir”, I entered the rain and headed home.
The joy of being able to help a fellow human was heavy on me; It felt good for weeks.
A few months after this incident, I was at that same bus stop, coming back from work again. As I made my way, a guy approached me. It was dark and there were lots of people. As he spoke: “Sir, can you help me? I need transport fee”. I remembered his voice. It was the same guy and I realised that I had been scammed of my money when I gave this guy all I had.
I felt really bad about the fact that the guy was able to scam me. I told my colleagues about the whole episode and we all had a good laugh about it. Over the following two years, I met that same guy on four other occasions in different parts of the city. He had perfected his line and the acting was good; “Sir, can you help me transport fee?”
I took time to reminisce over the issues for some time. I had two options; either to out-rightly stop helping anyone in that kind of situation or put the shame on the scammer and continue to do that which is right. I chose the latter. I realised that the good gesture was not to the individual but to humanity; humans can scam but Humanity, the essence of our being, never scams.