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“Martha, you should come and eat. You are working too hard,” Ikeude called to his twelve-year-old daughter who was sweeping their neighbor’s yard. “I will be back shortly daddy,” Martha answered as she worked assiduously. Soon, she completed the sweeping and headed to Mrs. Uzonna’s living room for her cash reward. “Here is your money, Martha,” Mrs. Uzonna said as she handed her payment for the sweep. She counted the money. It was complete based on their initial agreement – fifty Naira (N50). Elated, Martha dashed home for lunch. “So how much have you saved now?” Her mother, Uloma asked. “I think I have saved about five thousand Naira mom,” Martha answered as she gulped down her plate of yam porridge. Martha had set out to save money to buy her first cell phone by herself. She worked for neighbors cleaning their homes, helping on farms, selling for market women and helping old people with their chores. She was well known and loved in the area. After school each day, she went to work for whoever needed her help, laboring with a warm smile on her face.

“Rest for a while after your meal,” her mother suggested, but Martha would not hear of it. Mr. Iwu, an elderly man in the neighboring street needed to have his clothes ironed. Energetically, Martha walked over to his house and ironed his numerous clothes. Mr. Iwuh chatted her up while she worked. “What do you want to do when you grow up,” he asked. ‘I don’t know yet sir. I think being a doctor will allow me to touch lives; help a lot of people…fix people’s health. On the other hand, I think of being a lawyer so I can defend the weak and the poor. Maybe go into politics and help change our country. Also, I think being an engineer will help me to design and build a formidable rail road system for our country…build bridges, roads and schools. My heart is everywhere at the moment. Hopefully, I will find out which I like the most,” Martha answered in her chatty energetic manner. 

Mr. Iwu regarded her for a moment. What a brilliant and passionate young child with a desire to help the world, he thought. I wish child thought like her. “Give it time my daughter. Give it time. With time, you will find where your strengths are, then you will focus on that. The sky will be your limit if you pour yourself into whatever you set your mind to,” he advised her. “That is what my dad says.” “Your dad is right my child. Listen to him.” “I do sir.” “Great!” Soon, she was done. Mr. Iwu was a generous customer. He handed her hundred Naira. His children lived abroad and they send him money regularly. Also, he received a healthy pension from the federal government. “This is too much sir,” Martha protested. “Nothing is too much for the work you do for an old man, my child.” “Thank you very much sir.” “You are always welcome my daughter. Now, where is my hug?” Martha hugged him and he reciprocated. “You are a special child. Never forget who you are, Martha,” he whispered in her ear. “You are very kind sir,” she said with a smile. “Your parents told me about your obstinate quest to buy your first phone by yourself. How is that going?” “I have about five thousand Naira now, sir. I am two thousand Naira away from my target.” “And you hope to buy this phone by Christmas?” “I hope to buy it before Christmas. It will become too expensive by Christmas, so I am hoping to have it purchased by October at the latest, sir.” “You have just two months to go.” “Yes sir.” “Do you think you can make it?” “Yes sir. I will.” “I like your positive attitude my child. Keep it up.” “Thanks!!!”

Like a worker bee, she sped off to her next job, washing Mrs. Nzerem’s clothes. Mrs. Nzerem was an old woman who lived a few houses from Martha and her parents. She washed her clothes and swept her rooms. Then, she made her bed and helped dye her grey hair black. Mrs. Nzerem did not like to see too much grey hair on her head, so she had Martha dye her hair every now and again. By nightfall, Martha returned home with nearly two hundred and sixty Naira. She opened her safe and threw all her money into it. She knelt by her bedside and said a short quiet prayer before she collapsed into bed.   After school the next day, she went to work from house to house and to the market, helping to sell Mrs. Anusiem’s vegetables. Mrs. Anusiem and her husband had no children of their own.  

“What if you don’t save enough money for the phone,” asked Adaobi. Adaobi was Martha’s best friend. The girls were walking home one afternoon under the scorching sun. “Then, I will buy a less expensive phone,” Martha replied. “Won’t you feel angry if you don’t make your target after working so hard?” “No. I am having a good time. I am learning a lot from people by working for them. I just like to help, apart from the money. I think I will continue to do it for free after I have bought my phone,” Martha answered with a ravishing smile on her face. “Really? You will do all that work for free?” “Yes. It is very exciting to spend time with older people and get advice from them.” “I think you work too hard Martha. I hope this won’t affect you in school.” “I am doing very well in school. When I have to do homework, I do it, so I am not working at the expense of my school work.” 

A month later, Martha had saved over six thousand Naira. She could see the finish line. She promised herself to double her efforts towards buying her first phone. One evening, she went over to see her friend, Ugomma who lived next door. She found Ugomma’s mother in the kitchen. She sniffed and wiped tears from her eyes which had turned red from crying. “Is everything alright?” Martha asked her. “It is okay my child,” she answered. Martha could tell that something was wrong. She entered their living room and there she found Ugomma lying on the floor in tears. “What is it Ugo,” Martha asked with concern. Ugomma’s face was covered in tears. As she looked up, Martha could see pain walking over her face. “What is it? Martha asked again. Ugomma’s father had died in ghastly motor accident two months earlier. “We have no money for food. We have not eaten anything since yesterday. My mother has tried to borrow money, but no one seems willing to help after she has borrowed too much from most of them already,” Ugomma explained.

Martha felt a pang of pity for her friend and her family. She could hear Ugomma’s brother’s James and Ibe, sniffing in the bedroom as they wrestled with hunger. Martha left with tears in her eyes. She wanted to help her friend’s family, but she knew Ugomma’s mother would not take her money. That night, she took every penny she had saved and wrapped it up in a small cloth. When she heard Ugomma’s family go to bed, she went outside. Carefully, she placed the money at their door step where it would be easily found in the morning. Ugomma’s mother picked up the small wrap in the morning. Carefully, she opened it. To her surprise, there was a wad of notes in the wrap. She could not believe her eyes after counting the money. Tears fell from her eyes as she thanked God unreservedly for the gift from a kind mystery person. She quickly rushed to the market and bought food for her children. 

“I guess I have to go to the market with you soon to pick out your phone,” Martha’s mother suggested later that day. She said nothing. “You don’t seem to look enthusiastic about the phone anymore. What is the problem?” “I can’t make it this year mom. I have moved it to next year’s Christmas.” “Why is that? You have worked so hard for this phone sweetheart.” Martha looked at her mother for a moment and then said, “I gave the entire money away mom.” “What? To whom? Why would you do a thing like that after all your hard work?” “Ugomma’s family was starving mom. I was shocked to find out that they had gone without food for days. What do I need a phone for when one of my best friends was starving…and her whole family too?” Martha’s mother said nothing. She looked at her daughter who looked completely at peace with her choice. “Come here,” she said to Martha. She walked over to her mother who wrapped her hands around her and held her to her chest. Martha put her arms around her mother in return. They both sobbed passionately. “I have learned so much from you my daughter. I still can’t believe you gave it all away after all your hard work, but I am so proud of you. I thank God for giving me a daughter like you. You are truly special.” Martha blushed and hugged her mother again. “Thank you mom!” “You are welcome my wonderful daughter.”

When Mr. Iwu heard of Martha’s act of kindness, he could not hold back the tears. ‘I knew she was a special child – an angel,’ he thought. He discussed with Martha’s parents and several other neighbors. They quietly contributed money and bought Martha a brand new mobile phone. “Martha, there is a parcel at the door with your name on it,” her mother shouted on Christmas morning. Martha rad to the door picked up the parcel and began to unwrap it. There was a look of bemusement on her face. “I was not expecting anything mom. I wonder where this came from” She said.” “Me too,” her mother answered. When she peeled away the last layer of wraps, she found a Microsoft phone in the parcel. It was far more beautiful and glamorous than the phone she was saving for. “I wonder who sent this to me.” She said. She pressed the phone to her chest as tears of joy streamed down her face. “God sent me an even better phone,” she said. “He definitely did…just like you gave your best away so that others might feed,” her mother replied. “I love the phone!” She said with excitement. “Can I see?” Her mother asked as if she had never seen the phone. She was the one who wrapped it up in the parcel. “It is very beautiful,” her mother said elatedly. “Go and show your father,” she suggested. Martha ran into the living room with sheer excitement shouting, “Papa! Papa! Papa! I got a brand new phone after all.” Her mother sat on a small kitchen chair with tears of joy in her eyes as she admired her little girl who was growing up fast. She is so adorable! Martha’s mother thought thankfully.


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Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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