That overwhelming feeling of joy when you realise how fortunate you are

By Nina Steele 

It is one of those moments when something suddenly makes you feel profoundly grateful for being alive. For me, this feeling is often triggered by a piece of music or sometimes it arises out of nowhere. Even though I have made gratitude an integral part of my life, these moments take it to another level all together. I don’t know about you but for me, living in the West is like winning the lottery! I suppose this can be put down to the fact that I am originally from Africa and moved to the UK in search of a better life, over 17 years ago. This is as good as it gets! I mean, the very thought of what my life would have been like, had I not moved to these shores is enough to increase my level of gratitude.

For a start, my country of birth, the Ivory Coast has just come out of a civil war and is gradually rebuilding itself. Whole communities were displaced including my own family. I was already living in the UK at the time and thankfully, no family member lost their life. To say that I am grateful for living in the UK, would be an understatement. As anyone who is familiar with the Ivory Coast (and the whole of Africa for that matter) will tell you, there is no such thing as a welfare state and so, if you are poor, you are on your own.

In those circumstances, most young women end up being ‘looked after’ by older married men (also known as sugar daddies) and with the use of condoms mostly frowned upon, you can imagine the risks. The West offers opportunities that most people on the African continent can only dream of. No wonder so many are willing to do anything, including put their lives at risk in order to move over here.

The beauty of the West, I find, is that anyone can make something of their lives if they are willing to work for it. Yes nepotism does exist, however it is nothing compared to what takes place in Africa, where it is all about who you know, or how much money you are willing to pay in order to get ahead in life. And so, if you don’t have the right connections nor the money, your chances of moving up the social ladder are quite slim.

The last time I went back to the Ivory Coast on holiday, I was treated like a celebrity. People there don’t try to pretend that money does not matter, because to them, it is all that matters. For my husband, who is English and had never been to Africa, the poverty was a shock to the system. He had seen images on TV of course but to actually be in the midst of it all was a different story.

And so, there I was, the precious daughter, making her long awaited return. People came from everywhere to see us. There was inevitably a sense of hopelessness that we were the closest most of them would ever get to Europe. That sense of hopelessness I once felt too, which explains my heightened sense of gratitude.

I felt the same deep sense of gratitude when I went to India. The poverty there was on a far bigger scale. I mean seeing whole families sleeping rough on the street was not something I had seen before, not even in Africa.

To succeed when all the odds are stuck against you, does make one wonder whether there may be something bigger at play. Maybe an invisible hand helping me along. Whatever it is, the fact that I made it when so many others are still struggling to feed themselves make me realise how fortunate I am.


Speak Your Mind

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap