Print   |   Back
July 21, 2015
African Voice
Service and a Whiff of Celebrity
by Imo Eshiet

Lately I have been getting a hint of what it feels being a celebrity. It all started with furtive smiles, winks, and finger-pointing. As I walked into Walmart, Food Lion, or some neighborhood restaurant, I could almost feel beady eyes drilling into me with admiration and elbows nudging parents to look in my direction.

At first my wife was apprehensive and wanted to know why so many kids flirted with me. I had no clue, I replied. On occasion, I told her the kids could be from our church where I volunteer as substitute Primary teacher on the first and last Sundays of the month. Those were days when I was free from my high priest group assignments.

But I did not sound convincing because even though I did not know all the kids at church by name, I pretty much could recognize their faces or at least connect some of their features to their parents.

My wife, who reads me like a book, would pick my uncertainty. "Well, you had better be careful, for here all it takes for you to be done for is for a child or its parent to call the police and say you were harassing," she would remind me.

I could connect with her paranoia. More than thirty years of our lives had been smothered by grinding military dictatorship. Many citizens smeared as troublemakers by authorities to make it easy to eliminate them, simply disappeared.

Some were fed live to crocs, to the admiration of our sadistic rulers. Others were used as target practice at a firing range, while others met with "accidents" including impossible plane crashes. One editor even received a letter-bomb. His death added novelty to terror as an instrument of governance.

So I could understand Livina's fears.

I was still trying to find out the uncommon attention I got from kids when my eight year old Tina helped me figure it out. It turned out most of the kids who paid attention to me were her schoolmates. They were not strangers at all.

I had been making presentations on African history, oral traditions and literature at her school and volunteering to read books including stories I have written. I had no idea how impressed my young audience was, though I had an inkling what it did to Tina's ego.

Before each presentation, Tina was asked by teachers to introduce her dad. I noticed that after every introduction her steps took on added bounce. When I picked her up when school was out, she walked with the swagger of one who had just returned from somewhere in outer space where no other human has ever visited.

After Tina helped me resolve my new-found popularity, I started feeling self-conscious. I started taking interest in what I wore when I was in public, so as not to embarrass Tina, for she returned from school every day loaded with comments made by her mates who saw me somewhere.

Though no one shoves cameras into my face or bombs me with flashing lights, the attention I get from my little friends gives me insights into how celebrities feel behind their ready-made smiles. Knowing that I am being watched by impressionable minds when I am at the public library, grocery store, or restaurant gives me a certain feeling of exposure and heightens my sense of duty to Tina.

It gives me that feeling that whatever I say or do could become the subject for a story at school. But above all, I get the satisfaction that what little I give back to my community is being appreciated by someone.

It feels so cool when some of my little friends compel their parents to walk up, pump my hands, and start a little conversation. But the real joy is proof of the words of King Benjamin that when one is in the service of his fellow man, one is directly in the service of God.

Copyright © 2024 by Imo Eshiet Printed from