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No free lunch

I have always considered myself to be a person who would like to do favors to others. I try to put myself in the shoes of people who asked for a favor and try to imagine what I would feel if someone did me the same favor. Of course, I would always be happy if people did me the favor! So, I tell myself, why not do it for others as well as long as it does not cost me much! After seeing their gratitude, I congratulate myself for extending kindness and promise myself that I should do it more often. Of course, I am no saint, so the promise is not always realized.

There are two kinds of favors that I despise the most, though. The first kind is when a person does you a favor in expectation that you will return it in the future. You realize that the person had that expectation not when they first do you the favor but rather at a later date when they remind you that they had done you a favor back some time ago by asking you a bigger favor in return. The second one, which is rather uncommon in the Ethiopian culture, is when a person does you a favor and tells you right away that they expect a return in the future. I hate the first kind of favor even more because it is a more pretentious act, and lacks honesty. And even more importantly, it lacks genuine kindness.

Take job-hunting for instance. I have seen people exhibiting a super friendly and respectful behavior towards a person they expect to offer them a job or a promotion. I once saw a friend of mine going to the funeral of a colleague’s relative he was hardly close to with the objective of being seen as a caring and gentle person in the eyes of the colleague, and later getting the return in the form of a promotion. Now, I find this act to be very pretentious and dishonest! If I was in the shoes of the colleague and realized later that the person who was at my relative’s funeral came to the funeral in order to later milk out some benefits from me, I would definitely be disappointed.  

People show pretentious behaviors all the time. Another example is related to phone calls. Imagine a situation in which a friend who is long lost suddenly calls you one day. You think, how nice of her/him to have remembered me and called me! And then that friend starts the conversation with a long greeting and questions about how you have been doing to date. And just about the friendly conversation is about to end and you decide to finally hang up, the long-lost friend suddenly brings up a big favor she/he would like from you. And you realize that the supposed friend never made the call for a friendly conversation but rather to ask you the big favor. In this kind of situation, I feel totally fooled and used! I believe it is totally ok and reasonable to call a lost friend to explicitly ask for a favor. Just do not pretend to have called for a friendly conversation and use it as a bribe to benefit yourself by going around the bush!

Honestly, I never do a favor or extend an act of kindness in expectation of a future return, and find it very sad that people do that. Be kind and do a favor because you would like to make others happy the same way it would make you happy when people do you a favor or are kind to you. The saying of ‘no free-lunch’ shouldn’t be applied when it comes to favors and acts of kindnesses!

Contributed by Tsion Taye
Contributed by Tsion Taye