23 May 2016
There is dignity in labour is a phrase we hear quite often. It reminds us to work hard because hard work will always set us apart and pay off. While it is easy to work hard in an office, with an air conditioner allowing you forget the pressures of the burning sun on the outside and in the safety of a building secure from maddening traffic, passersby and generally secluded from most of the world’s troubles, same can’t be said of works that requires you to be on the street, serving and working, hustling day by day, struggling to feed or keep a roof over your head. When your work never even seems quite enough to keep you satisfied, it can be difficult to find the dignity in it.
But the past few months have shown us individuals who have not allowed their immediate circumstances to deter them. People who beat the odds to do what they have to do to survive with as much dignity and determination as they can muster. People who got favoured while doing their work diligently and like the Biblical Ruth, got discovered and rewarded for it.
The world was inspired a couple of months ago when a photobomb transformed a street hawker into a model. Olajumoke’s story might have been a typical fifteen minutes of fame story, but it was all the fifteen minutes the young mother-of-two bread seller needed to step up in the world.
Some might have called it a mixture of luck, chance and good favour, but it might also have been her grace and poise as she balanced the tray filled with loaves of bread on her head and posed for the picture that would change her life forever.
It only takes a moment for one’s life to change. A second, a brief. A word. And in some cases, a click of a photographer’s camera just like Olajumoke and Abdulahi Olatoyan, the man who is now known as the world’s best dressed and most dapper squeegee man.
While cleaning car windscreens, he dresses up in a suit and bow tie. Even as the practice of cleaning a windscreen is fairly common in Nigeria, doing so while well dressed is never seen. A photographer, Daniel Sync, spotted Olatoyan and decided to take a picture because it was an occurrence not commonly seen.
The picture went viral and caught the attention of Uche Nnaji, CEO of clothing line, OUCH. Toyan who is a university dropout is now employed by OUCH and is about to embark on a career into fashion. He will never go back to being a squeegee man. He now has the opportunity to earn a living and perhaps go back to school and finish if he wants to. All this is possible because he took the decision to treat his situation not as he saw it but as he wanted it to be.
Nothing says that your story will be like that of Olajumoke or Olatoyan. You might do the best of what you can do and never get noticed. But is that enough reason to stop? Because there is also the possibility that you might strive for dignity in labour and achieve the same recognition these two got.
Author: Aderonke Adeleke
Writer. Music lover. Movie junkie. Social Media Enthusiast. Aspiring dancer. Aspiring photographer. Social Introvert.