A Listening Ear

By Chizoba Oriji. Chizoba is a writer from Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

I read a very interesting Igbo (one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria) poem sometime ago. Part of it reads :

Mgbe a muru nwa,

O bia kuo ume nke mbu,

O ya-ebe akwa,

N’ihi na, aruluala di n’uwa,

Mana, onye ka o ga-akosara?

It means :

When a child is born,

And takes his first breath,

He cries.

Because, there is wickedness in the world

But, who can he tell?

Listening and understanding is more of a gift than an art. Many people don’t want to share what’s going on in their lives for a variety of reasons. Chances are, twelve percent of problems get solved, and the other eighty – eight percent do not get solved. So much for a problem shared getting solved. So, what’s the problem? Is the problem with us, the tragic narrators, or is it with them, the lukewarm listeners?

The girl that sells oranges at the market. She sells oranges after school, and sometimes doesn’t even go to school, just to make sure she sells everything. She comes home to an over-burdened mother who has five other children to take care of and is hindered heavily by a seventh pregnancy. There is no father at home because he is drunk somewhere and concentrates on his ashawo (mistress) more than he does on his starving family. And so she keeps selling oranges every day, until the day she is lured and sexually abused by a ‘nobody’. She gets pregnant, and all her hopes of ever becoming the best are shattered. She tells her friends, her fellow orange sellers. They advise her to go to some ‘quack’ who will ‘fix the problem ‘. She tells her mother, who responds with ‘not in my house ‘. And so she gets kicked out, out into the cold, into a life of nothingness, repeating her family’s cycle all over again like it were some kind of curse.

Or should we talk about the fat teenage boy who gets bullied at school, and returns home with a swollen, red-puffed eye as proof? He tells all about it to his workaholic parents over dinner that day. They only sigh and sympathize, saying ‘they were bullied at his age too.’ Next day he wakes up to find his parents gone to their more important jobs, with a note on the kitchen table for the nanny that includes the names and addresses of some psychiatrists and therapists in town who can ‘fix it’ before they return from their all-expenses-paid trip.

What about the maid who gets touched at night by her boss, when his wife is not around? Whenever the mother of the house goes away on official duty, he slips into the maid’s bedroom, and touches her in a way that goes far beyond professional relations. Pretty much every member of the maid’s friendship group is getting touched; it’s a way of furthering their positions. Resisting such a temptation would therefore be against her better judgement.

Should we talk about the student? She has a,bright, budding future ahead of her until she meets the love of her life, or put more appropriately, the undoing and the Waterloo of her life. What could be more downgrading than getting beaten and isolated from her friends and family because of a love that soured, turned to hate? She no longer has her privacy as he now regulates who calls her and who doesn’t. She talks to a counselor once, when she starts out anew in the relationship. He is quick to add that some relationships have their ups and downs. He isn’t sensitive enough to ask why she wears long sleeves in a hot office like his. If he did ask, she would show him the dark, burn marks of quenched-on-her-skin cigarettes that leave their marks on her brain.

Then there’s the girl from next door whose mother died. She’s been having a hard time making new friends after moving to a new school and getting used to this change-of-environment her father said would do them both good. She’s greeted too quickly and soon by a woman visiting her father most nights, claiming to be a ‘friend of the family’. Her sleeps are disturbed most nights by the banging of the headboards against the wall of her room and animalistic screams of ‘yes!’ , ‘More Baby!’ and ‘Harder!’ which is when the headboards hit violently like an ensuing bull fight. She tries to tell daddy but he’s rambling about getting married and starting a new family: ‘Can’t you be just happy for me, honey?’ And so she stays put and keeps her mouth shut.

Now, how about the girl across the street that every boy wants to have a good lay with? She has a pretty face and big breasts. Even at twenty-one, she still hasn’t forgotten. The childhood flashbacks still haunt her, tormenting her, tearing her very being apart. Her neighbour, Uncle Jon, as she fondly called him, opening up her skirt zip when Mummy left her in his care, forcefully putting his ‘being’ in her. She still has the memories, and still wets the bed during her night terrors and awkward dreams about Uncle Jon, and when no one is at home, she cuts herself sore. Little, painful, yet deep cuts, that leave painful, damaging psychological scars in their wake. She laughs like crazy, and cries at the same time whenever she makes a cut, because she talks to mummy, and mummy says ‘it’s okay to feel that way’ – end of story.


Now, don’t be quick to reply me, but just take your time to understand that there are inner ‘demons’ wanting to break free and all they need is a listening ear, and an understanding heart. Give or take, it’s either a win-win situation on the part of the narrator and listener, or it’s a lose-lose situation. We could decide to take it, or decide to leave it. Is brutal honesty the best policy?


61 comments on “A Listening Ear

  1. Daniel Mofobi on

    I once said to a friend: Life is mostly a box of sour grapes with only a few laughter in between.

    I have made up my mind to be the few laughter in the sour grapes of everyone I meet.

    This article describes perfectly the reality we exist in. The writer painted a perfect picture and left the rest to the readers. Well, I know I definitely do not want to be a lukewarm reader. I want to give A LISTENING EAR.

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      Thanks Daniel. We all should give a listening ear to what matters, as well as what seem not to matter to us, but to others.

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      Thanks Olufemi. We require deep thinking in times like these, because, the world is changing fast, dragging us all in its wake.

  2. Joy on

    Such an inspiring write-up. Exactly what’s going on in the society!

    I was really touched by it.

    Now this is what I call a job well done!
    Keep it up dear!

  3. Florence on

    You really will not know what people have behind the face mask of “I am fine”, words are eaten up because most listeners are unprofessional judges.

    Dear Francis, thanks for this piece.

    However, the question asked, if not considered rhetorical I will say brutal honesty may help in unleashing the demons within.

    Did I misinterpret what you meant by “brutal honesty”, do let me know for a quick correction.

    Thank you.

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      Thanks Miss Fluorence, for your comments. As regards your question, brutal honesty – telling the truth as it is- did not help the people in this article. They got quick replies instead of understanding.

      What the rhetorical question is trying to convey is if telling others the truth as it is( brutal honesty) would better or worsen(best policy) our situation.
      We should count ourselves lucky if we tell the RIGHT PEOPLE our problems, so as to prefer RIGHT SOLUTIONS

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      Thank you, Destiny. I sure hope to be one of the great writers of our generation. With persistence, hardwork, and goodwill of course. 😊

  4. Precious Onyenma on

    Hey Chizoba!
    This is very insightful. I’ll do well to share the link. Others could get a thing or two from this. Thumbs up!

  5. Precious on

    This is really deep, and it points out most of the hidden truths that most people like to ignore. Wonderfully written Chizoba, more grease to your elbow.

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      Thank you Precious. I sure hope people who are passing through such trying times get to read this.
      At least, they should know that they are not alone in the struggle, and there is always light at the end of the tunnel. They should also be willing to speak up.
      Who says two heads are not better than one?

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      Thank you, Marlene, for the kind flattery you showered. I hope this piece inspires your soul just as it inspired mine. And I sure do hope that it will inspire many more.

  6. Ikpasa Marvel Ejiokeoghene on

    Just read your write up gurl…. It’s cool

    Everyone deserves a listening ear… To any1 that ever came to d decision to let out their stories… It wuld make d world a better place

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      Thanks Marvel. Like you said, ‘if anyone ever comes to the decision to let out their stories’.
      I hope we get to make that decision early enough, and not when it is too late.
      We also need to be sensitive and look out for others too. Life is not all about us.

  7. Kay on

    A really pertinent issue standing tall in the society. So many bottled up feelings and very few can be said because, I don’t know….
    Very beautiful piece Frances, I’m expecting more beautiful ones. What an Eye-opener.

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      Thank you miss Kay, there are many issues needing to be voiced out. Many give a quick reply, but very few, really understand.

  8. Onyinye on

    Sometimes a listening ear also has a gossiping mouth. People have to be careful who they confide in. Besides it’s one thing to listen, and another to be empathic, to be able to feel another’s pain and act accordingly. But it’s a brutally honest piece, Chizoba, and honesty is in short supply these days. Keep it up, dear.

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      I couldn’t agree less with you Miss Onyinye. Some people are happy when you’ve got problems, and happier when they get wind of the nature of your problems. It happens everywhere.
      With wisdom, we can hopefully share with the right people, who can be discreet about it, and suggest right solutions.

  9. Ferdinand Kenneth on

    Thank you so much for this, I have received a greater consciousness of need to listen, beyond the things that are said. Beautiful piece, touched.

  10. Joseph miracle on

    the write up is very inspiring with stuff inside I was not the novel type but reading this caught my interest. Chizoba thumbs up keep it up.

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      Thanks, Miss Miracle. I’m glad you were inspired by this article. I’m also glad you thought this article interesting. I hope to do better in the future.

    • Oriji Chizoba Frances on

      Thank you Miss Christina. I’m glad this article inspired you. I will do well to keep it up and improve in subsequent articles that I will write.

  11. Effiong Nsisong on

    At first ,I want to really appreciate ur effort ,u have done a great job here.this poet is really a massage to everyone that might have found his/her in this kind of situation. Its quite encouraging.more Greece to ur elbow. Keep it up.Expecting to read more from u.thanks.

  12. Doris on

    Now this is why I love you Francess, see how you have the described the situations most people go through in that write up, well-done girl, and more grace and intelligence to you to write more.


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