Tata Amia Nkanika.

That was the moniker we all got to know him by. I don’t know whether he was great or not but you will make that judgement as we go along.

I was raised a Catholic and going for morning mass (service of worship) by 6 am was a priority. More so, I was a mass server and I had to be there about 30 minutes before time in order to set things on the altar for the mass. So I had to wake up on time. It was good training. In the thick of things was Tata, a septuagenarian. He was a little bent with a toothy smile and a soft voice. He was of a small stature, about 5 feet tall, and he had a pleasant and warm personality. Tata was one of the most useful souls in the community. He rang the big gigantic bell that signalled the break of dawn. His size as compared to the size of the bell was no match but he skilfully rang the bell. (Someone tried to ring the bell and the bell swung him like a pendulum. It was not funny but somehow rescue came). It was no one’s job but he did it anyway and dutifully. The bell notified people that it was time for mass. It rang from 5am, in intervals of 15 minutes, until when it is 6am. That was my wake-up call.

The bell did not only serve the church, it also served the community. Many who had to leave for work early had the benefit to be woken up by the bell in good time. The same thing applied to parents and their wards in school. Everyone, Catholics and non-Catholics, in the community knew Tata for his services.

In the mid-1990s, Tata died. His funeral was one of the most emotional events I have ever been to. The church was full to the brim with all manner of people. Those who have never entered a church were also in attendance. They were there to pay respect to a man who had served the church and community longer than anyone could remember as most of his peers were long gone to the great beyond. Many paid tributes and when his body was leaving the church, the bells rang for almost an eternity. It was the last respect for a man of great value. I can still hear those bells as I write.

Never heard of Tata until now? I am sure. I’m also sure there are people like Tata around you. So you tell me, are they common? They might not be popular but they are uncommon. You don’t find them everywhere; these people who do it out of a deep sense of service to humanity. The other thing is, have you ever taken out time to thank them for their selflessness? Have you given them a token to say “Thanks for your altruistic services”? Have you ever acknowledged them? Just something to ponder.

Emma Bombeck once said “Don’t mistake being famous for being successful; Madonna is one, Helen Keller is the other”. (Helen Keller is one woman who was blind and deaf but contributed so much to humanity). So whatsoever you lay your hands on to do, do it well. Be the best mother ever. Be the best teacher that a child would ever have. Always smile. Be the most reliable employee of your work place. Stand out. Don’t try to be uncommon; be uncommon. Don’t try to be uncommon, BE uncommon .Yes, you heard that right and I wrote it twice.

Just be. Go the extra mile. Live out your true being. It doesn’t take anything special to be uncommon; it takes you doing things howbeit small with dedication whether there be a reward or not. Focus on what you do. You are created to solve a problem. Be the “Tata” of your community, church, mosque, clan, family and work place.

This is all summed up in the poem, I once heard the great motivational speaker, Les Brown recite:
I do not choose to be a common man,
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can,
I seek opportunity … not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen.
Humbled and dulled by having the State look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole.

I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout
I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect; Proud and unafraid; To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say:
This, with God’s help, I have done.

All this is what it means. You will be remembered for your altruistic services, how you help the next man make the next step, your services to humanity. Nothing more. Nothing less. How can you love God when you cannot tend to your brother ? QED.

By all means……..DON’T BE COMMON.

P/S Just in case the headline baffled you, in English it means “Tata, The Bell Ringer”. His services to God and man branded him.