“Happy new month!” The salutation rings out across Nigeria every thirty or so days, via phone, SMS, email, e-messaging, social media and in person. In churches and offices, amongst friends, neighbours and colleagues, this monthly ritual seems to hold some sort of magical source of hope and renewal. For others, it’s just a fun way to reach out to friends or a great way to break the ice with people they want to connect with. For too many, it’s a vain promise that this month will be the month when they leave misery and desperation behind.
I had never come across the practice until I arrived in Nigeria and, at first, it was amusing. Later on, it became annoying, as my phone was bombarded with weird broadcasts from all kinds of random people, suggesting that I should do one thing or another – simply because another month had passed. Much of it was well-meaning, but just a tad over-zealous in its suggestion of religious or spiritual significance.
Perhaps my favourite interpretation of happy-new-month-mania, is when young women (mostly) use it as a way to inform everyone they know that it is their ‘birth month’ and that they are anticipating all kinds of gifts (yes, really). Some even go out of their way to let you know that cash is perfectly acceptable, if you can’t figure out what to buy for them. The funniest is when security guards, shop assistants, hotel doormen and cab drivers greet you with a smile and a knowing look, as they carefully enunciate, “Hap-py new mo-o-nth, sah!” For a moment, the world seems to stand still, awaiting your anticipated generosity.
Last night, a friend of mine mentioned that she was heading to church for an 11pm service that would last until 3am. I was baffled – it was a Friday night – but I’ve learned not to question people’s church habits too closely, as it can cause offence. It wasn’t until this morning, when I drove past a neighbourhood church and saw the remnants of a large event in the parking lot, that I realised what I was missing. Yesterday wasn’t just any old Friday, it was the last day of March, the eve of the new month of April! In many churches, the occasion takes on the significance of New Year’s Eve with all-night vigils, special services and promises of even more prosperity than the previous month and certain victory in your battle with invisible ‘forces of evil’.
I can see how convenient it might be to pause each month and take stock of where you are in your spiritual journey, just as you might in other aspects of your life – business, career, social or financial. However, it is a little disturbing when I see trusting souls being manipulated into increasingly more ‘seed-sowing’, in an endless quest for an end to their poverty – all within the artificial construct of a ‘new month’, which is bestowed with a spiritual import beyond anything contained in scriptures.
It would be so much better if these same churches organised their teaching around honesty, hard work, creativity, service, charity, empathy and community spirit. The lives of millions would be greatly improved, along with the societies they live in, if graft and trickery were replaced gradually and genuine care for the least amongst us became more important than the amassing of great wealth for a few individuals.
I’m happy for every month that I’m alive and healthy in mind, body and spirit. It’s another thirty days to learn from my mistakes, grow, create value, contribute to others, seize opportunities and form new partnerships. Getting the most out of each day is what really counts. Renewal should be a daily exercise. Improvement should be constant.
Here’s my wish for you: may this month be like the next month and the one after that – full of struggle and triumph, joy and pain, sunshine and rain. There’s no magic formula, silver bullet or special prayer – just a steady upward climb, with a few bumps along the way, guided by your faith in things unseen and the knowledge that anything is possible.
“I can hardly wait for tomorrow, it means a new life for me each and every day.” ― Stanley Kunitz
8 thoughts on “Happy new month”
Hi Willie, I enjoyed your writing as usual….they are far between these days….I guess you are too busy just now. I had not heard of this greeting either….but happy new month anyway.Blessings.
Hi Clover. Yes, it’s a mixture of lack of time and a shortage of inspiration. Many of the insights and events that have inspired my blog are part of my everyday existence. I haven’t travelled abroad for over a year, so that doesn’t help. Sometimes, I opt to add a chapter or two to my book which captures part of this blog. I will aim to post a bit more often. My love to you and the family.
Nice piece. 👍🏽
Thanks sweetie. I’m trying to keep up my output, even though it gets so busy.
Hope is vital for success and achievement. So I guess the new month is a line drawn on the past and a gateway for things to come. The night vigil prayer service therefore could be a useful way of charting a course for the month. After the fervour of the prophetic declarations one could ask God for inspiration to write an action plan to support the manifestation of things hoped and prayed for.
I have discovered that action after prayer works wonders. Riding on the wave of faith kindled in the service, certainty begins to take centre stage and creates momentum for the work that needs to be done. Yes I did say work. All too often in church circles we have become deluded that everything will happen supernaturally, which for the most part is not true. Solomon in the book of Proverbs addresses the issue of work ethic very clearly.
So I followed through my March declarations by arising early to practice, tackling business deals I would have avoided, sowing seeds of service and generosity and staying up late to work on myself. This simply meant more effort and work in addition to my regular commitments. For some reason however doors are opening and miracles are happening. Faith and work co-exist like hand in glove. Unseen forces come to our aid when we get busy.
So here’s to April. Happy new month, happy improved work ethic and happy seed sowing of service and love to those who need it. A miracle is coming your way!
Hey Paul, I think you got it in one. Hard work and certainty in the outcome is critical. Faith without work is dead. Unfortunately, many people here are waiting for a supernatural intervention. They believe that if you pray hard, shout louder, pay more tithes and stay up longer, God will reward you. Pastors keep the myth going by citing isolated examples of people being handed the keys to a new car or house by a total stranger. I wish it was that easy.
I thought I knew you a bit too well until I started reading your blog. From when we renewed communication during the media fixing for the documentary feature on Nollywood. The film was rejected by my client in Italy, but that was my loss and it is by the way.
Your opinion is strong here. I was already being influenced by it until your perspective woke me up to the reality that this was simply Michael Williams battling with a new environment (despite being domiciled here for years now) just as I would when I come to your environment of decent.
My take. The whole ritual (being generous with messages and salutations at shop entrances) or spirituality in Nigeria should not be any issue of much concern here in that it is the people’s way of life. Rather than changing it, embrace the peculiarity and while being strong on widely criticised anomalies (corruption and all your mentions).
Michael Williams is personified by everyday recall. Nigerians have every day recalls while also attaching premium to weekly, monthly and yearly re-engineering (whether in their setting of goal or other meaningfulness). Laziness is a question of a few (but that’s a broad topic for another day).
In a nutshell. ‘Wow, this is unique’ Michael William should say while hinging and hoping that laps are mended. Not change the people.
Humans, the world over are worshiping and believing being.
Once again, your opinion made interesting read. Only tried to be as brief as possible.
All together. Happy New month.
Thanks bro. This blog is all about my perspective and observations – an outside looking in and inside looking out. Sometimes it forces Nigerians to look at situations, circumstances and practices with fresh eyes because so many strange things can be normalised over time. For outsiders, it gives them a peek into a society they know little about, save for the Nigerians they meet abroad. It’s helpful to new expatriates still trying to figure things out. I keep in mind that the majority of my readers are Nigerian, including many of my friends, and that the rest live in 76 other countries. Finally, I try to observe without judgement, unless it’s to do with exploitation of the poor and vulnerable, and try to see the funny side. I’m glad you enjoyed the read. I would love to get your reaction to a post like, ‘How to drive like a Nigerian’. Stay blessed.