Are you the kind that takes advantage of those around you?

Treat the people around you, even your colleagues at work, the way you’d want them to treat you.

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Be the friend you’d like your friends to be to you, treat your parent the way you’d want your children to treat you in their adulthood…

I recently heard such an incredulous story, it left me horrified and amazed at the same time.

I just couldn’t believe how shameless some people can be, and the lengths to which they can go to take advantage of others. I have to say, though, that the story, however ridiculous it sounded, was hilarious too, and had me doubled up in laughter.

Here goes. Last December during the Christmas holidays, the narrator’s cousin, who lives in the US, visited for the holidays with her two children, a 13-year-old, and a five-year-old. She and her cousin were agemates and had grown up together, so when her summer bunny cousin requested her to house her and her two children for the three weeks they would be visiting, the narrator readily agreed, recalling the many fun times they had had together before her cousin went to live abroad. She was sure that they would have a blast.

The D-day arrived, and this friend excitedly drove to the airport to pick her cousin. It was like she had never left because they immediately picked up their camaraderie from where they had left it many years ago, and there was no doubt in my friend’s mind that they would have a really good time during those three weeks.

Two days after her arrival, however, my friend’s cousin informed her that she had to urgently travel to Mexico on work assignment for two weeks, and pleaded with my friend to take care of her children until she returned. If it were you, would you have said no? I don’t think so, after all, children just require food and a little bit of entertainment during holidays, right? And so she left.

A few days later, the younger child fell ill, but when this friend tried to reach the mother, her phone was off, and would go on to stay that way until two days before she returned. And no, no one seemed to know where she was. My worried friend took the child to hospital and nursed him back to health, like any responsible adult would, and hoped that his mother would turn up when she had said she would because the children had become so anxious, they were not sleeping well and were barely eating, wondering why their mother wasn’t calling them.

She did return, and when she did, she turned up at my friend’s doorstep with a puffy face and a bandage on the bridge of her nose. Horrified, my friend asked what had happened to her, only for the cousin to give a vague story of how she had fallen and broken her nose. But my friend would later learn that she had been lied to, her cousin had travelled all the way to Mexico for a nose job, secure in the knowledge that her children were in safe hands and would be fed and taken care of as she got the nose she had always wanted…

My first reaction was to laugh in disbelief at such blatant audacity, though mortification followed soon afterwards. Like a Kenyan would ask, ‘Who does that?!’

Yet the reality is that there is no shortage of people who have no qualms about taking advantage of the well-meaning people around them. It could be that sibling that only calls you when he or she wants to borrow money, or the friend that blocks you and disappears from the face of the earth when life begins to treat them well, only to reappear when they lose their job or their business fails and they want your help. Or a parent that abandoned you in childhood, and then, many decades later, walks into your life and expects you to drop everything and take care of him or her because they sired you or gave birth to you. Or the child that only visits his parents or calls them only when he or she wants to be bailed out.

I am sure that if you thought about it hard enough, you would have a few of your own stories to tell. What’s the moral of this story, you ask? Well, be the friend you’d like your friends to be to you, treat your parent the way you’d want your children to treat you in their adulthood, and be the sibling that you would want your siblings to be to you. In a nutshell, treat the people around you, even your colleagues at work, the way you’d want them to treat you…