At about 4.30am Monday morning, a friend of mine called me. He was carrying some property belonging to another friend of ours and the police had stopped him. He needed me to speak on his behalf. My primary thought was irritation: How could this dude be calling me by this time? Didn’t he know I had to be up by 5? Why didn’t he call the other friend? Why the heck did he think I’d be able to help anyway? And what on earth was he doing roaming the streets at 4am in the morning?

I wish I could say I put these thoughts away and spoke for my friend. This is where I shamefully confess that I told him that since I had no knowledge of the item, I couldn’t help. He said “Ok” and hung up, and I spent about 5 more minutes being irritated at his “self-centeredness” before closing my eyes in my warm bed and trying to make good use of the 20 minutes left before my alarm rang.

It was when I woke up that the guilt got to me and I started to think about what had transpired with a slightly more coherent point of view. While I was busy being irritated at being put out, my friend was on the streets, probably under risk of arrest for being in possession of a stolen item (you know our Naija police). He had called me because I was his last option…and I let him down.

To make matters worse, I’m in the middle of a beginning of the year fast. A fast where I’m supposed to seek God’s face and hear His direction for the rest of the year. Isaiah 58 talks about the Chosen fast, about fasting that goes beyond the mechanical and into helping the people who need our help. I’m so ashamed of myself right now I tell you.

I realized this morning that help is not always wrapped up in a cute pink box with a bow and a “pretty please” sticker attached to it. The need for assistance is not always from  people whom we have rolled with since infinity past. Help does not always check my schedule to be sure that it is a good time. Sometimes, it’s inconvenient – as simple as that.

I’m a pro at self flagellation; it doesn’t take much for me to feel guilty and so I’m very tempted to go find some sackcloth and ashes and beat myself up with a verbal/spiritual/emotional stick until my psyche is simply unable to deal. However I’m going to use this as a lesson instead (self flagellation is very tiring) and ensure that I don’t make this mistake again.

I’m glad this happened; not because my poor friend might have been arrested and has probably deleted my number from his phonebook, but because I know I will do better next time. Mistakes happen so we can learn and be better, and so, I will use this as a lesson point to be a better person and a better friend…even if (and it truly hurts me to say this because I love my sleep) it means a phone call at 4.30 in the morning.