The other day, something happened.

I was running some errands when I suddenly had the need to use the washroom, so I stopped at a petrol station. I got to the counter just before two ladies who were there to ask for the washroom key as well, but since I got there first, the key was given to me. 

As we walked round the building to find the loo, I was bursting with the urgency of my need of the facility, but I still did what my mother taught me and offered them the key first. One of them, who appeared to have recognised me when I was dancing from one foot to the other in discomfort at the counter, said, “Oh thanks Kojo, but we can wait. It seems you need it more urgently than we do”. 

With absolute gratitude, I stepped into the washroom, lifted the lid of the WC and almost threw up. It was disgusting! Someone had just resolved their diarrhoea issues all over the inner walls of the loo, and had not bothered to clean up after themselves. The state in which they had left this public facility was just disgraceful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so nauseating in my life. Who could have done such a thing? But my bladder needs were too pressing for me to stand around contemplating profound questions, so I unzipped and did my business. 

Just as I turned to exit, a thought struck me: what if those two ladies came in after me and thought I was the one who left this horrible mess? The very thought of anyone thinking I could do such a thing made me want to throw up again. I may never see them again in my life, but they would live THEIR whole lives under the impression that I was a filthy animal with no potty training.

I looked around frantically and spotted what used to be a white toilet brush. It now had flecks of brown in the bristles, and what looked disturbingly like blood on the half-melted handle. I insulated my palm with a thick wad of toilet roll, grabbed the monstrous brush and scrubbed that WC clean before I left.

Later, in the car, as I drenched my hands in industrial quantities of hand-sanitizer, I realised something. My reputation is valuable to me. I have worked hard for it, and so there’s not much I wouldn’t do to protect it.

I also found myself thinking about numerous other occasions when I had not been as careful with the things I said and did – times when I had not been as careful with my reputation as I had just been in that filling station. How careless of me…

I thought about some of our public figures in Ghana. I ran through a mental list of musicians, actors, professors, journalists, government appointees, elected officials, who had been so careless with their reputations, and found themselves embroiled in scandal.

It occurred to me that they may not all have placed the same value on their names as I just did, otherwise they might have avoided whatever circumstances led to the besmirching of their reputations. 

But then again, we are all human. We all make mistakes, and not everyone in the world has the benefit of the epiphany I’d had that afternoon. But you my dear friend, have just heard, or read this message, so let me ask you two simple questions: 

1. What is your name?

2. What is it worth to you?

The higher the value you place on your name, the more you will do to keep it clean. Like the bible famously says in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is better than riches”.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and if we work hard for money, we must work even harder for our reputations.