I'm a member of a really great social media group called Masterminds. Some of the smartest, most successful leaders and innovators in Ghana are on this platform, and every day, we share ideas, strategies, experiences and thoughts to help improve our lives and our nation.
Yesterday, someone posted a short story on the platform, which I first heard in church when I was fifteen years old. Reading it made me smile, as I recalled the powerful lesson my teenage self derived from that story all those years ago - a lesson I want to share with you today.
A newly ordained priest was posted to a small town in the north of England. On his first day, he put on his street clothes and hopped on a bus to explore the town. When he sat down in the back of the bus, he noticed that the driver had given him 50p more change than he should have.
His first instinct was to return the extra change, but then on second thoughts, he figured maybe it was a small token blessing from God - no need to return it. Then again, he thought, no, this was more change than he was entitled to, and the proper thing to do was to return it. But then, he also thought of how insignificant 50p was. Would the driver really miss it? He decided in the end to keep it.
At the end of his journey, he rose from his seat and walked down the aisle to leave the bus. Just before he stepped off, he paused for a moment. Then he turned to the driver and said, "You gave me 50p extra change by accident. Here it is".
The driver took the change, thanked him, and then asked, "You're the new priest, aren't you?"
"Yes I am", the priest said, surprised.
The bus driver smiled and said, "I have been trying to decide whether or not I should come to your church, so I deliberately gave you extra change as a test to see if you would actually act as a Christian should. Since you did just that, I'll see you on Sunday", and with a wink, he shut the bus door and drove away.
The priest collapsed onto a nearby bench and held his head in his hands for several seconds before lifting his head heavenwards.
"Oh God", he cried. "I almost sold your child for 50 pence!"
My friends, who is watching you? Who is observing your life, measuring your smallest moves and judging you by even your least significant choices? Nobody? Wrong! Somebody is always watching. Your colleagues, your friends, your subordinates, your superiors, your neighbours, your children… especially your children.
When you're driving them to school, they're watching you. When you're speeding because you're late, they're watching you. When you use the hard shoulder to avoid traffic, they're watching you. When you do an illegal u-turn, they're watching you. When you jump a red light, they're watching you. When the police stop you for jumping a red light, they're watching you. When you bribe the policeman to avoid the consequences of your improper behaviour, they're watching you.
To them, you're a grown-up, so whatever you do is right - why else would you do it? Oh, and don't think you're exonerated because you don't have children. Other people's kids are watching you. Strangers - people you've never met - are watching your every move and judging you by your every choice.
There is a lady who comes to my church. I noticed her a few months ago, because she was wearing the most striking pair of purple shoes. She's never worn them again since, but every Sunday, I steal a glance at her feet to see what she's wearing. One Sunday, I happened to glance over at her just as she took gum out of her mouth and surreptitiously stuck it under her seat. With that one small act, she went from hero to zero in my book. Imagine my disappointment.
So my people, the message couldn't be simpler: our actions - no matter how trivial - have incalculable consequences on the people around us. You always have an audience, so never stop putting in your best performance.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and I thank you for being my audience. You keep me honest.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!