Shaban showed up at our house at eleven pm last night needing to use our car. The police wanted him at the police station. We offered to go with him, but he assured us it wouldn’t be necessary. Three Tanzanian men, one who had stolen a German passport and identity card from a patient at the hospital, were working all over the Bunda area, telling people that the German man whose passport they had, was in the hospital and needed to travel to Nairobi to a much better hospital and needed money. The brilliant part of their plan (in their minds at least) was to claim to be doing this for Shaban because Shaban had been helping Americans, Australians, Germans, and others over the last ten years or so and almost everyone knew of his compassion. These con men were trading on Shaban’s good reputation for helping strangers to entice people to give them money—and the people did give money because they did know how good Shaban was. The police showed up at Shaban’s house and wanted the money collected in his name, thinking he was involved. That was when he came and got the car and went off to the police station. Ironically, it was his reputation as a truly good man who had helped many of the police officers at the station that turned the tables on the thieves. The police chief knew Shaban and immediately sent his men out in search of the con men. In less than two hours, with the help of the people who were conned, the police rounded up all three of the con men and retrieved the German passport and identity papers. The men had not had time to spend any of the money, but it was going to take some time to get it back into the rightful hands of the owners because one or two of them claimed to have given more than they had. Happily, that chore rests in the hands of the police. Shaban, to his credit, has gone around apologizing to the people who were scammed, introducing himself, and letting them know that he would never send someone else in his name. If he needed any help from anyone, he would ask for it personally. He has been actively involved since late last night and is still helping. He is very hurt because these men hurt his reputation. As old Billy Shakespeare said, “Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands; But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.” (from the play “Othello”) Shaban will not stop being a good man or helping others, but his name has been marred, and it will take some time for that wound to heal. He is angry as you might expect, but he is able to laugh about it with us. As it says in the African quote above, his legacy will not be from last night but from the years he spent doing good things for others. It was a lesson for me as well, and one I needed to hear.