Kindness Never Expires

I have a beautiful story about kindness to tell you today, and this is a story of mixed emotions

Tobiloba Adejumo
Tobiloba Adejumo
This is the transcript of my UIC Toastmaster speech on the 27th September, 2022.

Whenever I listen to fancy instagram public speakers say: Be yourself. I pause, then I ask myself: What sort of advice is this?

First, let me clarify this by saying: You, currently in this meeting, are not being yourself. You are acting, probably that’s why you are using a virtual background. I am acting too. If I choose to be myself for just a split second, I might ruin this presentation because naturally I talk fast, fast enough that you won’t be able to catch what I’ll be saying. Also, I laugh a lot when I talk. Imagine I try to be myself and give this presentation laughing? But this is my way of acting. Everyone has theirs and you also have yours.  But with all this acting, it is very important to show kindness to people you meet because everyone is going through a lot and very few would tell you about their problems.

I have a beautiful story about kindness to tell you today, and this is a story of mixed emotions. It’s the story of an angel on earth. This angel is not a woman or a lady as it is customary to represent angels with women and maybe demons with men. Today’s angel is a man. His name is David and he was my teaching assistant.

Just a quick background story. So I began graduate school with the sole aim of finding a cure to blindness. Because of this, I made a switch from computer science to biomedical engineering. I hadn’t done biology in 10 years before making this switch but as you rightly guessed, I listened to fancy instagram public speakers again before making the switch. Do you know what they said this time? "Everything is possible". They were wrong.

Anyways, I started my PhD journey with an advanced biology course. It was a flaming start. Questions like: Where does blood come from? How does covid vaccine work, was insanely new to me. I didn’t know. I didn’t care. The course was very tough. But I had my angel, David. He was always there for me.

One memory that has outlived its relevance but still remains in my heart was on February 15th, 2021. The weather was cold and grey. The ground was covered with a 15 inch snow. David was stuck in his lab till 11 pm. We met on Zoom from 5 pm to 11 pm.  I still remember his almost perfect smile. I call it almost perfect smile because I could see he was tired, but he still let out a smile. I miss David.

Why am I telling you this? Something tragic happened to David that made me realize the brevity of life. How fickle can life be? David is not dead. David is alive but he had quit his PhD program. He was supposed to get his PhD some time this year, but he quit and left with a Masters three months ago. I was heartbroken with despair. I contacted David few weeks ago by composing the most beautiful and thoughtful message I have ever written in my life.  David responded to my message: Here is what he said:

Do you know the promise I made to myself when I found out that David left his PhD program? I said to myself: Regardless of the opportunities people think having a PhD brings, David will never suffer or lack basic amenities as long as I am alive. It’s a deep promise but it is one I intend to keep. Do you have someone in your life that can make such promises to you, probably apart from your parents or children? If you were to lose all your possessions, do you have people in your life that will stand by you? People may forget your name, may forget your face, but people never forget how you made them feel. Let this word be your anchor.

🌐 Life

Tobiloba Adejumo

Doctoral Candidate, Research Assistant at The University of Illinois Chicago | Biomedical Optics and Ophthalmic Imaging Lab