There are those whom we do not see in general statistics, who are difficult to distinguish or rather impossible to recognize in a public street but whom we all recognize their merits and feel happy for their joy.
We know their moments of grief will not make it to the front pages, nor even the last page. However, we do not rest and we do not sleep well before we soothe them throughout their sadness and before admitting their influence on us thanks to their frank simplicity.
There’s no doubt that the good people we encounter in our daily lives is what makes life easier: the school principal who adjusts his watch like he adjusts the semesters’ schedules, the deputy principal whom we remember as serious and someone who knows all the details even though he never spoke much to us, the student guide whom every parent sat with to make sure his children are serious about learning, the old doorman whose facial expressions are comfortable and who knows when your little girl left when he sees the smile of the driver behind his window and who holds the little children’s hands to cross the street with them to get them in the car’s backseat.
There are also the passport control officers who smile to hundreds of travelers who just arrived to the airport and whose smile soothes the travelers’ difficult journey, the policeman who dreams of a star on his shoulder, the soldier who bid his mother farewell so he can protect mothers as they sleep on the southern front and the traffic policeman who aided many and waited for the ambulance and who without waiting to be thanked drove his car and went to another accident site on the highway in the dark night.
There are also the judge who raises his hand to the sky so he does not forget the injustice against an old woman who has come from afar, a driver in a remote town from my homeland’s towns checking his car tires and the oil and water in it so he guarantees driving female teachers in the morning to a neighboring village and a female doctor on a hectic shift but who maintains her smile because she believes that welcoming patients and easing things for them is a duty before examining them or holding a pen and paper to write a prescription.
There are the journalist who is hesitant while phrasing a news piece or who is late to post the news because he did not find a photo that suits the topic, which he believes will convey the truth, and the trader who knows that his honesty is the secret to his livelihood.
Defining a 'good citizen'
There is the student whose entire world is the result of the school semester and who stays up all night studying so he impresses his parents before he even rejoices for his own sake, a university lecturer who just returned from a conference where he represented the country to enhance the ranking of universities and a researcher working in a small room at night to help find a medicine or seriously looking to find mathematical proof for a complicated problem that may decrease the cost of the product on the consumer who does not know him.
There are the mother holding her child’s hand in a shop so they choose the colors which the teacher requested for the national day and a seller behind the cashier smiling and refusing to take money for the green color because we all owe so much to this color which makes us all good citizens.
Who is the good citizen, and is there a definition of that and through which we can meet others like him?
In my simple definition, the good citizen is the man with the big spectacles and the big shoes, as the English proverb puts it. He’s the one with the big spectacles because he saw the entire scene then carefully selected his right place within the society’s ranks. He is a teacher who loves his job, a principal who deserved his post after a long wait, an officer who stays up and works at night because the next rank he attains will make him satisfied with his performance in serving his country before retiring, a mother saving riyals to rejoice in the wedding of her oldest daughter and a father in a foreign country depriving himself a delicious meal so he can afford sending the university tuition fees to his only son.
These are people we do not see on television channels; they sleep early and wake up before dawn and are out there at 6 a.m. on the highway to arrive to work, and they stay after the supervisor leaves to finish some paperwork for someone whom they do not know and have no ties to and who was not even recommended by any old friend. These people finish their work because they believe they are the country’s forearms and they are all responsible for looking after it.
Their days are alike but their wishes are different. There is no country without them, there are no strong nations without the masses of good citizens, those who raise children and who finalize paperwork.Turki Aldakhil
They are the ones with the big shoes because they walk a mile in other people’s shoes. They are not unjust and they do not swear at others. They practice patience in the moment when others usually burst in anger. They walk in the citizens’ shoes in this very moment and always respond with patience and kindness to anyone who loses his temper in the queue. They advise each other to be patient. They do not interfere much to change the course of history, unlike the intellectuals and those rushing to gain posts. They fear posts like the poor fear the end of the month and like the rich fear the decline of a stock in the market.
They are the army who wakes up every morning to serve in the location they picked or found themselves assigned to. Their dreams are clear and their wishes are honest. The eye sometimes misses them but the heart never does.
Their days are alike but their wishes are different. There is no country without them, there are no strong nations without the masses of good citizens, those who raise children and who finalize paperwork. By protecting rules, corruption moves backward.
They are the fathers we see at the parent-teacher meeting, the mothers who do not know the name of Columbia’s president and what the latest Twitter hashtag is but who know when their children wake up to school and when their exams are and who follow up on them. They are the youths who drive their cars without dumping trash in the street or disrespecting a traffic light or driving above the speed limit.
They are the ones whose percentage from the population percentage cannot be colored in the flag. They are the flag’s pole, the country’s soil and the song of forever. We salute these, the people who are very ordinary but who make our lives and countries prettier, from the heart.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.