While the experience is still fresh, I want to continue to share what I learned from my two weeks in rural Ghana. As honored guests in a small village, we had a full immersion into a remarkably different life style. As I wrote last week, they are deeply spiritual and accepting of all faiths, which anchors their community life with a culture of respect and tolerance. It is also a foundation for the values of simple community living.
I’d like to share what I noticed about their community life, noting the values that can create a more conscientious western lifestyle.
They are living like we did in a previous century. While Ghana is trying to modernize as fast as they can, we are just waking up to the virtues of simplicity and trying to reclaim it. So allow me to highlight the beauty of their life, before it disappears into what they think is the glory of westernization.
FAMILIES ARE REVERED
Yes, it really does take a village. As much as we have used Hillary’s quote, until you’re actually immersed in it, it’s hard to comprehend it’s full meaning. Extended families are everywhere. We were introduced to dozens of family members of our host and his children, nieces and nephews introduced us to more.
They love their family. Despite universally complex and problematic family dynamics, they honor and respect their parents and grandparents. They rally for one another, there is always a helping hand. As one indicator, their end of life ceremonies bring everyone together and they will also commemorate the anniversary of someone’s death.
Children act very differently is this environment. I never saw a child cry; there were no tantrums or acting out behavior. They sat through hours and hours of festivals five days running with rapt attention, participating in their own young group, with no parental direction (or toys). They have plenty of attention and more freedom because there is always a watchful eye.
When families are valued and respected, behavior towards one another is more respectful.
EVERYONE HAS A ROLE
We watched event after event in numerous locations be orchestrated without anyone acting like they are in charge. It was stunning. No one was barking orders, watching, directing, pointing fingers or calling people out. When asked how this happens, I learned that they have committees and everyone volunteers to help.
I’m familiar with what it takes to organize big everts, it’s no small task. Even while being with the host, I saw none of the usual back stage activity or meetings. We watched the community commons area change within minutes from a market and meeting place to a concert venue complete with tents, chairs and a stage. At the end it was all quickly and quietly taken down.
The food preparation for the many guests who came from out of town for the festivals was amazing. Their kitchens are an open room with several propane burners like we have for camping, without counters, ovens, and in most instances, running water. Huge complex and fabulous meals were made in these spaces. It took the coordinated effort of many women to make this happen. They made it look effortless.
Everyone volunteers to do a job and simply does it, without direction.
RESPECT AND MODESTY IS EXPECTED
Respectful behavior is the underpinning of all interactions. Greetings involve a three step handshake and end with snapping your fingers against theirs twice. There are standard questions that are asked in their greeting to inquire about your family, health and children. Guests are served water and a libation and what is not drunk from your glass is ceremoniously poured on the ground.
People’s behavior is respectful in public. There are no loud voices or harsh tones. We never saw an argument or a fight. Despite long and large gatherings over many days with people drinking alcohol, there was never an altercation. There were no public displays of affection and no sexualized behavior.
The style of clothes requires modesty. While western clothes are becoming more popular, skirts are still longer and women rarely wear jeans or pants in rural areas.
Respectfulness and modesty means no one calls attention to themselves with inappropriate behavior.
FRESH FOOD, EXERCISE AND LIMITED ELECTRONICS = HEALTH
Of course most of their food is locally sourced. It seems funny that we even have such a term. Their goats, sheep and chickens roam freely through the village and somehow they know who they belong to. Cattle are herded in the villages and in the city as well. The men of the village know how to butcher their own meat. Fresh vegetables are grown close by and brought to their weekly markets. Their large meals are complex, spicy and delicious. They don’t eat desserts or sweets, and have no processed food. Their concept of fast food is the street vendor.
Because everyone works hard and there are fewer cars, people walk most places and get plenty of exercise. TVs are limited and while there are cell phones, their life style is not focused on electronic diversion. It’s no surprise that the majority of people are healthy and fit.
Living simply means living a healthy lifestyle.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN?
After being in this environment for two weeks, I was embarrassed by our loud American behavior when I saw it again in the Accra airport. Watching their patient, calm responses to our overly insistent demands made me cringe.
What has happened to us?
Simply put, we poison ourselves with our processed foods. We over stimulate ourselves with too much sugar, coffee (they drink tea), TV and electronics. We have replaced respect and modesty with aggression and self-aggrandizement and we are so spread apart that families no longer support or rely on each other.
Can we change this destructive path we are on? Of course, if we consider the following:
• Establish respectful dialog and behavior with family and friends
• Create a village of like-minded people who also live with standards of integrity
• Eat locally sourced organic food, eliminating processed, sugared and fast foods
• Limit electronic diversion and replace it with activity
• Teach our children these values
If these issues speak to you and you’d like to explore ways to make your life a reflection of the values that are important to you, I am happy to support your efforts. Transformational Life Coaching provides tools and processes to enhance any change you seek. See my website,www.spectrumtransformation.com for more information and if you’d like to talk, send me a message through the Free Consultation button. I look forward to hearing from you!