Saturday, October 21, 2017

Awareness of Others

I have met some of the most generous people in Ghana who would give you the shirt off their back or the last bit of food in their home when you come to visit. I have also noticed some people who are kind of clueless when it comes to being aware of the needs of others or showing concern for people other than themselves. I understand selfishness and being inconsiderate of others is a universal problem, but I've noticed it here in the following ways:

1) Taking more than your share of food. While dishing up at a couple gatherings with limited food, I’ve seen several youth dish up heaping plates and take the majority of the food and not even care that the others behind them that will end up scraping an empty container. This may sound familiar to those of you who grew up in a large family. We have 10 kids so I am always rationing food in my mind to make sure everyone gets some. When my family buys pizzas, everyone does the math and knows how many pieces they are allowed to have before we even open the boxes so it has been a shocker for them to see some people dish up with reckless abandon and forsake the even portion rule.

While I'm on the topic of pizza, I once bought several pizzas for a scouting activity years ago and has to bite my tongue as I watched some of the boys eat twice as many pieces as the others, but they would only eat a couple bites from the end of their piece and would then discard about half a piece of pizza since it was just "useless crust" in their eyes. I could go on forever with tales of pizza equality but I'm getting off topic.

2) Playing loud music or being super loud around others. There is no awareness of noise pollution or the possibility that your loud music might annoy others. Our neighbor across the street regularly plays loud music in the morning at 6 am as soon as the sun comes up until late at night after 11 pm. I’m sure many people around the world have the problem of neighbors playing loud music but what makes this extra annoying is the fact that for months he played the same 3 songs over and over and over! I am not exaggerating. 3 songs all day long! I really don't mind the fact that I can hear his music, I just wish he had more variety. I have been tempted to burn him some CD’s to expand his play list.

3) Being late and making people wait for you. It is a pretty kicked back culture here when it comes to punctuality. Our Sunday meetings  usually start on time, but for any activities that take place during the week, they tell everyone it will begin an hour earlier than it really does just because they know most people will show up late. I have been furious on a couple occasions when I bust my butt to get to activities on time just to realize I was told the fake time as I wait for over an hour until people finally start showing up (because those people are aware of this early time announcement trick and know they can show up an hour late and be on time.) It is a vicious cycle. If you tell people a fake early time they still come late and are then conditioned to think it’s okay to go everywhere an hour late since that’s when people actually come.

4) Driving etiquette. I have seen an occasional driver stop and waive a pedestrian or other car through before them, but the majority of the time it is a super competitive attitude on the road. It reminds me of what it would be like if you were driving during a natural disaster trying to outrun flood waters and save your family. There is no such thing as the “every other zipper pattern” merge here. It is every man for himself and it is crazy. Even though the traffic is crazy, I have not seen Ghanaians with road rage. Any anger outbursts last just a few seconds and then everyone goes on with their lives. One reason for the aggressive driving is because there are not enough traffic lights or structure. In an effort to avoid traffic on roads full of pot holes, everyone takes matters into their own hands. 

I hope this post does not come across as being too critical. The experiences I mentioned happened to occur here, but I could have just as easily written about this same topic with examples from home. Anyway, the moral of the story is: If you can develop greater awareness of how your actions affect others, people will probably like you more. 

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