Voice and action. Voice and action. To have one but not the other often leads to fights, confusion, and the stagnancy of a people if others are not willing to pick up the slack, help, or just take the time to TRY and understand. I was moved to write this blog for some time now, and had started a couple of drafts previously, but it felt too contrived. My closest friend here, Shamora (pictured below avec moi regarder la plaige), told me to just wait until I could just be by myself and reflect. Anyone who knows me knows that I couldn’t pass up giving her my sarcastic reply of , “thanks captain obvious,” (for laughs of course), but those were just the words I needed to hear at the time. She preceded to lend me her tiny Toshiba laptop to use if I were so called to write before arriving at work tomorrow, and as I sit here typing in my host family’s living room, I cannot help but think about how quick new friendships can grow by relying upon one’s voice and actions.
“Relationships, who really needs ‘em!” are words taken from one of my favorite Jamie Foxx stand-up performances, but is this statement really true? Of course not, because as presented to me here everyday in Senegal, there are many kinds. Our first instinctive thought after reading the word ‘relationship’ is more than likely that of a man and woman holding hands, skipping down the sidewalk that leads to their home of love, right?! But here in Senegal, I realize the word means so much more; it brings about cultural roles, duties, responsibility, family ties, communal gatherings for fellowship and prayer, and long-lasting friendships. From a child to the old, it seems as if everybody is tied to someone in effort to maintain a progressive state for the people of Senegal. For instance, my host family is pretty well off. They have maids, a guard, a cook, a driver, and a gated home equipped with a snazzy doorbell. They dress well, and look as if they could have the care in the world of how the Taliban children, who fight for shelter amongst the crevices of Kaolack, were doing on a daily basis. I say this not because they are wealthy people, but because my little American mind could not fathom the relationships that my family has with community friends and leaders of ever crossing paths with these desperate and needy children. But I was proven wrong as my family faithfully feeds the neighborhood children everyday with whatever leftovers there might be. And this is not just my family, but our neighbors, the farmers, the shop owners, and even the families struggling to feed their own; they all give.
The communal relationship has lost its lack-luster in America. I will not say that it has become completely extinct, but I will definitely admit to it not being one of my major priorities when I wake up in the morning. Being here in Kaolack lets me realize where my actions and voice fall less than par, and it shows me how I can get that balance back. Families here eat 3 meals a day, TOGETHER, with dinner usually being served around 10pm. People greet each other with at least 3 different sayings before continuing their walk to work, market, friend’s house, or school. Even the most shunned upon street animals (cats and dogs: American’s favorites) are seen munching upon leftovers placed outside of family’s residences more frequent then we are to adopt an American child in foster care, resolve our issues with childhood friends gone astray, or even spare a ‘hello’ to a complete stranger.
In closing, I did not post this particular post to get you to psychoanalyze your life and the people in/out of it, but only to share my thoughts and hope that maybe you too will begin to think about what the true meaning of a relationship really is. Whether lovers, friends, or foes, there is always a meaning behind why we meet certain people, and let some go. But if your voice and actions can be used to strengthen those failing relationships or even begin new ones with those in need, use them and see where it gets you. I feel the Senegalese use their voices and act accordingly, and have a better grasp of what a relationship between 2 really is. Let us as Americans learn from others for once.