I have spent the past twelve years of my life climbing the educational ladder in this country. Easier class to harder class. Lower grade to higher grade. Middle school to high school. I have learned much these past twelve years, and of course I am grateful for that, but never have I learned more than when I journeyed to the Akuapem Hills in Ghana, Africa for a two-week care and community service project.
I am not talking about pre-calculus or chemistry, world history or Tolstoy. The type of learning I did last summer goes much further than that, much deeper than that. I learned how to be a real human being.
Now, I do not mean to pose a philosophical question – I assume you are living and breathing, as am I – but instead I wish to touch on the moral realities of the modern world. Technology has made us as connected as ever to one another, yet paradoxically we are further away from each other than we have ever been. We are in our own impenetrable bubbles, in our countries, our communities, our homes, ourselves. How many families make time every day to eat meals together? How many know their neighbors, like really know them? How many choose to visit a friend instead of just texting them? How many walk to their destinations instead of hopping into our fancy, metal cages with wheels?
The modern, technological world has caused us to disregard the old and traditional human values. It took a trip to an underdeveloped country for me to realize the truth about our “new and improved” ways, to learn once again what it means to be human. The country was foreign, and frankly, so were the lessons.
Lesson 1: Appreciate. This is the first lesson volunteers for working in third-world countries. I was not exclusive of this during my stay in the Akuapem Hills, especially since my project consisted of freshening up a primary school with some sanding and a new coat of paint. Right away, many of the kids approached us to call our work “beautiful” or to say “meda ase,” meaning thank you in Twi. Such a small transformation received such an overwhelming expression of thanks. Another time, “Azonto,” a popular dancing song in Ghana, came on in our taxi while we were waiting for another group of volunteers. So, we blasted the stereo and danced along with the local village children. The Ghanaians appreciate every opportunity they have, and while I was there, I felt the same joy they have in doing such.
Lesson 2: Love. Of course we have love in our country, but I learned that it can and should extend to more than just family, friends, and partners. Love with the Ghanaians is between neighbors, visitors, strangers, the world, and life itself. The most memorable thing my host family mother said to me was that she was my Ghanaian mother, and I truly believe that she loved me while I was there. She held me when I cried or was sick, cooked meals for me, and shared with me the stories of her life. I hope to love others as I know she does. To us, Ghanaians and other poorer peoples appear to have nothing, but we are wrong. In actuality, they have much more because of their ability to love everything they do have.
I took many pictures, many souvenirs, and many, many memories back home with me, but these lessons were the most rewarding things I took that summer. To appreciate and love. That is to really be human.
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