The One Way In Which Africa Will Make You More Human
Resetting your perspective can be a humbling exercise
Human beings are social animals. We live in communities. Children will make friends every day, striking immediate and unfiltered relationships with anyone around them. The directness and honesty of these instant relationships sometimes make us laugh.
And the fact is, we find it funny because we have been trained not to behave socially with most people. We, grown ups, leave home every morning with our barriers up. We avoid interaction with strangers, not to be disturbed. We don’t want to be touched.
How many times have you started a conversation with the stranger sitting next to you on the bus, recently?
But it should not always be like that. In fact, in some cultures the opposite is the norm.
Let me tell you a story
1st January, 2017.
While returning home after our New Years Eve party in Cape Town (South Africa), a few friends and I stop at the Chapman’s Peak tollgate. A middle-aged, tired looking lady is manning the tollbooth. It’s around 3am.
While we’re sorting out the money for the toll fee, one of my African friends strikes up a conversation with the woman, saying: “Happy new year to you! I am so sorry you have to spend it here.” The woman leans out from her window, and replies with a smile — “Oh, don’t be sorry, I don’t mind it at all. I have everything I could want.” As she notes our surprise, she continues — “I asked for work and here I am, with a job, so I have exactly what I wanted. I could not be happier”.
While counting out our change, she adds with a smile — “I have decided I am starting 2017 with a positive attitude. Nobody can take that away from me.” My friend stares at her for a few seconds, and then says — “Well said! I will go into 2017 with the same attitude as yours. Thank you!”
This way of real human interaction is something I have observed in Africa since I started visiting the continent in 2007. Refreshing and comforting, isn’t it? It is all about developing our awareness. About getting out of our comfort zone. Away from our learned attitude. About bringing down the walls, and experimenting with this concept that I have defined as Positive Exchange.
Would you dare to give it a try?
Next time, why not going beyond the strict call of duty and forgetting about trading formalities for once? You could ask the name of that waiter serving your table, and thank him or her as you leave. Or you could ask the lady manning the till at the supermarket if she, too, is having a nice day.
Make it your goal to end the day having made contact with at least one random stranger, for no reason and expecting nothing in return. Something amazing could happen. You may be humbled. You may feel, as I did, like a human being connected to mankind again.