I have finally decided to go ahead with something that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time; I’ve bought a djembe and have started taking drumming lessons. As a trained musician, I take these lessons very seriously. Every day I make the journey out to meet my teacher in Ekon, a small fishing community on the outskirts of Cape Coast. He lives in a one-room house, beautifully situated on a cliff overlooking the sea. Every day, I get to learn traditional drumming techniques while enjoying the sun, the waves and the sea breeze. Ekon is a rather small community, so more often than not children and neighbors will stop by to enjoy the music.
I have also noticed that every single day, somebody will stop by and ask my drumming teacher for money. Young children needing money for school fees, a pregnant neighbor who needs to see the doctor and so on. These are people that he has decided to take “under his wing” and offer support to. There are several children in the area who can now pay their school fees and neighbors who can seek medical attention because of him. I know you’re thinking “this guy must be loaded” – but he is just an average person. He lives off of drumming lessons and what he earns from gigs. BUT, whatever he gets he shares with the people around him.
“What a nice guy” you might think – which yes, it’s true that he is a very kind and generous person. At the same time I have noticed that in Ghana, sharing really is caring. It seems that any little bit that a Ghanaian has, they will share it. Money is shared not only within the nuclear family, but the extended family as well. I have noticed teachers on campus giving money to students because “she is my brother’s wife’s cousin’s daughter.” When this money is offered, it is given freely – as opposed to the “I’ll add it to your tab” mentality. I had to borrow a few cedes the other day from my roommate, my stomach was sick and needed to get to the pharmacy. When I was finally well and could make it to the ATM, she actually refused to accept my return payment.
This mentality also extends to food. Many times when you go to get food with a Ghanaian, they will refuse to let you pay. Similarly, if I am eating in the staff lounge or in my house and someone approaches I am expected to “invite” them to my meal. Literally, “you are invited” to the food that is on my plate right now. I have been offered food in this way by complete strangers.
This is something I really admire about the people here. In Ghana, there is a very strong sense of community, and the belief seems to be that “what’s mine is yours” and vice versa. It’s amazing to me because even when someone has very little, they are still sharing. Even if by sharing they experience more hardships themselves, it is still something that they place importance on.
This spirit of generosity is truly inspiring. In the West, we don’t seem share in the same way. That’s not to say that we don’t share, and that we don’t take care of those around us. It just seems to be a key value here, I have a feeling that most Ghanaians would share their last piece of bread even if they were starving.