I wasn’t sure what I was looking at through my camera, but I knew Floyd would later explain it to me.
In many villages, where the street ends, the paths begin. Floyd and I had just visited the home of Zulpha and her grandmother and were heading back to the truck. The path led us close to a cluster of block houses with dirt floors and children playing in the yard, which was also dirt.
The Swahili word for Floyd’s last name, Hammer, is nyundo. So, in Tanzania, Floyd is called Baba Nyundo (Father Nyundo).
The children swirled around us, tugging at our hands and wanting us to stop. One young lad motioned to Floyd, so Floyd knelt down and the little child reached up and touched the top of his head. I knew it was significant, but I had no idea what it meant.
It was a sign of respect. Africa taught me about respecting our elders.
In another place, we were outside of the primary school where and Floyd pointed out the rim of an old wheel that was hanging in the tree. Next to it was a broken part of a hoe – known as a jambi. Each morning, after the children had all arrived and were in their seats, one of the children would bang the wheel with that broken hoe to signal the teachers they were ready for school.
It was a sign of respect. Africa taught me about respect for education.
Another very unusual circumstance taught me about respect but it took a while for me to figure that part out.
Nearly 20 years ago when I went to Africa for my first time, I went to Ghana, which is in West Africa, clear across the country from Tanzania, which is in East Africa.
In several of the rural villages we visited, it was not uncommon for women to walk about with bare breasts. Although I had grown up with National Geographic magazines which had photos of the same, my Puritan father had summarily taken a magic marker and drawn across those breasts to make sure my young heart stayed pure. Not sure it worked, but he tried.
So when I saw the first women in Africa with a bare breast, I must confess I was a bit startled and not sure how to handle it. Jeff and I had our two teenage sons with us and you can bet if we didn’t know how to handle it, they didn’t either.
Although, culturally, that scene just wouldn’t fly in the US, it didn’t take long for us to get over our awkwardness and realize it was just not a big deal at all. It was just a part of their culture and did not have one thing to do with lust or sex. We respected their culture and behaved ourselves accordingly.
Africa taught me how to respect other people’s cultures.
However, the most unusual thing happened upon our return to America. Do you recall the Super Bowl where the term, “wardrobe malfunction,” was coined? One male performer appeared to rip the fabric away from a female performer’s breast revealing a bit of nipple.
For the next month, that incident became the obsession of our country.
The confusing part for me was that I had just returned from Africa and had seen dozens of bare breasted women and it was just not a big deal at all. Why was America making such a fuss over a split second of bared flesh on television?
It was a sign of disrespect for our culture. Those two performers were disrespectful to the family atmosphere of football, to the laws of FCC, to the laws of America and, in general, to the game of football itself.
Respect. I looked it up:
- A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
- Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others.
Floyd is the founder and President of The Outreach Program, and in recent conversions about culture, he summed it up pretty well; respect. If we start with respect each other, culture takes care of itself.
I see people post things about what their “word” is for 2020. I’m going to make mine, “Respect.”
If I can get that right, I can get a whole lot of things right.
To read the first part of the series, click on the links below!