She looked at me a little confused. Her nose, in the center of a clear teak complexion, crinkled slightly as she shook her head. “hair is something we do as friends, you don’t pay for it.”

I had pulled out LD ready to pay her as much for her cornrowing skill (I have more hair than most people know what to do with but she managed and managed quickly) as for her patience (I was extremely late). But she smiled softly and went to freshen up.

The other women all smiled in agreement, and I was left with a handful of bills and a feeling that I should somehow return her thoughtfulness…fearful that I would never be able to. That I would…steal it…steal is the wrong word but somehow I feel if I cannot pay it forward that I am a thief of kindness.

She finally relented and let me pay for her taxi to SKT but in hindsight I wonder if I slighted our new friendship, if my need to leave her with something cheapened her gesture. Sometimes things are lost in translation – even when everyone is speaking English.

It plays out with more than hair. People always offer to share what they have. In fact they buy more than they need in anticipation for sharing. In the field at one of the rural clinics – no food in sight – and Mary smiled and offered me a butter pear (avocado) and bread. When I demurred she commented on my unwillingness to eat with her and so I relented and made a quick sandwich which quelled the hunger rising in my belly. Gutz, Sierra Leone, Dimples, and so many others have done the same at different times. People share – full meals to snacks, rides to hair, I feel as if everything here is seen not as mine or yours but ours.

I am struck by this generosity. I don’t think the people I come in contact with on a daily basis would even name it that…would even categorize it as anything other than what you do- what is always done. But for me it is a generosity that I fear surpasses my own.

It is not my natural inclination to buy more than I need – to make more than I need in order to share. It isn’t my instinct. My instinct is to consider how much I will need and weigh that against how long it will take something to spoil in the heat. And that is what I buy.

But I am inspired, in my own little way to try to be more Liberian; to buy water or peanuts or shortbread or pineapple, not because I want it but because others might.

I wonder if kindness can be acquired over time. I hope so. I hope that I manage to ingest the innate munificence that I have been privy to and bring that home as the quintessential keepsake from my time here.

Tags: , , , , ,

1 Comment on generosity

  1. sza says:

    i wonder if you are aware of just how often you not only pay it forward, but begin the chain of kindness by simply being you. your willingness to listen, empathize, love, laugh, cry, learn, teach, grapple are only some of the ways that you display kindness.

Leave a Reply