I believe that these three words can have more weight than “I love you”. For instance, I love people in general and I love my cat. Based on a previous definition I gave of love (Love…Anyone?), it is impersonal but also delightful.
Trust, on the other hand, is very personal. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines trust as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Sounds quite personal to me. Trust can be developed, or it can already be established, depending on the situation.
Either way, it can be lost.
Someone can love another person but feel he or she cannot trust that person. Trust is a delicate gift that requires vulnerability.
In my profession of healing and transformation, the people I serve must trust me. They trust me to keep their best interests in mind. They trust me to be knowledgeable and experienced in the services I provide. They trust me to honor their sacredness and respect their privacy. Most of my clients do not say the three words out loud, but their actions and willingness in the sessions speak to this truth.
Ultimately, when you trust someone, you are allowing yourself to be in the vulnerable space of innocence and complete surrender. One of the most detrimental things that can happen in this line of work is for the healer to violate or break the trust of their client.
I could go further into this issue, but I will focus more on things you can do (as a client) to see if someone is trustworthy. These suggestions are geared towards the healing profession; however they can also be applied to personal interactions as well:
Do your research (Is the person qualified? What do others say about their experiences with the person? What skills/characteristics are you looking for?)
Listen to your gut (Intuition supersedes intellect; Do you feel safe? Do you feel heard? Do you feel respected?)
Ask questions (Get clarification on whatever you need to.)
Express yourself (Make your requests and needs known. Then refer back to number 2.)
In a society that promotes selfishness and self-centered gains, it is important for those of us in the healing profession to be selfless and genuine about providing the service the client needs.
The MOST VITAL part of any healing relationship is TRUST.
“This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.” -Gary Lew
This is one of the reasons why I do what I do.
We live in a world where there are several, easily accessible distractions from Self and the transformative power within.
I took a hiatus from blogging and public speaking to detach and recharge from all the energetic “stuff” that has been happening, to re-mind myself of what is true for me, and to stay grounded in this knowledge by seeing through the distractions.
We can become so accustomed to looking at social media, websites, and the news that these things easily become subconscious influencers.
The next time you scroll or flip the channel, think about what you really believe, what you really desire for yourself (and the world), and if the things you are entertaining and doing match those desires. If not, put down the phone (tablet, remote, etc.), wake up from the distractions, and do something different.
Recently I posted for the “Man Crush Monday” (#MCM) social media trend for the first time ever when I was visiting Miami Beach, Florida with family.
We left the beach and walked to a nearby restaurant. A very attractive host greeted us with a dazzling smile and sparkly eyes. He was approximately 5’10” with a fit physique and perfectly sprinkled salt and pepper hair. I noticed his universal attractiveness. (Many people smiled or gasped at his appearance.) Something else that made him attractive was his kindness, patience, and that he legitimately provided great customer service. (During our trip, we discovered that not every place provided the best service, so this was a plus.)
After brief thought, I decided to post about him using the MCM tag, not only because his looks were breathtaking, but also to promote the restaurant, which served good food too.
As I mentioned, I don’t normally post for the “Man Crush Monday” or participate it in, but I decided to do something different. I posted a few pictures with him on my Instagram account and a few of the restaurant.
The first response I got was condescending. I won’t repeat the words in this post, but I will say that it was clear why the person wrote the message.
You see, the handsome gentleman at the restaurant had green eyes, short straight hair, and he was not Black. He was Cuban.
I wasn’t going to write publicly about this, but I do realize that I need to “Go There” and talk about “Race” again on this Metaphysical blog site.
I am a Black female whose ancestors were slaves (and some slave owners to be real about it). I was born and raised in the South where I have been discriminated against, called names, and prejudged because of my skin color. I am a proud descendant of slaves, knowing that I am alive today because of their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual strength.
My parents were strong enough to survive segregation and the pains of going through the Civil Rights Movement. This wonderful DNA is in me now. Their evolutionary spirits are in me now. I am proud of who I am.
With this being said, I have always been attracted to men, whether they are the same skin color or not.
When I was in elementary school, I had a crush on a classmate named Owen. He had blonde hair and hazel-green eyes. Unfortunately, I was not blind to our differences, so I asked a female adult “mentor” how she would feel if I liked a White guy. Imagine a six or seven-year-old asking you this question. The “mentor” said, “I prefer you stick with your own kind.” As a very young child, I felt disappointed with her advice and felt like she was telling me that my feelings were wrong in some way. I also wondered, “Why did she say, ‘kind’? Aren’t we both human?”
Despite my disappointment, I continued playing with Owen on the playground and cherished my time with him. He was fun and affectionate. (As affectionate as you can be on a rated G level). Neither of us said anything about liking each other, but we always found each other and played together until the time was up.
One day, I was given the opportunity to transfer to a new school and my teachers and classmates knew I would be leaving soon. Owen and I kept on doing our “play dates”.
On my last day, I overheard and witnessed two classmates picking on Owen. They said to him, “Ha-ha! That’s why you like a Black girl! That’s why you like Dana!”
I felt happy and sad at the same time. Happy to know he liked me back. Sad to see him get pushed around and picked on for liking me. I transferred to my new school and never told him how I really felt.
I learned my lesson though. When high school rolled around, I didn’t hold back. My “high school sweetheart” was a 6’3”, blonde haired, and blue-eyed football player. It was during the relationship with him that I learned not to focus on what other people thought about me.Black and White people alike called us names, stared at us nastily, and had underhanded things to say about us being together.
In my mind, I kept thinking, “This is so crazy! They don’t like this because our skin is different! What century are we in?” As the behaviors continued, my thoughts changed and my fear dissolved. I gained clarity. I began to recognize, “They don’t like this because of their ignorance. They don’t like this, and it’s THEIR problem, not mine.”
I’m not blind to our history and the painful things that continue to happen in our world today. I am not blind to the stereotypes about Black people and how we are wrongfully portrayed in the media. But, to try forcing myself or anyone else to be blind to LOVE just because a person is a different skin color or culture is completely inhumane to me.
I love who I love. He can be as dark as the night sky with a smile like the moon and eyes like stars. He can have hair as light as sand and eyes as blue as the midday sky. I love who I love, and I have the freedom to do so.
We, as humans are beautiful. We are culturally diverse and flavorful. Ultimately, we are made of dust. No matter our skin color or our culture, when our physical bodies die, they all return to the Earth.
This is the SAME Earth we share right now, while we are living.
Communication is the most important aspect to any and every relationship. There are different types of communication: Verbal, Nonverbal, and Paraverbal. PLUS, your Energetic Space/Aura/Overall Vibe communicates to others as well.
As a counselor, coach, and speaker, I am constantly communicating. However, I too have made the mistake of misjudging or making assumptions while communicating with others (especially in my personal life). These mistakes can be costly…leading to hurt feelings, lack of depth, and even loss of the relationships.
Maybe you just celebrated Valentine’s Day or an anniversary of some sort. Good job, you’re on the right track! Now, take a step back and see what your partner, friend, coworker, etc. is communicating to you. We can dive into the different types of communication here:
Nonverbal Communication– Most of our communication is nonverbal, meaning it is not what we say, but everything else. You may have heard this before, but let’s break this down into 2 main parts of nonverbal communication.
1. Proxemics-This is a fancy word that describes how physically close the person is to you, or you to the other person. Typically, the more physical closeness indicates more intimacy (emotional, mental, physical, etc.)
2. Kinesics-This is the fancy word to describe what most people would call body language. This includes movements, gestures, and facial expressions
Paraverbal Communication– Our vocal part of speech, which is our tone, volume, and how fast or slow we talk.
I am often a fast talker. Get me excited, and I talk faster. When I work with the people I serve, I am mindful of this, and I adjust. It makes a world of difference to have an even pace and a calm tone.
The way you say something matters!
Examples: “I didn’t say you were dumb.”– Say this with an even tone. Now try this one, “I didn’t say you were DUMB.” -Emphasize the last word. If you say this out loud, you can see that one of them is not meant to insult, whereas the other may cause conflict.
Of course, the other type of communication that I will address here is…
Verbal Communication: It is the use of words to relay a message or express an idea.
This is where many of us get caught up. In the emotional tornado of a moment, we might forget to pause and use mindful communication instead of emotionally driven words.
Let’s tie this in with conflict resolution. If there is conflict, I ask that you try these two things: Be willing to be wrong. Be willing to apologize.
Just an FYI: Conflict is a natural occurrence. The term has been blown up into great proportions meaning war, fighting, and death, but in reality, conflict is a simple, and organic process. Conflict arises because there are different perspectives within the same situation or regarding the same topic. It’s just that simple. We are individuals, so by default, there will be times when we do not have the same point of view. That is the core of conflict. It has been over-sensationalized through media. (That may be for another blog).
One of the keys to facing conflict and communicating effectively is to use Mindful Communication.
7 Core Guidelines for Mindful Communication: 1. LISTEN(And appear like you are listening)-As a counselor, I have gone through several hours of training to be more present with others as they share with me. We call it active listening. You don’t have to be a therapist to actively listen. The concept is simple: Make eye contact, don’t speak-unless you are affirming or encouraging the other to continue sharing, keep your body open, LISTEN FOR FEELINGS, and SEEK to UNDERSTAND what is being said.
Mindfulness Tip for #1–Detach emotionally. Keep in mind that the person you are listening to has something that he or she needs to express. Think to yourself, “Let me be here now. There is something that this person needs to say. I am listening.”
2. REFLECT or RESTATE WHAT YOUR HEARD-Do this BEFORE you share anything about your point of view.
Sometimes this step gets lost. Unfortunately, I have been guilty of this at times. For example, if your partner says, “I worked really hard to get those things that you wanted taken care of, and you don’t appreciate it.”
Be mindful and attentive to these things about your partner: Tone of voice, Energy level, Facial expressions, and mood. Notice…how close is the person to you physically?
Before you start saying your response, do this: A) Listen for the feeling being conveyed; B) Make eye contact (non-threatening); then C) Start with a statement acknowledging what you think you heard. “I hear you saying that you don’t feel appreciated for the hard work you did for me.”
3. CLARIFY: After you restate, check in with the person to make sure you got it right. “Did I hear you correctly?”Truth of the matter is that the person will let you know what’s up and if you got it right. This part is VALUABLE. Clarifying gives you the opportunity to understand the other person. At the very basic level, we communicate in order to express ourselves and to be understood. Understanding someone does not mean that you agree with what is said. It means that you are grasping the view of another’s perspective. Once you have gained clarity, then you can share your point of view from a more accurate perspective because you are identifying the real “issue.”
Mindfulness Tip for #3–Be patient and BREATHE. Take a moment to reflect on the person’s underlying message. Do not get swept away in emotions or the person’s emotional response. Ask, with the sole intention to get clear on what the person is saying.
4. OWN YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS, and share them: Use “I” statements instead of “You did this…”, “You make me…” etc.
Example: “When you say that I do not appreciate you, I feel hurt. I understand what you are feeling and what made you feel that way. I did not see it that way, and I was not aware of your disappointment. I have been working several extra hours each day and I feel more tired than usual.”
Mindfulness Tip for #4–Take a few calming, deep breaths and FOCUS ON YOUR HEART chakra. This is the space where you have affinity for others (and self). Speak from this place.
5. CHECK IN AGAIN AND SUMMARIZE: Allow the person to reflect back to you for clarity. (Make sure to use all the other skills mentioned above if needed.)
6. COMPROMISE/RESOLUTION: Remember the main reason for conflict? It is because different perspectives are related to the same situation. Often, there is a common ground or a space for compromise. During this step, request or offer a solution.
Example: “What would you like for me to do differently?”
Apply the skills from steps 1-5 again. Stay on the same topic! Focus only on 1 thing at this time.
Mindfulness tip for #6–BREATHE and remember that A SOLUTION IS ALREADY PRESENT
7. RE-ADDRESS the concern later on: This step might not be needed every time. However, if you and the other person aren’t able to address the issue well enough at the time it is presented, set a date to come back to it. A refreshed point of view about a conflict can make it easier to resolve.
Take these steps into consideration every time you are communicating with someone. This is the practice of mindful communication. It aids in developing healthy communication styles, preventing or resolving conflict, and developing a greater level of understanding.
Communicated with love, Dana D. Robinson (Intuitive Dana)
What would this world be like without music? I cannot imagine. I grew up with a passion for music. My earliest memory of it is when I was approximately 2 years old, hands held high for my mother to pick me up, but she wasn’t able to because she was hand- washing dishes. She looked down at me and said, “Not yet, wait one moment honey.” She began humming and singing a soothing song as she cleaned. I recall slowly putting my arms to my side and listening to her while feeling peace in my heart. During my early childhood, my two oldest siblings took piano lessons. They would come home and play the songs that they learned. I would ask them to play the songs, laugh contentedly, and then ask them to play the songs over and over again. Eventually, they became annoyed or exhausted and stopped. There came…
Recently I stepped away from all of the activities that I do in the big city in order to spend some quality time with my family members at the beach. I went on this trip with the intention of healing and to build stronger bonds with my family.
This mini vacation was manifested from a combination of desires that my sister and I both had. She wanted to take her two sons on one more special trip to the beach before they went back to school, and I wanted to spend more personal time with her. The Law of Attraction delivered her a prize from a drawing which included a trip for 4, lots of free and kid-friendly events, and a few days at a nice hotel directly across from the dusty white sands of the beach.
It was pretty awesome.
During this time away, I had a much-needed opportunity to take a step back and observe the path I have been walking so far. There is something about being near the water, especially the ocean, which cleanses me and puts me in tune with Source unlike any other part of nature.
I reflected on how I started the beginning of the year, and I slowly took note of the things that have manifested since the first day of January. I asked for clarity and assurance of my next steps as I dive deeper into my calling and take greater leaps during these last four months of the year.
One thing about being in nature is that an answer is always waiting to reveal itself. I was riding on a boat, breathing in the refreshing air, and staring meditatively at the ocean waves when a group of dolphins appeared. It was five of them, and each one came up of out of the water to say hello before diving back into the deep. I was asking Spirit a question, and they were my answer.
A few of the dolphins that appeared.
One evening, my sister, my nephews, and I left the beach and headed back to our rooms to get ready for dinner. She turned on the television and it was on the Weather Channel. They were doing a segment on double rainbows and explaining the scientific conditions that make them occur. She and I briefly watched the segment, commented on how neat that was, then continued getting ready. I had a quiet thought in my mind, “I wonder if I will ever see a double rainbow.”
The next day was our departure date. We loaded up the car and headed back towards our hometown. The weather was unusual, with patches of scattered showers and sunshine throughout the drive. I continued asking Spirit for answers to questions, and excitedly noted the signs in nature. I saw beautiful deer, turtles, and other animals along the ride.
We came to a four-way stop in a small town when I noticed a rainbow in the sky. “Look, a rainbow,” I said to my sister. She smiled and expressed gratitude that it was there. In that moment, I thought to myself again, “I wonder if I will ever see a double rainbow.”
Rainbow that was present for almost an hour
We kept driving, and the one rainbow stayed in our sight for nearly an hour. It felt magical. Then my sister pointed and squealed with delight, “Double rainbow! Double rainbow!” I looked up and saw a double rainbow in the sky. I said to her, “You know, I was just thinking to myself if I would ever see a double rainbow.” She looked at me with wide eyes and said, “I was thinking the same thing too!”
Look closely, and you will see the double rainbow.
And there it was. We laughed and chatted like we used to as little girls. She pulled the car over, and I took several pictures and even made a video. It definitely was magical, healing, and inspiring indeed.
You may wonder why I am telling you about this experience. Because I want you to know that:
Double rainbows do exist.
For me, a “double rainbow” was something that seemed like it was impossible for me to experience or witness.
What is your “double rainbow”– that thing that you think is impossible?
Is it World peace, healing from an illness, unconditional love?
This simple message is to let you know that it is NOT impossible.
Approximately 5 days prior to my return from my journey in Ghana, many people started messaging me frequently. Most of the messages said one of two things: “When are you coming home?” or “You’ll be coming home soon!” I kept on receiving those messages almost daily. I felt conflicted when I read them. By this point, I had gotten accustomed to being away from the US, and was excitedly exploring areas of Ghana on my own.
In the beginning of the trip, I was anxiously trying to make sure that I had access to wifi. I have this app on my phone (that I will keep anonymous for now) that allows me to communicate with anyone across the globe who also has the app. The more that I let go of my fears about being overseas, the less that I looked at my phone to see if there was a wifi connection. So, by the time I had reached the closing of my trip, I really did not overwhelm myself with using the app, unless I was talking with the locals and a few friends.
Plus, part of the conflict I was experiencing was because I kept thinking and wanting to reply, “I AM home.”
I loved walking freely down the streets with the locals, smiling, wearing my summer dresses, eating fried or fire-baked plantains, slurping down the sweet chunks of local pineapple, and having heartfelt discussions with fellow young adults about ways we can unify our world.
I was definitely Home.
Yet the time came for me to leave. I was very upset, but checked in with my heart and got clear: “All is in Divine Order and there is a reason for my return at this time”.
I got on the plane heading back to the US. It was going to be at least an 11-hour flight into JFK airport, and then another 3 hours or so back to Atlanta. I wanted to stay awake for most of the trip, so I decided to watch movies while I was on the plane. There were several choices, but I was drawn to two particular films. I watched Selma and 12 Years A Slave during my flight back to the United States of America…coming from Ghana, West Africa.
Notice any irony?
Needless to say, I am not sure what drew me to those films (and I knew what they were about), but watching them during the flight had more of an impact than I had imagined. I cried, felt disgusted, and was reminded of another fact about the foundational history of the place I was heading to.
So many thoughts and emotions rolled through me. My parents, who are in their late 60’s and early 70’s now, were once forced to use public amenities that were for “Coloreds/Blacks Only”. They went to schools that were segregated. They saw the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. inreal time. My dad marched in demonstrations, and I recalled marching with him and local members of the community as a very young girl in order to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr’s activism when he visited my home town. (Where he was arrested, by the way.)
Then I landed on US soil. I made it back into Atlanta, Georgia, and attempted to re-assimilate myself into American culture by catching up on the latest news. The first thing that I heard about was another shooting of an African American male. I turned off the news and sat in silence for a few hours. I felt numb and heavily detached, because I knew (and know) that this does not have to be.
Not long after that, the shootings in Charleston occurred. Once again, I thought about my experience in Ghana, and then recalled what I was witnessing here in America. It was challenging to go from an environment that oozes with freedom into a place that began to feel oppressive and constrictive. But I always remember that I have choice, andI can choose my own thoughts.
From our thoughts, our feelings and behaviors are affected. We can choose to interact with our environment from an intentional and positive mindset.
Yet, I still chose to reflect upon the history of America…briefly.
Many Americans know that this country was built from the desires of ego-centered men who seemed to have lacked understanding of the True Essence of humanity as a whole. Here it is, the 4th of July, where many of us Americans celebrate Independence Day. Yet, what is really being celebrated? The signing of the Declaration of Independence is not completely about freedom. (I also learned that some colonists did not sign it until an anti-slavery clause was taken out of it, but that may be for another blog post.)
Essentially, the 4th of July is celebrated because the colonies chose to declare their independence from Britain. The colonists were upset with Britain because they were being taxed, feeling stressed, and various rules were placed upon them that they did not like. But think about it…aren’t these same types of taxations and rules in existence in the country right now?
So I ask you, “What are you celebrating?”
I love this line in Bob Marley’s Redemption Song:
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind.”
One of the reasons I named my company Metaphysical Freedom is because Freedom first begins in the mind. For example: The colonists who declared their freedom from Britain first had to THINK they could be free from British rule. The slaves who fought for freedom first had to THINK that they could be free. The activists who marched for Civil Rights first had to THINK that change was possible.
I encourage you to recognize the power of your mind and the unshakable freedom that you have from owning your own thoughts and creating your experience from your authentic mind. Not from what someone else has told you, and NOT based on history. History does NOT have to repeat itself, and would not be able to if we renewed our minds and evolved.
You and I KNOW that there is a better way for ALL of us to live on this planet, and that is in HARMONY with it and each other.
I toured a small portion of the country and gathered as much information as I could about the people, culture, language, and customs. Most of the Ghanaian people are Christian, and there is also a large Muslim population as well. The day after Easter Sunday, I visited the beautiful Aburi Botanical Gardens for an Easter Monday festival. There was a live band, picnics, dancing, singing, games, and lots of food everywhere. I noticed the FREEDOM of the people, unlike anything else I have ever experienced. Everywhere that I looked, everyone was walking around confidently, laughing, smiling, and LIVING in the moment. I loved every moment of it!
Without me saying a word, people noticed that I was “different”and often asked if I was African at all. A few people said to me that my skin was too light, so they were willing to believe I was from South Africa. I found that hard to believe, because I have a brown complexion. (Then, I jokingly thought about the 13% of my lineage that is European.) After this happened frequently, I learned very quickly not to be bothered by these statements because I knew that it was only curiosity.
I met two young men in their 20’s at Aburi. Their names were Francis and Joe. They were excited to meet an American and asked me hundreds of questions. The first thing they said was, “Are you a Black American?” I nodded. Francis and Joe expressed that they wanted to come to America so that they can have jobs and live a good life. I did not want to discourage them, but I was realistic and told them that many people in America are having difficulty finding work. They looked puzzled so I explained more about the American economy until they understood.
I asked Francis and Joe for their Ghanaian names. With hesitance, they told me. Then, they asked me what my African name was. I told them that I did not know. They looked so surprised at me and asked why I didn’t know. I had to explain to them how slavery impacted my family (and many others) to the point where I could not tell them my whole lineage or my ancestors’ names. They continued to look surprised and a little empathetic.
We continued our conversations and talked about several issues facing each country. I wanted them to know how much freedom they truly have and how amazing life can be, right where they were. I ended up talking to them for a few hours, but it was worth it. After our conversation, they each told me their native names again, and with pride.
New friends Francis and Joe at Aburi
There are talented young people in Ghana. I met Jacob during some downtime. Jacob is a creative and fashion-forward young adult. He makes handbags, shoes, accessories, clothing, and much more…ALL BY HAND. As I learned more about him, I discovered that he had given a large portion of his products to someone in another country who paid him little to nothing for it and now sells it in her store for 120x’s more. I encouraged Jacob to share his work globally using social media, instead of just in Ghana. I pointed out to him that he spends a lot of time and effort to do his work, so he should get back what it is worth. He agreed, and has started working with a Facebook page to share his work. (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ja-Creation/832268476851066)
Jacob, a talented and fashion-forward guy. He makes shoes, clothing, handbags, and accessories. By the way, he made the bookbag in this picture.
Hanging out with Jacob and taking selfies at a local Lounge in Tema
I also had the pleasure of meeting Kingsford. He is another young adult, and he works in one of the small shops in the Accra Arts Center area. He was cool, kind, and made very nice bracelets…BY HAND. I supported his business by getting personalized bracelets made. I would sit in the chair and chat with him while he made them.
Kingsford making a personalized bracelet.
Giving Kingsford a goodbye hug and thanking him.
My next to last week in Ghana, I stayed at the home of a missionary woman. She worked with several organizations and had numerous projects. One day, she asked if I could sit in on a meeting and give feedback based on my perspective. I agreed. The meeting was at the Malku Institute of Technology. The topic of interest was marketing and social media. I gave my honest opinion and shared research that I had read. Surprisingly to me, I was asked to come back and present a workshop to the core staff about the topic. I was thrilled to do so, and I put together a simple presentation to assist them in the best way that I knew how.
As I continued with the intention to connect with the Ghanaian people, I discovered that the ones I connected with were ones who needed to be encouraged and reminded that they are worthy of greatness. (Don’t we all need that?!)
Here is another person that I met. Thomas, pictured below. He was my cab driver during my last week in Ghana. Thomas is 70 years old, and has 2 adult children living in New York. He and I had great conversations about spirituality, religion, and stages of the lifespan. Thomas shared that he feels like his time on Earth is about to be up. He said, “My kids are grown and a lot of my friends are dead.” I expressed to him that there is so much life to live right now. He smiled when we talked and shared, “I wish we could have met sooner so we can really talk about Life!” Before I left, he commanded me, “You come back in a year, and I want to meet your husband and baby.” This statement made me laugh.
All in all, I loved to hear Thomas’s perspective, yet most importantly, he also appreciated my willingness to listen.
By the last week of my trip, most people said to me, “Are you Ghanaian? You look Ghanaian.” I was so amused by this because the only thing that changed for me was that I felt less like a tourist or visitor and more like I was at home.
When my host family asked me how I felt about being in Africa and specifically in Ghana, I replied: “I see the faces of my friends and family in the people here.”
It easily felt like home, indeed.
Think about this:
The more we seek to understand each other, the less and less we support the false barriers that exist between us.
Joe gifted me with a bracelet and asked to be a lifelong friend.
One of the many reasons that I traveled to Ghana and spent a month there is because I wanted to learn more about my African roots. One of my siblings did the DNA genealogy test to help us to determine what regions/countries that our ancestors came from. To me, the test results were…well…they weren’t very conclusive. They read something like: Overall 85% from Africa (of course), then it was broken down into countries- Cameroon/Congo 31%, Ivory Coast/Ghana 26%, Nigeria 10%, and traces of Senegal 7%, Mali 4%, Togo/Benin 4%, and the South-Eastern Bantu region 2%. The other percentages were roughly 13% European and 2% Central Asian. When I first heard the results, I asked, “What does that really mean?” I don’t believe that the same borders or boundaries existed when my early ancestors were living freely on the land hundreds of years ago, so I figured that Ghana would be a good place in West Africa to learn at least something about the people I come from.
I grew up in South Georgia with small beginnings on family farmland in the countryside. The farms were former plantations. I remember having family get-togethers outside where we fried fish in a large pot of oil over an open flame. We had live animals running around…horses, pigs, chickens, and the family dogs. My uncles loved cooking Brunswick stew, or bringing back fresh fish from the local river. My dad would cut sugar cane, and we all enjoyed chewing it to get the sweet “juice”. I remember when I was very young, I used to sit on my great grandmother’s porch overlooking the farmland and help her to “shuck” corn.
Some of the houses were more like shacks because they were built by family members and had tin roofs. We called some of them “shotgun” houses because you could walk into the front door and see straight through the house all the way to the back door.
Even when we moved to the city, we continued some of our lifestyle. We grew plums, pecans, figs, blackberries, and peppers in our own yard.
Life was simple and rich.
Sogakope, Ghana in the Volta Region felt the most like my hometown to me. There were mostly dirt roads, several handmade houses, and the people were laid-back.
A few homes in Sogakope
Mango tree in the yard
Food stand: Pineapple, yam, plantain, palm nuts, and chopped sugar cane (at the bottom)
Laid-back moto riders relaxing by a “shack”
Something else that was interesting to me was related to funerals.My family usually wears black to funerals. However, if it is a grandparent that dies, we (as grandchildren) wear white instead. I don’t remember questioning why we had this tradition.
During my time in Ghana, I learned that red, black, and white are the funeral colors for Ghanaians. The people wear red if it is a young person who has passed away. They wear black if it is an adult/middle-aged person. They wear white if it is an elderly person. I felt a sense of satisfaction with this information and pondered if our family tradition was a watered-down version of an ancestral practice.
One final thing that caught my attention and felt comforting was the clothes-washing. Almost everyone hand-washes their clothing and hangs them out on a line to dry. My parents grew up doing the same thing, and they did the same for us. At some point, we had a washing machine, but we NEVER had a dryer, so we used a clothesline. As a teen, I used to be ashamed of it, but now I smile joyfully about it. (Plus, it is very environmentally friendly.)
Clothes hanging on the clothesline at a university guest house.
These small similarities made me feel more at ease in the “foreign” country. I started to pay more conscious attention to the people, and began to see familiarity in all of them.
It is such a pleasure to notice the small things that connect us all as a people.