I went to Lowes home improvement center and purchased some blinds.
I needed to have them cut down to the size of my window.
A Black African woman responded to the summons on the store PA system.
I remember talking to her a few years ago after hearing her accent. I had in my mind that she told me that she was from Liberia.
I didn't initiate any small talk with her this time because I was frustrated after having run back and forth between Lowes and Home Depot trying to the right style with sufficient quantities in stock.
As she was configuring the cutting machine a co-worker came up to her with a shopping cart full of clothes. He, a White male told her "I have a shopping cart full of goodies from my mother for your mission work".
She thanked him profusely and assured him that this help from his mother would be much appreciated.
This exchange piqued my interest.
"Where are you from?"
"I am from Sierra Leon. My husband and I run a Christian missionary outreach effort back to my native country of Sierra Leon
"Americans do not realize how fortunate you are. Just $35 could feed a group of people where I am from."
"You are correct in your assessment. Most Americans are consumer oriented. They would never be able to survive in the conditions that are in your country. Have you ever heard of 'Pennies For Pasho' the singing group from Uganda?"
"Yes, yes I am familiar with them"
"Well they came to my church earlier this summer. I was amazed to learn that these kids in the orphanage eat 3 means a day of pasho (grits) and beans. I also noticed that none of them were overweight. I also learned about "chiggers" - the fleas that embed themselves in people's feet as they walk barefoot."
"In Sierra Leon I help people to set up gardens so they can have food to sell. In my country you either produce food for consumption or for sale or you starve. You Americans have no idea. Look at this place. Window coverings for several hundreds of dollars. People in other parts of the world are focusing on basic subsistence. They appreciate the little that they have.
"I have two daughters that are here with me and a young son that is back at home with his grandmother. I want him to grow to age 18 in his native culture before I bring him to the United States"
"Ahh (like Barack Obama spent his formative years in Indonesia and Hawaii before coming to the US mainland - I thought to myself) that's a good idea. So he can know himself and not fall prey to peer pressure.
"I tell you what - If you told me that you were planning to import the American culture over to your country I would fly over there and stop you."
"Our culture is strong. The people are so poor that they have no choice but to work together and not be so materialistic. There is no money to be materialistic.
"My faith is in GOD. That he will provide a way for my people to survive. I have been working here for 15 years and things are starting to happen for me. But then I decided to turn down a manager's job because it would take me away from my mission work - that is more important to me.
"More money but less time available to coordinate my mission work is not in my best interests. I turned it down so I can focus on what GOD has called me to do. Help my people."
(I feel the same way in my own "corporate" versus "personal entrepreneurship. "Da Man" steals my talent and my work effort - giving me a salary that keeps me comfortable but too distracted to do the "break out" move that I want to do in certain areas that would create jobs and value added services for the customers)
"Let me ask you a question from your perspective about a few things. Since you are doing Christian missionary work - some of the critics in America - they are mostly secularists believe that the American right-wing evangelicals are influencing you all in order to exploit you."
"My mother has been a minister in my country for a long time. That is ridiculous. God's message is working its way through my country. We are carrying it forth".
"More specifically - how do you all address homosexuality in your country? The American secularists portray you all as IGNORANT AFRICANS who are being tricked into being anti-gay by American right-wing evangelicals"
"We just don't do homosexual relationships in my country. Everyone is so busy living in small houses. I am the oldest of 5 children. I was raised to take care of my brothers and sisters. You Americans just have too much time on your hands to involve yourselves into such things. Our culture is strong. Homosexuality is a foreign thing to my people".
"Have you ever heard of Dr Moyo, the female economist from Zambia? "
"I believe I have"
"Well she says that Africa has gotten too dependent on foreign aid. For example these clothes that you are going to send back home they come at the expense of locally produced garments that the people would manufacture, purchase and wear. What do you say to that?"
"Listen. Africa is a big, big continent. It has many regions. There might be countries there that get a lot of foreign aid. In my community - we have no foreign aid. The people have to fend for themselves.
"It might be in these other places that the money is going to the government and then the government is stealing it and it never reaches the people.
"In my missionary work I take the money and the clothing directly to the people and place it into their hands.
"I help out friends and family members with money. When I sense that they are getting dependent on me and not doing their part - I cut them off. I can look at other people who only need $10 so they can plant a crop and sell it so their children can purchase school supplies or clothing.
"We don't have a problem with foreign aid. No one is helping us. We have to help ourselves."
(I have a conference call coming up. Every time I talk to her she stops the machine because she wants to give me her undivided attention. )
"What was that web site that you gave to your co-worker?"
"This is the ministry for me and my husband. He is an American from Michigan. I got him on board by taking him to see the people in my country and how God is calling upon us to help them."