I was at a park in the US pushing my two children (who were 13 mos. and 3 yrs at the time) on swings, when I noticed a little girl who looked about 2 years old with dirty blonde hair which looked like it hadn’t been combed in days. Her clothes were filthy and stained with probably whatever she last ate. Her mother was sitting on a bench across the park and the little girl went over to her and started eating Cheetohs (an artificially flavored and bright orange colored cheese chip) right from a bag her mother held open for her. I remember thinking, “I would NEVER EVER let my child look like that or eat Cheetohs!! Doesn’t that mother care about her child?”
Fast forward a few months and my family moved to Lagos, Nigeria. I cannot tell you the “culture shock” I experienced moving there. One of the things which stood out to me most was the child rearing practices I would see along the streets from the windows of my car. There were small children in their school uniforms riding on the back of okadas (small motorcycles). There were children walking to school with no shoes. There were mothers selling their goods from large trays on their heads along with their young children helping them. Shouldn’t those children be riding in a car with car seats?? Shouldn’t those children have shoes on their feet? Shouldn’t, shouldn’t, shouldn’t????
What kind of place was this??? Didn’t these people care about their children??? My head was spinning!
When I started going out to the beach school with a charity I helped with, I remember walking into the small structure with its modest roof and open windows next to sky high coconut trees and seeing the children sitting on benches like sardines and repeating over and over what the teacher had written on the chalk board. As a teacher, I was floored that there was still teaching happening as if it was coming from the 1800’s. Shouldn’t they know better? Shouldn’t they be sitting in cooperative learning groups?
I walked around with the missionary who started the school and she talked to me in her Yoruba- English about supplies they needed. I was ready for her to tell me they needed paper, pencils, manipulatives. Instead she told us they needed bleach ( to sanitize the water from the well for drinking), a new boat because that was the only way many of the children could get to school in this fishing community, life jackets because many of the children cannot swim even though they lived on the Atlantic Ocean. I remember being floored! The missionary was so happy that we came out to help that she gave every one of us on the committee coconuts to take home with us as payment because she had no money to give us. One of the ways the village made money was to sell the coconuts, and when I realized that, my heart was forever touched in a way I will never forget.
It struck me that I had spent all the previous months living in Lagos judging people in a life I had no way of ever truly understanding. The children riding on the backs of okadas were using the only affordable method of getting to school. The parents of the children walking without shoes were probably working to sell their goods and just didn’t have enough money to pay for new shoes. The missionary at the beach school was providing an education to the students in her school the only way she knew how, and she was preparing them for the life they would be leading. Not the life I thought they should lead.
I realized that living in the US I had been living in a sort of bubble. I never knew how blessed in education, always having food to eat and parents to take care of me I really was until I moved to Nigeria. I have gained a new appreciation and a new perspective on mothering. Judgment is everywhere and I have been/am definitely a culprit of it . Too many times, I think we, as mothers, rush to snap decisions about other mothers without understanding the entire story. People are not meant to be judged by a one word answer but more like an essay question. Read the whole essay, and then try to understand the situation.
I am American and I grew up in the “land of the free”. With that freedom comes the freedom of having your own thoughts but also remembering that other people can have their own thoughts about things as well. Accepting something does not mean you condone it, but it does show tolerance and compassion for others which is something I hope both my children were able to see while living in Nigeria. I know my eyes are wide open now.
When and where do you find yourself judging others? How will you teach your children not to judge others?
This is an original post by Meredith for World Mom’s Blog. Meredith has since moved to Houston, Texas, but you can check out Meredith’s life in Nigeria on her blog We Found Happiness.
Photo credit to the author.
It truly brings home to us how truly blessed we are, when we see others who don’t have what we take for granted – access to clean water, food, transport, shoes, education.
Alison, it is so true….we don’t realize how blessed we are in the U.S. There are so many around the world with so little.
It takes immense will to not judge. It takes a higher will to accept and understand and empathise.
Your journey in Lagos seems interesting. Keep sharing your journals, they are enlightening.
It really was an eye opeing exerience living in Lagos for three years. My perspective on many things changed while I was there. I’ll be sharing more on my observations while living there. Thanks so much for your comment.:)
Thank you for sharing your insight and experiences. Sort of related, I was just thinking today how I am feeling election fatigue here in the states. Everywhere in the news media (and all over social media), people are complaining. They are speaking with outrage over the sound bite of the day of the political candidates. Should people be critical of our government, our economic problems? Do we need to fix things? Absolutely. But I feel folks often lose perspective on just how much we do have here, even during tough times, compared to other places in the world. I’d just love to hear more positive stories being promoted.
It is so true that we have so much here. Until moving to Lagos, I was guilty of taking so many things for granted. We are so blessed in the U.S.:) Thanks so much for your comment.:)
Great read! I forwarded it on to my channels. What an amazing experience you must have had to live there! 🙂
Thanks Nicole, it was a very “eye opening”expereince to live there and I look forward to sharing some more of the experiences I had while we were there.:)
I really loved this post! I think it’s wonderful that you moved beyond judgment to get a better understanding of people’s lives and struggles. I think a lot of expats living in Africa stay cloistered in their worlds, from which its a lot easier to make assumptions and judgments about other people’s lives. Sounds like this experience really opened your eyes. Very similar to my experiences here in Kenya.
Thanks Kim! Living anywhere in Africa is an adventure I am sure! It was a wonderful opportunity for our family to experience a culture so very different than our own. I didn’t realize how much of a bubble I lived in before moving there. 🙂
I enjoyed getting to your epiphany with you in this post. It was really powerful!
Great global perspective — thank you for bringing it to World Moms Blog!