As many of you know Alex Murphy is well into her second year in the Peace Corps in Botswana. I was recently reading her blog that she updates on a regular basis to get caught up on her news (http://alexandriamurphy.blogspot.com). And she was sharing some thoughts about the whole notion of “greeting” in Botswana. Here’s what she writes:
The culture of greeting here is interesting in the sense that I never fully understood why people spend so much time on it; it seemed like a waste of time to me. For example, last week my school head offered to drive me the 2Km out to my hitch-hiking post as I was in a rush to get to Gaborone that day and run some errands. I threw my bags in the trunk and hopped into the passenger seat, anxious to start my day. His beat-down 20-year old Toyota squeaked and put-puttered all the way down the path until we came across what I assumed was an old friend of his. The car stopped, he slowly rolled down his window and shook the outstretched hand of his friend, beginning a long process of greetings in a jumble of Setswana and Sekgalahari . . . This conversation went on for honestly 5 minutes before they shook hands and the random old man continued his shuffle down the dirt path. After watching this all transpire before me, I turned to my school head and asked if it was someone he knew. “Not really,” he said, “it’s just important that you recognize everyone.”
People like to be recognized. People like to be heard. People like to be acknowledged. People like to be called by name. Not too long ago, I told someone it was nice to see them and the reply was that it was nice to be seen.
In various places the Bible stresses the importance of recognizing others. In Deuteronomy 24:17 we are told not to neglect a sojourner, a widow, or an orphan. In other words we are to recognize those who are marginalized within society. We also have plenty of stories where Jesus recognized people that others ignored.
I agree with Alex’s head of school. People do like to be recognized. As we continue the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together; may we remember to recognize others. Hopefully, doing so will bring joy into their lives as well as our own.