The other day I was out for a walk with my hosts in their neighborhood on the Akwuapem Ridge in Ghana. A brisk exercise along the undulating terrain, through the tall grasses, and up the blocked-off highway provided us with a good recharging of the batteries at the end of a demanding day.
At one point we shared the road with a mother and her two children. The daughter who was trailing her was keeping pace even as she was carrying on her head a log which was as tall as she was. I didn’t want to interrupt them, so I snapped a photo with my cell phone (Yes, I am aware that this contrast induces a cognitive dissonance: I am carrying in my pocket a marvel of modern technology, on which I have an app which records all the stats and wonderfulness of my physical exercise). Because we were all moving, the picture is slightly out of focus and not the ideal composition.
Yet, there was a message here, something that wouldn’t let go. I texted it to some friends, accompanied with only a descriptive caption.
A couple of the comments in return were of the humorous sort. But a couple of other comments, both from people in the Western world, told of conviction, of sharing the picture with their own children, of pause to reflect, of a reminder to appreciate what we take for granted, of becoming more aware of people’s conditions in many other parts of the world.
The girl in the photo and her mother had been lucky enough to find this log in the thicket somewhere along the road. It would soon be hacked into small pieces – probably with some sharpened stone instrument – and used as firewood to heat up their next few meager meals prepared in their dirt floor hut.
When was the last time you or I touched a real log out of necessity rather than simply for the pleasure of a cozy fire?