One summer my good friend Ash invited me to travel with him to Ghana. Now in today’s travel-accessible and technology-rich world, I realize that many of you reading this have probably made similar trips. I myself have been fortunate to see a lot of places in the world as well. But for a rural Alabama boy, a trip to West Africa was a bit outside my box.
Putting my fears and trepidation aside, I made the trip and experienced an amazing array of culture, people, and geography (and of course a lot of interesting foods). We spent the week constantly on the move, staying in six different places during our eight-night stay in the country. We started in the coastal capital of Accra before moving to a slave castle in Elmina, and ended the week moving through the northern region of the country where the rains had not yet begun to fall for the season and the community feared the worst should they not.
As it’s nearly impossible to summarize the entirety of a trip of this magnitude, I’ll share with you the primary thing that I carried with me back across the Atlantic. Near the end of our trip, we finally made it to several extremely remote villages in the region. They were home to mud huts bursting at the seams with children and families—exactly like a picture out of a human relief commercial you might have seen on TV. My friend Ash and his team have been working to bring aid to several of these villages for some time now. They’ve done an incredible job providing what they can to these people, and I certainly believe that work is important. We should do all we can with what we have to bring relief to those in need around the world.
But as I sat that day under a lean-to with the village patriarch, new things came into focus for me. For years, westerners like us have been traveling to Africa with the good intentions of helping bring a “better” quality of life to the people there. That’s a wonderful and noble call that I’m sure most people greatly appreciate. But it’s easy to forget how much we can also learn from those we’re serving. As I talked to the patriarch that day, his entire family surrounded him. They were constantly supporting and caring for one another. They were smiling even as they waited so desperately for the rain to arrive so they could plant their crops. They waited and prayed and worked together all the while. Some were drying shea nuts to make shea butter to sell at the market. Mothers were tending to children and fetching water. And no one was frantically trying to fill the time left ahead of them in their days.
I don’t know about you, but I sure could take a tip from this lifestyle. Couldn’t we all benefit from applying a little more patience and stillness to so many circumstances in our lives? Take a deep breath and give yourself a break between meetings. Don’t check your email when you get home from work. Surprise your kids with ice cream one day after school. Go on a walk with your spouse. Instead of worrying about every small detail or distraction in your day, take time truly enjoy and pour into what’s important—the people in your life.
This is one of my favorite things about being a part of the team at CTR. Valuing relationships and serving others are at the top of our list of core values. I’m so grateful to work in a culture that encourages me to take time to get to know and serve my clients beyond just one real estate transaction. It’s something I saw at work that day in Africa, and I’m thankful to see it played out most days at CTR.