Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thoughts on Mutuality

Agnes is a woman who comes to our house one morning a week and does some work for us.  She wants nothing more in life than for her daughter to finish her education and have opportunities that Agnes herself never had.  Agnes is a wonderful lady - amazing, really - and we have been able to help her out some.

If that were it, however - if the relationship stopped there - it would be a tragedy (that is a strong word to use, but I choose it intentionally).  In order for any relationship to be healthy, there has to be give and take on both sides. Agnes has to have the opportunity to give to me, and I have to have the humility to accept what Agnes gives to me (that which I cannot earn or do on my own) as much as I give to her.  Otherwise the relationship would be unhealthy, imbalanced, even parasitical.

What I give to Agnes and what Agnes gives to me is not the same; it couldn't possibly be.  But it is just as valuable.  Agnes is my teacher.  She teaches me Setswana.  She teaches me culture.  She teaches me how to navigate between a Western and non-Western mindset.  And I desperately need Agnes' wisdom as much as she needs my help in ensuring her daughter gets an education.

This mutuality allows each of us to maintain our dignity.  Neither one of us is demeaned or put in a position of always being on the receiving end.  Each of us has something valuable to offer.  Each of us is grateful for what we receive.  Our lives are equally enriched. 

Mutuality is the opposite of independence, and quite possibly the opposite of Western thinking.

1 comment:

wakeupcowboys said...

I learned so-o much from our Betty in Ecuador. Somehow it seems it would be good to live being able to think and act "outside the box" within the the healthy framework of mutuality. Culture seems to go to extremes.