Monday, September 10, 2012

King Peggy

Just read a good book. It was called King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman. It is a memoir of a woman named Peggy. She was born in Ghana, but came to the US in her 20's. She worked as a secretary for the ambassador of Ghana. When the king of her Otuam tribe died, she was chosen as his successor. She had many challenges, but she worked hard to improve the lives of her people. She brought them clean water, better education and better health care. This book is her story, and it is inspiring.

Because Peggy continues to live in the United States, spending a month or two in Ghana each year, she often compares the US to Africa. She finds both good and bad comparisons. One that really stuck out to me was this: "Back in Washington, it seemed hard to live in the present. Peggy rushed from the accomplishments of the past headlong into her goals for the future, aided by ever-faster technology.... In recent years, Americans had invented many new buttons ostensibly to stay connected with people, yet these same buttons actually disconnected them from the people sitting right beside them, of from family members in the next room. Virtual, remote-control connection destroyed family connection, and she sensed that many Americans were, despite their hectic schedules, lonely."... (page 158) She writes about how Americans can sit around a table and all be texting or using a computer and not interacting. I think that many of our technologies can be a great blessing or a curse depending on how we use them. I find Facebook, for example, to be a great tool to keep in contact with friends that live in AZ or other parts of the world. But at the same time much of that "contact" is much more superficial than a phone call or a letter or a visit would be. While it does fill a social void at times, if I don't also have face to face interaction with some of my friends, I do get lonely and don't feel happy.

She goes on to say that Africans view America as a wonderful place because of this technology as well as our running water, heaters/air conditioners, etc. "But many of them couldn't loosen their grip on their remote controls enough to sit on a breezy porch with friends and family, talking about nothing in particular, or sitting in contented silence listening to the birds.... My people have no running water, she thought, and bad schools, and minimal health care, and electricity only part of the time....We are poor in gadgets, but rich in so many other ways. And America, despite all its riches, and despite all the buttons you can push there, is in some respects poor." (page 148-149)

When I read books like this, whether fiction or nonfiction, it reminds me yet again of the many blessings I have that I take for granted. We are rich in so many ways...and if we could recognize our wealth...and manage our time so that we still had time for people, we could be among the luckiest/richest people on Earth. It is so easy to get busy and to spend our time doing things that are good, that we don't do the things that are best. I want to really work to cultivate my friendships and relationships with those that mean the most and I want to try to live with more gratitude in my heart for all that I do have. I think the threshold ritual that I blogged about yesterday will help with that. I hope it will. I am among the luckiest people alive despite the challenges I have.