On my first day back in Ghana, as I walked into breakfast at our hotel in the capital of Accra, I was greeted by Mustapha, an amazing young man whom I met on my last trip there. Remember Tigger from Winnie the Pooh? Well, Mustapha’s personality is kind of like that. He’s also brilliant, full of boundless energy, an infectious smile, and the ability to make to make people feel amazing just by being in his presence.
He was there to meet our group involved in The Ghana Scholarship Fund and accompany us to Senchi-Ferry, a rural community a couple of hours north of Accra. My husband Steven and our two college-aged kids, Benjy and Amy, joined me on this trip. It had been many years since they had been back to the community.
Driving on the partially paved and pothole-filled roads into the village of Senchi-Ferry for the fifth time, I felt so much more at ease than I did on my first trip here eight years ago. It was more familiar, more comfortable, and filled with anticipation to see friends I had made over the years. I was so excited for our kids to meet the university scholarship students I had met on my last trip. They were the same ages, facing similar issues, even though on the surface their lives seem so different.
Each and every time I’m in Senchi and in Ghana, I grow and learn. Given that the people in this community are of very limited financial resources, you wouldn’t expect that I’d receive money lessons from them – but I did indeed learn a lot about abundance.
What I Learned About Abundance:
Being grateful and appreciative keeps the cycle of abundance going…
The chiefs in the community wanted to express their gratitude for the Scholarship Fund, and honored us with a series of very special cultural events. There was a large event where all of the chiefs from the surrounding communities came, along with all of our high school and university scholarship beneficiaries and their families, for a program of local music, speeches, and presentations by the students. We also had a special evening with a smaller group of chiefs where they served us refreshments and shared their ritual of pouring “libations.” They gave us an opportunity to ask any questions we had about their customs, tribes, and rituals. They adorned us with special beads as a thank you for the benefits of the education that so many in their community have received (140 kids were sponsored through high school and 33 are currently in university). Although the goal is to be generous without an expectation of anything in return, it feels amazing when sincere gratitude and appreciation is given.
Don’t you feel like you want to continually do more for people who are so gracious in their expression of appreciation? Similarly, when there isn’t gratitude, even though you might not have been expecting a thank you, are you typically eager to keep giving?
Lesson: Be effusive in expressions of gratitude and appreciation.
Abundance comes in many forms…
We have so much more than most people realize. Yes, money is important. We live in a material world. You need money to buy food and shelter. Many of people in the community we visited do not have electricity or running water. They work hard each day to feed their families, and often there isn’t enough. They strive to be able to pay school fees for their children, buy a TV, a refrigerator, a car, and they dream of someday being able to build a home. Clearly there are way too many disadvantaged people in the developed world; too many kids that go to sleep hungry. But for most people in the US, our basic needs are met.
It’s easy to get caught up in the desire for more or worry about losing what we have. One of the easiest cures for this is to check in on what is truly great in your life. When you focus on what you do have as opposed to what’s lacking, you’ll not only feel happier and more prosperous, but also have new energy to create more financial abundance.
Although many of the people I met on this trip have little in terms of material wealth, they are rich in terms of community, joy, and connection to something greater than themselves. They are accepting of other’s religious beliefs, tribal heritage, and backgrounds.
Lesson: Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have.
The dirty little secret about generosity…
It feels great. This is why people who value generosity continue to give. Why do I keep going back to Senchi-Ferry? Why do I spend my resources to prepare for the trip and take time away from my business? Because what I receive is so much greater than what I expend in time, energy, and resources. This is what I’ve seen over and over: what you give without expectation of receiving anything in return comes back to you many times over.
Mustapha spends his Sunday afternoon with kids in the Zongo helping them to color and do art. The kids run to his step-father’s home to sit on the ground to color and learn from Mustapha. This kind act not only makes him feel good and earns the respect of people in his community, but has also circled back to him, leading to his job offer (even before he graduates from university) to be the CEO in Ghana for World Possible, an organization that helps provide offline learning to children throughout the country.
Lesson: Good flows back to people who do good – but that’s not why they do good.
Of course it’s a good idea to learn about money from books, courses, advisors, and online. This is smart and practical. However, if this is the only way to focus on your money, you’ll be missing the greater meaning and lessons that help you grow and flourish. Getting to know people with different backgrounds and experiences will help you really learn about life – at least it has for me.