The first blog entry I’m referring to was by Barb – an American married to a Ghanaian, living in Ghana with her husband and kids. The second entry was by Wes, an American secondary school student who is spending a school year in a village in Ghana.
Both people are quite open-minded and trusting.
Both have the very best of intentions in Ghana, and neither have flaunted wealth nor treated their Ghanaian families with anything less than respect and love. Yet both are finding themselves reeling at the ability of the people around them to steal and lie, straight faced, with no remorse.
Both stories are so sadly familiar to me. They reminded me of the story I posted a year and a half ago, regarding the ongoing theft of diesel from our house by our trusted gardener Eric and the guard who represented a highly respected and trusted security company. During that whole fiasco our gardener defiantly protested the accusations and insisted he was innocent. He counter accused our cook, who has since been let go.
The whole thing was sad for me. He had been someone I had a soft spot for, and I commonly gave him cash advances which we both knew would never be paid back, as well as clothes, food etc etc etc. Once he was gone the letters started. First was a letter in his broken and pleading English, asking for his job and housing back. He insisted that God would redeem him and one day we’d regret accusing him. Next came a letter from a lawyer’s office in Accra, threatening us with legal action for dismissal without cause. That we laughed off, but I took the time to write to the lawyer to explain that we had witnesses etc. and they backed off.
A few months later Eric came back with a vengeance, waiting at our gate as we left for work in the mornings and leaving letters with the (new) guard. These letters continued with the theme that he saw us as his family, as his mother and father, and that he would never have betrayed us in the way we accused him. He wrote that he had been praying every day that we would one day see the truth of his innocence and let him return.
Now in our relationship, JW is the softie at heart. One of the letters got to him and he called for Eric to come and see him. The next week Eric was back. Smiling as ever, ready and willing to help with anything, assuring us it had all been an ugly misunderstanding with the evil, jealous woman who had been our cook. He assured us God would bless us for seeing the truth and giving him this new chance.
I was skeptical, given what I’ve seen happen in Ghana, but yet I went along with it, and to this day, he is back at the job and staying in a room at the back. I still give him little presents etc.
Yet a week after his return a friend of mine who has a gardener that had filled in at my house during our months without Eric, casually mentioned that Eric had admitted to the other gardener that he had indeed been stealing the diesel, with the guard, just as we’d suspected, for over 2 years. He however told the guy he was happy we’d taken him back and wouldn’t do that again…
So where is the deterrent to stealing again? How does a Christian who references God and the bible and uses his religion as a tool, then live with the lies? Is it simply a matter of poverty?
As both Wes and Barb's stories corroborate, this is not always the case... Is it a cultural acceptance of dishonesty? Why is it ok to betray people who trust you? Where is the remorse? How can we expect anything less than corruption at a national level when this is the behaviour you find inside homes? Who is brave enough to talk about it, to confront it? To change the culture that expects and condones it?
It’s a case of honesty in Ghana – or lack there of…