The two-day journey of a heavy white bag deserves to be told from different perspectives…
Part One: My perspective
Melissa and I walked from the Tamale Peace Corps office to the Tamale Teaching Hospital. For the first couple hundred yards, Melissa looked like Santa with a huge bag of art supplies thrown over her right shoulder. She leaned forward so the heavy bag rested on her back; the bottom of the rice bag graced her hips. The white bag almost overflowed with scraps of fabric (future coiled baskets), a ream of white and colored paper (future thank-you cards), and other crafting supplies (needles, thread and scissors).
After taking a quick breakfast break to eat egg sandwiches, we continued walking. I supported the bottom of the bag while Melissa anchored the top knot against her shoulder. A tall man on a well-used bicycle offered to carry the bag on his bike. We said “No, thanks.” The zigzag trip to the hospital grounds would have been out of his way. We crossed the main road, walked through a side yard, and continued walking down a dirt path. We walked another quarter mile before changing our carrying technique; each of us held one end of the bag to distribute the weight between us. We lugged the bag by a large garbage dump on our left and a cemetery with two visible tombstones on our right.
A man offered to carry the heavy load on his motorcycle. We accepted his offer and helped him strap the bag to the his moto. A woman walking by translated our destination from English to one of the local languages. “The nurses’ school at the hospital. Turn left when the road stops.” We explained to the woman who told the moto driver our destination. We pointed to the dead end 500 meters ahead and made a broad sweeping motion to the left with outstretched arms. The moto driver nodded his head and started his moto. Instead of driving slowly beside us, he drove away.
At the dead end, he turned right – toward the main hospital buildings instead of toward the nursing school. “Hospital” was probably the only word he heard.
Melissa and I looked at each other in surprise; we wondered if we would ever see the bag again. When we got to the T in the road, she turned left to see if he may have taken another route to the nursing compound. I turned right to see if he was a half-mile ahead someplace on the hospital grounds. I hadn’t paid much attention to his bike or clothing. I doubt I would recognize him unless he was standing next to the large white rice bag full of art supplies.
We searched the hospital campus and asked two security men to watch for the bag. We didn’t find the moto, the man, or the bag.
Lesson learned: Carry your own bag. It may be heavy. It may be uncomfortable.
But you’ll arrive at your destination with your belongings.
Part Two: The next day… Told by Cory, a friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer who initially posted the following on Facebook:
As you noted last night, God does work in mysterious ways Marjorie!
Yesterday 2 Peace Corps volunteers took an offer from a man on a moto to carry a large maize bag filled with fabric scraps to the Operation Smile patient shelter for craft day activities. The man took off on his moto and couldn’t be found; we thought he had stolen the bag.
Today while carrying the large box of toys donated by Hamberger & Weiss to the shelter for distribution, I decided to take a “short cut” with 2 other volunteers. I got us lost (and people who know me know I have a good sense of direction and can usually find my way somewhere again after only being there 1 time).
While lost, we passed a man’s house who asked if we gave a bag to a man with a moto yesterday. Yes! We did! He took us to the man’s house and we got the bag of scraps back!! He hadn’t stolen it after all!!
We got to the hospital eventually with our heavy loads and told the others who thought we were heroes!! I even got a big hug from an Italian volunteer with Operation Smile who thought it was a wonderful story too!!
So I know my sister performed that random act of kindness for the volunteers here as well as the patients who will enjoy making fabric coil pots with those scraps today!!
I love and miss you, Jody!! 17 years have gone by but you are not forgotten!!
Note: Cory will add a link to the three-part story on her blog: http://www.postcardsfromghana.tumblr.com
The Conclusion: from the moto driver’s perspective
I saw two Obrunis struggling with a heavy bag. The daughter held one end of the over-sized bag. The mother held the other. I passed them on the dirt road by the cemetery. But then I turned my moto around and offered to help. They didn’t understand the words I spoke. But I pointed to the heavy bag and the back of my moto. They understood. They looked relieved. Another woman walking by tried to help us communicate, but I didn’t understand her words. I thought the Obrunis were walking to the main Tamale road. They could get a taxi to move the huge bag to its destination.
They helped me wrap my rubber around and over the bag. We attached it my moto. I started the engine. They thanked me. I drove off. It was about 7 in the morning; I was glad to be able to help.
When I got to the main road, I rode the short distance to the taxi stand to wait for the white women. I thought about getting them a good price for a taxi, but I didn’t know their destination. So I waited. I greeted those close by. I waited some more. The Obrunis didn’t show up. They didn’t arrive for a long time. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to do what was right. The bag wasn’t mine to keep. I didn’t want to open it.
I took the bag to Kofi’s house. He drives the ambulance for the hospital. Maybe some of the Obrunis who work for him would know the women I helped. Maybe Kofi’s friends could help find the owners of the bag.
We went to the hospital and asked the Obrunis who work with Kofi. No one knew about a big white bag. We walked around the hospital to see if we could find the Obrunis who gave me the bag. I wasn’t sure I’d recognize them so we talked to any Obruni we saw. No one knew anything about the big white bag. Kofi walked around the hospital again at the end of the day. He couldn’t find the right Obrunis.
Kofi took the bag to his house. We called a community meeting to discuss what to do. We decided to open the bag at the meeting so everyone would see what was inside. Maybe there would be a phone number to help us find the owner.
When we untied the bag, we were surprised. The bag had a few interesting things toward the top – a big folder with some white and colored paper, a couple pairs of fancy scissors, and a package of long sewing needles. But most of the bag was full of scraps of fabric – scraps too small to do anything with. The bag was full of very heavy trash. You never know what people think is valuable. We tied the bag shut and kept it at Kofi’s house.
I was relieved. The bag didn’t have valuable items inside. I didn’t want people to think I was a thief. We were surprised at what was in the bag. We were even more surprised at what happened the next day.
Kwami was at the meeting and knew about the big white bag of trash and the missing Obrunis. While he was taking breakfast, he saw three Obrunis walk by. One carried a huge box on her head.
“Did you lose a white bag?” he asked them.
“Yes! My sister did.” they told him.
“We have it. Follow me.” Kwami said. The leader of the Obrunis followed Kwami to Kofi’s house. They showed her the bag. The Obruni thanked Kwami and Kofi again and again. Kofi told her about trying to find the owner at the hospital. He also told her about the community meeting and opening the bag together.
I was glad I did the right thing. Doing the right thing feels good. And it makes others feel good. I will tell this story to my children and their children. I will remind them to always do the right thing.
Epilogue: I also plan to tell the two-day journey of the white bag to current and future generations. To remind me of different perspectives. To think of coincidences that alter our lives. To strengthen our faith in the goodness of our neighbors around the world.