Friday, June 22, 2007

Bad Beans

On Monday, we were just completing what we thought was another successful food distribution when things turned unexpectedly ugly. None of the babies who had been tested that day turned out to be HIV positive (hallelujah!) and the story of the feeding of the 5, 000 had been told - most hearing it for the first time - reminding us all of the God who loves us and whose resources are limitless. Following this, 130 women each received 20 kilos of beans, a 1/2 kilo bag of salt and a 5 liter jug of oil, but just as we gave out the last ration of food, Scott and I were almost mobbed by 40 disgruntled and unhappy recipients. It turns out they had received beans that had been left over from one of our previous distributions in March and the beans had become "old". In comparing their beans with those who got fresh, newer beans, they were angry with us. The old beans would take longer to cook - one woman even demanded that we give them charcoal - and would be less palatable. It was a very discouraging moment . We found ourselves suggesting that since the beans were a gift, they were free to refuse them.... and at first many of them walked away leaving their bags of beans on the floor. But in the end, the women relented and took them home, reluctantly. It was a lesson in the importance of equity in this culture whenever gifts are concerned and it was a lesson in humility for me. For though I may not know the difference between fresh beans and 3 month old beans, women who are farmers and who grow them in their own gardens certainly do and they are not to be underestimated.

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