I was talking to a South African the other day about the barefoot children I see running around in the townships… how it worries me that there’s trash and broken class scattered about the grass where children play, on the sidewalks, in the streets, and right in front of peoples’ homes. She said one of the most important things: “They are not barefoot because they don’t have shoes. Barefoot is our culture.” Coming from a similar township, she said it was normal to run around barefoot growing up, even if there’s trash and glass around. That’s just what kids did. And it’s a very powerful statement to think about because it’s a lot more than an answer to a simple question. It warns us of the dangers of ignorance when assisting another culture. If someone in America saw those barefoot kids and decided to collect a ton of shoes to send back over, they would say “why are you giving us shoes when we need food.” In some places I’ve been, there are many kids that only get one meal a day. And that one meal is provided by a school, daycare, or other community source.
Don’t think that just because something is different that it’s wrong. Take the time to listen to the community and people you are trying to serve. That is when you discover the real problems, the real need, and the real means to a solution. That is when you succeed as a server.