Sharing food and stuff

*UPDATE* After I wrote this, I shared some Skittles. Baby steps!

“When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up into heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were satisfied; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Matthew 14: 14-21

Being in Senegal, I have really had to work on my sharing. Yes, the skill that is supposed to be learned in Preschool. Ah.

I mean, I like the concept of sharing, but when I get a package from the US with Skittles from mom, I really do not want to share. But I feel a little selfish when kids come play in my room and ask, “what’s in that bag?” and I say, “Oh, what? I don’t know, heh heh heh,” and hide it in my closet.

This skittles situation has caused a lot of cognitive dissonance in me, and I am trying to figure out how to get around it.

Let me tell you about the sharing I have experienced in Fatick where I live. Every meal is shared. My whole family sits around one big bowl of (Usually, but there are variations) fish and rice, or Senegalese couscous*. We say a prayer, and then start to eat some of the rice that’s in front of us. Sometimes people will come and say hi while we are eating. My host family always says to them, “gari ñaam,” (come eat!) and makes a place for them around the bowl. There are usually big pieces of fish, or carrots, or sweet potatoes in the middle. My host parents will pick off pieces of any one of these foods and put a little bit in everyone’s indent of rice. And when you are full and put your spoon down, people say, “Ñaami. Ñaami waay” (Eat. Eat.). And you say, “Kaam gin” (I’m satisfied) many times until they are convinced. People do not say, “save some for _____” or “there’s not enough,” or “wow, you have eaten a lot.” Everyone gets their share. Church President Diouf said that when people eat, “they should be at ease.” I don’t know how there is always enough for everyone to eat so much, but there always is. It really reminds me of the story in the Bible about the feeding of the (more than) 5,000.

Even little kids share. But I guess they learn from their parents. Toys are shared, fun things are shared, little cookies are shared. When the kids that live in my apartments buy a snack from the boutique, they come over to me and give me some. Sometimes I shake my head and say, “A faaxa. Merci” “I’m good, thanks,” and they say, “Non, c’est trés bien!” and put it closer to my face till I try some.

Once when this was happening, I was thinking of how it’s kind of different from my experience in the US. I never really liked sharing my food with other kids (We weren’t even allowed to share food in Elementary school, maybe for sanitary reasons), and I’ve had kind of a scarcity mindset when it comes to delicious things, like a candy bar or a little sack of cookies. Or Skittles. Sigh.

I’ve been practicing my sharing by buying little sacks of cookies for myself, then sharing with the kids. So far, it has yielded good results. It’s actually a lot more fun to eat a bag of cookies when you see a smile on the face of another person who is also enjoying the cookies. I am working up the gumption to also share my Skittles.

People don’t just share food. I heard from a guy at the center where the YAGMs first learned about Senegalese culture that sometimes, he sees his son’s friends around town wearing his clothes. And he doesn’t care. He just thinks it’s nice that they like his clothes.

So, my time here has really challenged me on the importance I place on my things. Can things really belong to someone? They are just things. How many times have I been upset when someone has taken my thing? If I didn’t place so much importance on holding onto things for me, I think I would be happier. And lighter. The only thing that I can really claim is myself. Sometimes things are better shared. There’s always enough.

*Senegalese couscous: It’s made with millet, and we eat it a lot, at least in Fatick. In Seereer it’s called Saaê. Saaê bugum. (I like Saaê). I included some pictures of it.


First, the millet plant. Kinda looks like corn.



Next the grains. You can eat ’em crunchy like this if you want.



Next, someone grinds and cooks the Saaê for a long time and sifts it in a bowl.



This is what it looks like when it is ready to eat! (We don’t ever eat it alone for a meal at my house. Usually with a bean/fish sauce and squash)



Yum, yum.


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