Seeing is affirming


In Senegal, kindness is built into the fabric of everyday social interactions and conversations.

In one of my favorite examples, people in Senegal will often think you are unhappy or otherwise upset if you are sitting alone because being together is so deeply part of the culture. Furthermore, anger in Senegal is more associated with lonely seething and isolation rather than wrath. Sitting alone does not sit right in Senegal.

To make sure you are okay, someone may approach you and make an obvious statement based on whatever you are doing:

"I see you sitting there."

"I see you are eating that sandwich."

"I see you are reading a book."


In the United States, if someone told you this, you might think they were wasting your time. Or, you might think they were losing their mind just a little bit. Why would you state something so obvious?

In Senegal, the obviousness of the statement is exactly the point. It is a spoken recognition of what you are doing in that moment, not to tell you what you are doing but to gently, objectively, and non-judgmentally recognize your humanity and basic existence.

After the statement is made, you will still be doing whatever you were doing (e.g. eating the sandwich, etc.). But you will also have just been recognized and affirmed as a valued human being, from one person to another. It is a kind, simple yet deceptively sophisticated statement that can bring joy to another person.

I am convinced this sort of statement can work anywhere, if communicated sincerely. Consider trying it, even if you are in the United States. And it does not have to be just when someone is sitting alone or you think they are having a bad day. In Senegal, this sort conversation can happen any time.

See what occurs. No promises, but you might make someone's day.