You are currently viewing Love for free things is retrogressive – Part I

Love for free things is retrogressive – Part I

WHEN I was growing up, my parents always discouraged us from taking meals at other people’s homes. When we went playing at our friends’ homes and a meal time came, we would either cleverly disappear and go back home or adamantly refuse to eat.  
I remember sometimes being with my younger sister, Ngula, and if the urge to accept the meal was strong, she would threaten that she would go and tell our parents that I ate from ‘someone else’s home’.
This did not mean that we did not eat from other people’s homes; we did but it had to be a relative or close friend and one more or less approved by our parents.  In like manner, we never accepted money or gifts from strangers.
I can imagine that similar rules abode in the homes of those of my generation and we would raise our children along the same principles.
On the contrary, today’s children do not seem to have any qualms about eating from other people’s homes, some of them would in fact even ask for food when they are hungry or when they see you eating.
When I was growing up, none of my siblings (as babies or toddlers) would cry for food on a bus if they saw a stranger eating.  Today it is quite common to find a baby strapped to its mother’s back stretching out its hand to request for food from a stranger seated next to the mother who may be eating something.
I have been brought up believing that every family budgets for the food that they consume, and in as much as they sometimes would cater for unexpected visitors, this is something that should not happen too often.
Gone are the days when families in Zambia would cook more food than they needed. Economic challenges and the high cost of living have forced a number of families to be more efficient in their management of domestic food.
If you happen to visit a family while they are having a meal, therefore, you need to carefully evaluate an invitation to join them at the table.  Some families may invite you out of courtesy even when they have not taken you into account when planning for the meal.
Lozis in Zambia have been condemned for not inviting a visitor to the table when a visitor happens to drop by while they are eating.  Most Lozis are like the Japanese in the sense that they believe in Just in Time or Stockless Production when it comes to food production.
Just in Time is about producing just the exact quantity required and no more, no less.  The family will cook enough food for the number of people to partake a meal and if a visitor comes, they would cook for them after the meal.
At first, I too used to think that this was a selfish practice but as I grew older and learnt about Total Quality Management, I began to appreciate the practice. I will give an example to illustrate what I mean.
Let us assume that you have cooked food for four people and while you are eating, a visitor arrives.  If you invite the visitor to join the meal, it is likely that none of the five of you will be full after the meal and if you have to cook again, everyone will need to eat again.
If, however, you allow the four to eat and then cook for the visitor later, only one person will have to wait for the food and the four can use the time to do something more productive than wait for food.
In next week’s article, I will link the above attitude to the culture of expecting free things.  Your contributions are welcome.
The author is chief executive officer of Career Prospects Limited, a human resource consultancy firm based in Lusaka.