Dispatches

Walk Far: Haggling

"If you want to walk fast, walk alone.
If you want to walk far, 
walk with others."
- African Proverb

Many of us are totally unprepared for a culture of haggling. I know I was. You might be warned about it, given advice about how to handle it, told tricks like “take whatever price is given and divide it in half and start haggling from there.” Yet nothing really prepares you for what will happen after you ask, “How much is this?”

The person selling wants to make a living. The per­son buying wants a good deal. Both parties want to walk away feeling they have been treated fairly. Those are the economics of the interaction. However, I learned there is a social element to haggling as well.

Haggling can be tiring, but it can also be an interest­ing exchange in which you learn a lot. It offers the op­portunity to appreciate what another person is offering and gives you the chance to be fair, perhaps even gen­erous. Value is placed on the quality of the interaction, not just how much money is changing hands.

During my time in Kenya, I was involved in some form of haggling every day. In the beginning I found it hard. I didn’t know the value of anything, so knowing where to start was difcult. Over time, I came to see it was about much more than the price of something. On a recent return visit to Kenya, a young man on the street came up to me. We had done a lot of haggling over the years for things he sold. I knew his name; he knew mine. He said he hadn’t seen me for a while. He asked me about my family, and I asked about his. We had es­tablished a relationship that went far beyond the money exchanged.

Not everything can be a bargain. I have been bought with a price. Jesus did not haggle for our lives to get the best deal. The Son of God paid the absolute highest price to purchase my salvation. I cannot haggle with God over my salvation. I can only receive it by faith, and enter into a relationship with the one who created me in His own image, and who knows my name.

APRIL FOSTER is director of Others - Trade for Hope. In this series she shares lessons learned from her 29 years in overseas ministry.

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