The shopkeepers in the college town near where I live are good ambassadors. While shopping for a sewing machine, a student friend from Kabul and I asked a lot of questions about their products. To help her create garments for friends and family in Afghanistan, the machine must be reliable, sturdy, versatile, not too complicated, and light-weight. The search is for one that’s both high performing and indestructible.

The seamstresses-quilters working as sales people explained and re-explained features, demonstrated them, compared and contrasted different models, scared up pamphlets, hauled shipping boxes out to measure them and verify weights, and all this without once being distracted. Then they invited my friend to try out the different features on different materials as they watched.

Later my friend remarked on how much she’d learned from them that day and how generous they were with their skills and their time. In Kabul, she feels this would not happen. Also, it is not an Afghan habit to attribute what one knows to other people. One just knows things. As an example, she told me that she now uses those things you wrap around the open end of a plastic bag to close it.

“Twisters?” I ask.

“That’s the name of them, twisters. ” My Afghan student friend continues. “I showed my sister how to do this and told her I learned this from Jill.” She was smiling about how she’s picked up this good American habit of giving credit. I’m smiling at the idea that this is what she’s learned from me. Just by cooking together at my house, a bit of wire and plastic bring us together without my knowing it.

You can buy 50,000 Twist Ties for $1.46 online. Maybe this is what we should be sending, along with good ambassadors, to that troubled country.