If I don’t feel well, if my mind is racing and my heart out of synch – there’s a reason.
Finding a balance in Kenya is not easy. Finding the truth about Kenya is harder, because there is not one truth. You cannot sum it up into a “dream”as we tend to in the States. Because what happens here is no dream. It is a battle. A daily struggle which I cannot even fathom to completely understand.
What I do understand is my role and what my heart is telling me. When I arrived I thought that this was my mission, if you will. Perhaps it is, but I know now what I was too naive to know on my first trip to Kenya. Kenya is not all warm welcomes and pure hearts. It is also rife with hate, with anger, with abandonment, and pain. While children do often smile and play, they are fighting through their pain. Living in a slum when sometimes your only comfort is the mud in which you sleep, you have to laugh, and smile and play.
Many adults don’t have this luxury in Kenya. We may say that we are aware that we cant count on the next day coming, or that we are living “hand to mouth”, but rarely do we feel the pain of slowing dying or know the uncertainty of life.
Today I found myself in Kipsongo – the shantiest slum I could have never imagined – turning away from that pain. Homes made of plastic bags on a stick skeleton, mud and trash filling the path to a pit latrine beside the other garden they have. People through from their land and discriminated against with nowhere else to go. And one man, who I later learned lie dead of pneumonia in his plastic bag structure.
Last year, I realized I had two motivations for coming to Kenya: I felt I had a lot of love left to give, and I wanted to know what pain people felt in this part of the world. I wanted to know what it meant to fight for your life. Now, I’ve come closer to having an understanding of that struggle. More so, I have an understanding of the struggles that good-hearted people go through to try and aide that battle. People like Sister Freda, the Hope for Kibera youth group in Nairobi, Emmanuel Leina, and countless others who want nothing more than to lift up their people, and find peace once more.
But the question still lingers: What is peace? The answer so far is having the basic resources that make life sustainable: food, shelter, clothing, and land. Since I have all these resources, all I want is to love and to be able to share that with those I hold dear. I don’t want to pity, I don’t want to feel discouraged, and above all I don’t want to feel pain – inheritted or otherwise. My motivations were in the wrong place. Instead of sharing their pain, so far removed from my experience, I should use what I have to break that cycle, if only for one moment.
We all fight our own fights. Why should I add to the mire when life is still so uncertain? Better to smile, laugh, and play than create pain for myself that isn’t there. Better to use my strength, like those Kenyan children use theirs, to bring something new to the fight – hope.