wakin’ in the late afternoon
call my boy Parnell
just to see how he’s doin’
As i sit here in my office, looking out my window, watching the sunset behind the main center, I reflect on the events of the day. Today was a day of growth, filled with challenges.
I was asked to give a talk to a group of 16-21 year olds about the importance of having an active social life, and as the meeting went on, I realized that my idea of a social life is a lot different than those of the youth I was speaking with. Many of whom could not have a social life. As I conducted the meeting as if I were talking to American youth I ask “what do you like to do for fun?”
“I have to work job to job in order to survive….”
How’s that for a slap in the face? I have a feeling there was a translation problem when I was given the assignment: social life, most probably meant something around the idea of community service? Not exactly sure. But a few good points came out of the meeting. The main one being “no man is an island.” That was the point that went home with everyone.
As the meeting begun I look up and who do I see, but James Kamau, and he brought a friend with him. Kamau is one of the ‘street boys’ I’d met the other day. I was really excited to see him at the youth meeting. He smelled of glue, and probably came to the meeting high. Many people are harsh on them for their addictions. As for me, I try to be understanding. I figure, it’s the only thing they have that doesn’t cause them pain. I mean, seriously, what would you do in their place? Living on the streets, hungry, in the cold. What would you do? Enabling them is something i’m totally against, which is why I never give them money. I just give them my time, attention, and brotherhood.
We all hung out a bit afterwards, when one of the young men named Sami, 21 y/o handyman came up to me and handed me a couple pieces of paper folded up. I open it up to find that he had written for me his own Swahili / English phrasebook: just for me! I was floored that he’d taken the time to write all that out. And I guess it was a product of my atrocious attempt at speaking the language, that Sami felt I needed a helping hand.
Wheeling & Dealing
The street boys that were there wanted to teach me a few songs in Swahili. Afterwards we ate together and had a Bob Marley singalong in the Cafeteria. It was interesting to hear them sing “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”, just being so conscious of their situation. They dunno if they’ll be able to eat, have a safe place to sleep, or even live to see the next day, yet watching them sing that song, I knew they believed the words.
As I walked them to the gate, they started asking me for money. “Come on brother, God has blessed you. Why don’t you help me out, brother?” Ugh! A position I hate being put in, but isn’t that selfish of me, that I would care about my own discomfort?? Like 10 minutes of my discomfort compared to theirs? I get to go home to a warm apartment and get to refill my cool water. It is incredibly difficult but, I have to stick to that policy of not giving money. Not only do I believe in it, but it’s the policy this organization has. “Please brother, I beg you.” I wanted to just tell him “LOOK, you’re not a beggar!” Eventually I stuck to my guns, and they walked away seemingly hating my guts. But from what I hear, by tomorrow they’ll forget about it.
It’s a confusing kind of service in how to deal with these kids; very tricky at times. It’s tough knowing exactly what’s the best thing to do.
I’m hoping the constant weekly activities we do for them, can make something click. So far this church has seen 3 kids get off the streets. For this demographic, that is amazingly successful, because statistically it’s much higher than even in the United States. But for some reason my heart is invested in these guys, not sure why. It was this way in 1999, and is the same way now.
We’re gonna do another meeting for them on Tuesday. I need to think of some activities for them to do. How can we build them from the inside out? How can they see their gold?
I was told by a woman who’s worked with Street Kids for over a decade, to expect nothing. It’s difficult to hear these words, because i’m such an idealist. I want to believe in change. But rather than focus on outcomes, what i’m trying to focus on is just having a good time with them and see what materializes from the investment of time.
We spent the late afternoon / early evening at a great Italian restaurant: Medeteranneo, at Junction Plaza on Ngong Road. The parking lot is filled with diplomat vehicles, an extreme other side of Nairobi from that I’d been in that morning.
It was nice to unwind a little though. We had some nice italian food, bread, and traded stories of our scars, both physical and emotional. Afterwards we went shopping and Jennifer went to get coffee. When the barista asked her if she wanted sugar, she told him “no thank you” to which he replied “which is why your skin is so very smooth.” (awkward)
Which brings us to tonight. Staring at the sunset, resting my bruised right leg, and digesting some great italian food, preparing for a new day, and a new week.
I miss sushi. Listening to Beastie Boys “Paul’s Boutique” : a piece of home.