Pat Clegg ’13—Beep. Beep. Beep.
It’s 7:30 a.m. and another early start here in Kenya. I have one thought: Why in God’s name am I getting up this early on vacation?
Well, this trip has been anything but a vacation, and all the better for it. We haven’t gone to many tourist attractions, but we have met the people here. We have met many Kenyans, and two of these conversations have intrigued me the most.
Meet Francis Omundi, like most from the Kibera slum, a thin man. He has a wife and four kids. Something has been troubling Francis since 2002—his stomach has become distended and is now protrudes two feet further than his chest. He greets me with a smile as a social worker translates for us (Swahili or one of the tribal languages to my English, then back). He tells me he hasn’t seen a doctor and can’t support his family. Not knowing how to respond, I turn back to the social worker and glance down at his notebook. It contains a list of names of people with disabilities that he visits in Kibera, and Francis is one of very many. Yet Francis greets me without accusation—in fact, he smiled at me as if he were happy and full of hope.
Then there’s Steve Kizito, a social worker traveling with us who explains that he will not be able to marry until he can support all seven of his brothers and sisters. His father died, so Steve now fulfills that role and the obligations that come with it. He is not only working to support his family, but working to support the village he came from.
I have talked with Steve all week and have learned lessons about success and love. Of all the despair he could hang on to, he wakes up with a hop in his step and greets us with a grin on his face.
So many people here have problems so far beyond our own, yet they smile. Perhaps they’re just being polite. Or maybe they really find happiness or joy beyond these things. Perhaps the Kenyan philosophy of hakuna matata—don’t worry—really is true, and has a much deeper meaning than that Disney song all of us associate with it.
I don’t know. But I do know that tomorrow morning when I hear the beep beep beep of the alarm clock, I intend to be less concerned with myself, and more grateful.