The end of last year I was homeschooling my kids when an opportunity for our whole family to go to Kenya came up. It was a chance to find education outside of a textbook and to do something for others. It was right, so we went. This is the first time I’ve sat down to write and reflect on the trip and the impact it had on my kids. I don’t know if I will ever fully know how what they witnessed with their eyes, traveled to their hearts, but perhaps telling the story of the day I met one amazing sho sho will help…
First stop…the market. While waiting to buy food parcels, the kids and adults gathered to see the song and dance show that we were performing to entertain the kids gawking at this small army of white skinned weirdos who obviously weren’t from around these parts. We failed miserably at trying to be inconspicuous to avoid mzungu prices. However, if the color of our skin affected the price, I wouldn’t have noticed. Seventy dollars to buy food parcels for 24 elderly families was a steal, and I would have gladly paid more.
By the time we arrived at the school, all the elderly sho shos and one grandfather were sitting in neat little rows. We each greeted them one-by-one. Their smiles were evidence that they welcomed us with that true East African Kenyan hospitality that just makes you feel like you belong. After some getting to know one another, we escorted them home with the gift of a food parcel filled with soap, oil, beans, sugar, and posho, a Kenyan staple.It’s something to be invited into someone’s home, especially when you’re a stranger. Her belongings were meager, but her heart was rich. As Mary shared her story, I was touched, if that word even encompasses it. She’s an old sho sho (grandmother, if you’re still wondering the meaning of that word) with no income other than the beaded bags she sews with arthritic hands. She literally doesn’t have much to her name, but there was such a richness about her, in her words, in her smile, that I couldn’t explain. And then she had to go and do something that brought tears to my eyes. She gave my 10 year old daughter one of her bags.
Let that sink in.
Because that’s not supposed to happen. We were there to “help” her, but in those ten minutes we spent in her home, she forever touched our lives and left us pondering what love really is.
It’s about giving, not receiving, even if you’re giving out of literally nothing. It’s about loving people even when it costs you something. These are the truths that my kids witnessed on that 2 1/2 weeks of walking hours a day, living in the third largest slum in the world, and eating foods that were so foreign to them…with a smile. They were champs. These are the truths that you don’t learn from a textbook. You learn them from doing something a little crazy, like taking your family to Kenya and meeting sho shos like Mary who show you how to love a little deeper.
“At the end of the day, the only questions I will ask myself are… Did I love enough? Did I laugh enough? Did I make a difference?” —Katrina Mayer