Last month I was in Kenya. Nestled along the borders of Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania, I find this part of East Africa to be inhabited by some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. It’s as if smiles are a permanent part of their facial features. It’s beautiful, really.
On last month’s excursion to this land of kindness, I went to a dump in Nakuru. I wasn’t scavenging for some trash to treasure pieces to craft a Pinterest masterpiece. No, I went to visit the people that dwelled there. You heard me right. There’s a whole community of people who call this dump “home.” Shocking as it sounds, I wish you could have witnessed it with me.
The wind was a blowing that day, and so the debris wafting about in the air caught my eye as did the pungent odors that reached my nose. It was a sensory explosion before I even left the confines of the van we were traveling in. Those marabou storks, though. They were everywhere, perched atop the piles of trash like they owned the place. Perhaps it actually was their territory seeing as how carrion and feces are their delicacy. Personally I can’t imagine living in such close proximity to scavengers who would call vultures their friends.
Here’s the thing, though. The people that laid their heads among the trash, they were happy. I couldn’t find an ounce of bitterness, anger, or sulking for their lot in life. All I could find was joy. Everywhere. The kids didn’t have the coolest toys, or any toys for that matter, but bottle caps and rocks seemed sufficient to thoroughly entertain them as they played round after round of throw it into the plastic container, otherwise known as trash. They were content with what they had.
The ladies couldn’t stop singing. The strength of those African voices reached the sweetest parts of my soul as I listened to the depth of where the melodies were coming from. J-O-Y. Singing, dancing, I wasn’t just a spectator, but a participant. Their joy was contagious. Before we left that day, the ladies got out their wares, the things they had proudly made with their hands to earn money. I excitedly purchased a couple of bracelets to take home to my kids so I could tell them about these wonderful people and what they taught me.
We gave them small parcels of food that day, but they gave us so much more…the lesson that contentment has nothing to do with the money in your bank account or the beautiful things you possess. I found joy at the dump that day, and I’ll never forget it.