Writing about my Kenyan experience should be as easy as breathing, and yet, it’s not. These experiences are deeply personal and can bring out the best and worst in me. To be separated from the comfort of your life in this way is to be broken down and built back up. If your heart was broken you did something right.
The experiences I have had in both Nicaragua and Kenya have shaped my identity and are among my earliest childhood memories. I vaguely remember wandering around a construction site when I was 5 in rural Nicaragua and going on adventures with local kids who I could not understand and who could not understand me. I remember coming home when I was in the 2nd grade and instead of talking about summer camp I had learned to mix cement and lay cinder blocks. At 9 I went to Kenya for the first time. I walked into the Kibera slum blissfully engaged but largely unaware of what I was seeing. I was a child. I lived to explore -- to be in the moment, and play.
I am now 24 years old and I have been to Kenya 12 times. So, why does it matter? Everyone may have a different answer to this question, but for me, these experiences have grown in me an intense gratitude and an enduring sense of responsibility to be a steward in the world. The power of these gifts hinge on my capacity to bring them home and integrate them into my everyday life. It’s easy to make grand claims about how we want to be, but it’s another thing entirely to make choices that break us away from the dominant culture and its idols. Too often we choose routine over conviction and comfort over reform.
We have an obligation to disrupt our own lives when it’s in service to others and we have an obligation to seek out opportunities to do so. As Martin Luther King Jr said, “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” To live within one's conviction is to live in community with the world.
When I speak I want it to be a reflection of the knowledge I learned and the stories I was told. With my actions I want to be intentional, selfless, and love unconditionally. Some days I fail, but I can stand on the stepping stones paved by all the experiences and friendships that were given to me and I will always be grateful for them.