In the summer of 2009, just after my freshman year of high school, I joined Crossing Thresholds on my first trip to Kibera. By that point in my life I was no stranger to travel, but I had never been on a service trip or gone anywhere that could be considered a developing country. On our first day in Kibera, we walked from the edge of the slum to CT’s first school, Drug Fighters (DFC), and I remember feeling shock and horror at the conditions that hundreds of thousands of people lived in everyday. When we arrived at DFC, however, the greatest contrast to my own emotions was the joy and happiness of the students. Despite the conditions that these children experienced everyday, what I saw and heard from them was constant gratitude – gratitude toward their incredible school directors and teachers, the meals they got to eat everyday, the CT volunteers, and toward Carter.
To me, and I believe to many others who have joined CT trips, this mentality was contagious and led to a change in my perspective that continues to affect me on a daily basis. I was used to feeling gratitude for large things that stood out to me - the amazing opportunity that my parents and CT had presented to me, the gifts that friends and family generously share with me, or the surprising experiences that continue to enrich me. But the children and people of Kibera showed me that I should not just feel gratitude when it is obvious to me, but instead that I should actively look for things to be grateful for. You can find things to be grateful for every day and it not only makes you a happier person, but also has an amazing positive impact on those that you show gratitude towards.
When I went on this CT trip, I knew that it was an amazing opportunity to help those less fortunate in Kibera, but I didn’t expect it to provide me with one of the greatest life lessons that I have learned. This profound shift in my own understanding of gratitude was one of the many reasons that I returned to Kibera several more times and have continued to work with CT. Many of the things that I came to be grateful for in my life were the things that Crossing Thresholds was working to provide for so many children – a great education, food, healthcare resources, love, opportunities to follow dreams, and so much more. And as I continue my work with CT, it brings me joy to see that same gratitude in an ever-widening circle of children, teachers, and volunteers. Grateful people aren’t just happier but live with greater purpose and almost always greater impact.