I've been home now for a little over a week and almost every night, my dreams, while I sleep, have been like I am still in Kenya. They have been pretty vivid and they have basically just been a reliving of specific moments of mine and Wayne's time there. I just can't get Michael and his family and Leonard and Michael and our driver off my mind along with many other faces. These brothers took us in as their own the moment we arrived and I never once doubted that we were surrounded by people that loved us and would have laid their lives down to protect us if it came to that. I felt all along that there was something very important about this experience in regards to being a white male from the West, transplanted into a land where we were so much the minority, and while in that position made feel like one of them just by the way they welcomed us and treated us. These people have very little but what they have they shared.
Today while at work, I had a conversation about the trip with a long-time-client-turned-friend. It feels appropriate that Theresa was one of three people from the states that randomly called me while I was in Africa. The phone call ended pretty quickly once she found out that she had caught me while I was in a distant far off land. All she said was that we could talk when I returned. A couple weeks before I departed, she had given me a manuscript to her memoirs she had just finished. As a human being and as an American she respected and trusted, she wanted my feed back. Theresa is Chinese. Her family moved here to the States when she was still a little girl and in this book she tells the story of hers and her families experience and struggles. Theresa and I have talked much over the years (20+) about life and the human experience. She happens to be one of those people that has never really felt like she was at home in any classification of people. She was shunned by her Chinese community even here in America because she felt it important that she try to become American. And she has never felt a part of that culture either because she is Chinese and Americans have always treated her that way even though she has had many good relationships with them. She was very interested today about my experience in Kenya and the stories of the people we were with. I could just see her head reeling as she took it all in. One of the things she spoke about today (as she often does) was the importance of us all listening to each others stories and finding the commonality that exists between people regardless of the cultures we have been shaped by. Theresa is always in pursuit of harmony with whoever she finds herself with. I always look forward to our time together. The fact that she is an avid gardener doesn't hurt either :-)
That conversation reminded me of another encounter I had a couple days before leaving for Kenya. Another close friend asked me if I was nervous about going to Africa. When I responded with "No" they immediately said that they would be. I asked them why and they said that ever since the attack on September 11th they have had no desire to leave this country. To which I responded..."Shortly after September 11th, I have wanted to cross over every dividing boundary that exists so as to hear the stories of people who are different than I am so as to try to see the world from their point of view/experience." The trip to Kenya was an important trip I believe for that reason and many more...some I more than likely will never even know about. Some of the important boundary crossing has taken place for me right here where I live. With some of these things there is no need to travel to a far off land. We have many destructive divinding lines right here where we live.
I will end with this that was sent to me by another friend a few years ago during a time when many old ideas/worldviews were crumbling and falling away in my life. It was a scary season. Boundaries I had once been afraid to cross I began to long to cross because I had begun to see the danger of remaining in the world my fearfilled small thinking had created. I offer it as an encouragement and a challenge. It speaks of us all and the small boxes/houses we are born in and too often stay in our entire lives whether they be boxes defined by race, nationality, religion, political leanings, culture, socio-economic status, etc. etc. etc. These boundaries, if we refuse to cross over them keep us in a place that is defined by misunderstandings and mistaken notions and superstitions and myths about everyone that lives outside our little space. And if we stay in those delusions and the fears remain in place, they will keep us trapped in a dangerous cycle and we will just keep passing it along.
Although every human being is a universe within their very being...
some hardly dare explore outside the bare house they grew up in.
A few travel to the edge of their inner town,
fewer still to other cities.
But is rare to find one that has lifted from the ground
to set sail for places undiscovered.
We have all been invited.