I travelled to New York City to pick my daughter up this past weekend who is just back from Africa. I was very glad to see her and after making sure that she was well, I initiated a conversation about her experiences while in Africa.
I had been looking at her pictures on Facebook and I had also previously been looking at the slums in Nairobi where she would be working. I fully expected her to tell me about the desperation of the people, the abject squalor of their existence and how sad people were in general.
As our trip north began I asked my daughter to share the five things that she came away with when she left Africa. A smile came across her face as she began to share that the people in Kenya were surprisingly, happy people. There was lightness about them and appreciation for the smallest of pleasures was expressed frequently and abundantly. “It appeared that people generally were just happy to be alive or at least so it appeared.” It was not an uncommon sight for people to walk along holding hands and conversing as they went.
My daughter also shared that things that we take for granted like running water, functional toilets and toilet paper were generally in short supply. What my daughter shared was unexpected and it got me thinking about how the people of Kenya could be so happy when they didn’t have big screen televisions, expensive cars, and well-appointed houses and were often lacking the many ordinary things that we take for granted every day.
I am so deeply entrenched in American consumerism that I cannot imagine how the people from Kenya that my daughter encountered could be so happy; so content. I tend to think that they are happy because they do not know that they should be unhappy because they do not have all the stuff that many of us have. I cannot imagine how they can be happy living in the homes that they live in which to me look like sheds where I might store my riding lawnmower.
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