I asked my husband why it is that so many Kenyans know about Kibera (where GORP works), and yet they have never been there. Why is this slum right down the road from other government embassies, from Heifer International, from one of the main shopping centers in the city, from one of the poshest coffee shops, from nice apartments, from even the former President's home, and yet still, no one goes to Kibera? When I tell Kenyans I work in Kibera, I often get a look--one mixed with discomfort, avoidance, and lack of interest. My husband, in all his wisdom told me, "People are numb." Isn't that so true? You, me, each other: we all avoid that uncomfortable stuff we don't want to deal with or process and think that it has nothing to do with us. It's the reason people turn their face away from the homeless person on the street or avoid reading the difficult parts of the news. It is easier not to know. And sometimes other people's circumstances are so unfamiliar to us, that we don't understand.
As we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., may his words give us new motivation:
An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
Sometimes it is so uncomfortable to look at those broader concerns. We don't know what to do about the person who is being discriminated against, or the person who has no home to live in, or the person who does not think like we do. But you see, Jesus spent his time hanging out with all kinds of people, some of whom were considered by mainstream society and the Pharisees, to be the scum of the earth. And He loved these people.
Which brings me back to Kibera. While mainstream society might be considering Kibera to be a trash pit of no hope, instead GORP sees people with talents and abilities and gifts--people who are creative and resourceful in their struggles; people that need to be loved and cared for. There is Pamela, one of our artisans who saved money from making paper beads to start her own chemist (pharmacy) shop and counseling site and then bought land, and then built a house. And we rejoice in the success God has brought her because we know that we are truly alive and thriving when we are reaching out to others.
Friends, can we motivate each other to look beyond ourselves and to truly open our eyes to the uncomfortable parts of our world? I know I am guilty of turning away and making excuses, and I sense that I am not alone. Wherever we are, in our corner of the world, may our eyes be open and may we be alert to how we can help and be willing to take action.