Finding Sameness: A Reflection
Wow, it’s hard to believe that 2014 is almost over. A year ago, we were selling off our stuff and preparing to move into a 600 square foot, one bedroom home in Sugar Land, Texas. As much as we anticipated that move, we knew it was simply a single step in a much larger journey.
We knew that tiny house would be our temporary home for six months, but that we would soon be taking a much bigger leap to our new home in Kenya. Now that we’ve been in-country for 5 months, it seems like a good time for some reflection.
I recently commented to a friend that the most difficult parts of moving to another country aren’t the big things – driving on the “wrong” side of the road, adjusting to the linguistic challenges, or even slowing the pace of life. No, the most difficult parts are all the hundreds of small things that seem to gang up on you.
On your best days, these small things are easily brushed aside. On your worst, they attack like a swarm of pesky bees, or those insatiable Texas fire-ants we moved away from. To be sure, we’ve had our fire-ant days over the past 5 months, but we’ve also had some incredible experiences along the way.
We live in a part of Africa that most Americans have no idea exists – not that they don’t know the country exists, but they have no accurate mental picture or frame of reference. Let me give you one…
This is the view from atop the Menengai Crater. At 12km across, it is one of the largest calderas in the world. It also happens to be in my back yard. Our house is situated on the side of a volcano, and this is its center. If I go to the end of my street, hang a right, and proceed to the top of the hill, this is what I see.
Is this what you thought Africa looked like? No baron wasteland, no giraffe, no locals living in mud huts. This fertile land is where I live. On the other side of this mountain is Lake Nakuru, home to exotic wildlife ranging from black rhinos to over 450 different species of birds.
At the same time, this is also where I live…
Nakuru is a bustling city, complete with supermarkets, traffic, giant billboards, and wifi internet access. It is a place where I can pay for goods using mobile money on my phone, and where nearly anything I purchase can be delivered to my door in minutes.
Sure, there are many in Nakuru who are very poor. There are also many who are quite well off. Others land somewhere in the middle. Learning to navigate the cultural chasms present in this diverse socio-economic climate will take a lifetime. What I have discovered, however, (or rediscovered) is that people are people.
We all want relationship. We all want to be known and loved. I have had very similar conversations with the poor and the rich of Nakuru. Many of their challenges differ, but others are quite similar. Jobs, health, kids, and parents top the list of concerns. Money, we know, isn’t a substitute for a parent’s health or a kids well-being.
So, as I reflect on this past year, and especially the past 5 months, I am reminded of how incredibly similar we all are. The funny thing is, diversity seems to reveal that to us. Bringing people of diverse cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, and religious backgrounds together tends to open our eyes not to our differences, but to our similarities.
As I look forward to 2015, I am committed to investing even more time and energy into collecting a diverse group of friends – people who bring different perspectives and strengths to the mix, but who all share something of a universal humanity. We have the ability to be joined by the things that make us the same, and to be made better by our differences. I’ve seen a glimpse of this in 2014, and I’m ready for more.