Tonight's post was written by my 18 year old son, Joel.
Joel is a good kid, tall and thin, with narrow hips and a head covered with an unruly mop of naturally curly blonde hair that obviously will forever resist taming. He has a girlfriend, an ipod, and a job at MacDonald's. He helps to run the sound system at church each week. This is his last year of high school and he has no idea yet what he wants to do next year or with the rest of his life. We talked late last night, and he told me that he couldn't understand anyone being depressed. "We have so much to be thankful for," he said. Yeah. He's got that much right...
Imagine living in Kibera. Africa’s second largest slum, home to anywhere between 6 and 12 million people. It’s impossible to know exactly how many live there. Essentially, they don’t have a home. There'll be no place to call your own. 600,000 people filling up each square kilometer with no high-rises makes it difficult to claim land for one’s self. On a dime, your cheap, poorly built shack shared by several families could be torn down at any moment without notice by the government if they were to decide they need that particular patch of God-forsaken land. You own nothing, literally, but the one set of clothes you wear on you back.
Are you thirsty? Just follow the terrible smell of rotting sewage to the river to find Kibera’s finest drink. The only problem is that you won’t feel the buzz before you pass out from the liquid you find there - the area’s only “water” source. You might wake up with a little more than a headache after imbibing some of this sewage/water system. But there is nothing else to satisfy your thirst. And the sun is insufferably hot. You could end up sick – if not dead – from the bacteria, and parasites that thrive there..
Oh, not so thirsty after all? Let’s go find some food. There might be a bite to eat at the local dump. (And yes I literally mean a bite.) If you’re lucky, you can afford to buy some food in Nairobi after working your regular 90 hour week.. just to survive.
All done eating and drinking? That was fast. Now we need to figure out how to dispose of… “the scraps”. The local washrooms are wonderful to use. They would be a little room with two or three holes in the ground and it smells just as good in there as it looks. But using one is only a treat for when you can afford the cost of admission. Most of the time, you go in a “flying toilet”; a bag that you do your duty in and then throw out the window and into the street.
It’s not all bad though. Your kids would love to grow up there. They will never be forced to take a bath, or go to school. Sometimes, with the help of AIDS, the children don’t have to take orders from their parents at all and they can live life the way they want to. Just be careful kids, don’t talk to strangers… or let them know you have anything of any value at all. And if you’re really lucky, you can find something in the garbage to play with. If you have time to play after using all your energy just to find some rotting bit of something to pop, unwashed, into your mouth, anything to squash that rumbling pain in your belly.
The fact is that Kibera is one example of many slums on this so-called wonderful world that we live in. Canada is doing a great job of providing people in our own country so many luxuries while others are still scavenging for life’s barest necessities. We are soaring into space while they are still trying to find their way above ground. We, as decent citizens of the earth, must not let people live like this when we waste so much. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s help. Let’s do what we can.