My plane is scheduled to leave in 12 hours and I am very sad.
Not because of the poverty, the suffering, the crazy "I actually cannot deal the fact that this is happening to someone" misery.
I am sad because I love this place. I love the people, I love the landscape, I love the crazy drivers, I love the friendship and openness of almost every single person I have met. And if the world took an IQ test I am certain that Kenya would finish in first place, way above everybody else.
The past two weeks I have never laughed more in my life. Received more genuine handshakes, gratitude, kindnesses, hospitality, graciousness, patience, affection, generosity, and human connectedness than ever before. All this from people who had nothing to give me, yet gave me more than I have ever received.
My last trip here left me hugely confused -- how can this place contain so much kindness and love when there is so much suffering?
And I think I have figured it out (at least for now, anyway). There is an unlimited reservoir of happiness burbling below the surface of humanity. It is unstoppable, everpresent, and a force to be reckoned with. Poverty, and illiteracy, and hunger, and violence all seek to keep it below the surface. But love and joy are relentless in their push to be present in the world.
LitWorld gives people the tools to tap into that wonderful power that is always ready, asking simply for the chance to appear on earth. And here in Kenya we have opened up a torrent of joy that is cascading into the world, freed at last from its confines.
The statistics about Kibera are all true. And the nightmare of what goes on there requires some sort of compartmentalizing in the brain that is almost beyond my capacity. But let me end with what I will swear to the ends of the earth is true: Kibera's heart contains unlimited potential for joy. And the trickle of happiness that LitWorld added with its first visit then grew into a nice burbling fountain which has now become a screaming geyser.
There is plenty of joy in Kibera -- it just needs to emerge. Storytelling, writing about one's experiences, reading to a child, talking with others about the story that is one's life . .. these are what LitWorld shows people how to do. For these are the catalysts to unlock the joy crying out to see the light of day.
My Swahili is so bad and non-improving that they call me "bongo lala", which I think basically means "brain dead." But there are still enough synapses firing for me to know that I have heard the words "you're welcome" more than "thank you", and that is as it should be. For the joy of Kenya burbled up, and showered down, and that is the real story here.