A week plus three days home from Kenya, no longer jet lagged and caught up on re-connecting with family and friends, yet I am restless. I am still overflowing with the people whom I met and the sights which I saw on the other side of the world, and so I am not yet fully present to being home. By choice I want to keep those vivid memories close to me a little longer. The memories are like a collage, all layered on top of one another and woven together into a whole experience that was incredibly rich. I am sharing one last experience with you before I put this blog to bed until the next (I hope) trip.
At morning tea time on the last day of the teacher workshop in Eldoret, I did as I always did which was to follow the custom of asking for a volunteer to pray a grace. Kenyans are comfortable with saying extemporaneous prayers in a group, and up to that time there had never been any hesitation for someone to stand and say a grace that was so beautiful that I often wished that I had written it down. But on this morning, the twenty-five teachers with whom I had spent the last two and half days, were quiet in response to my request.
A teacher named Roseline said aloud, “You pray for us, Mary.”
“I will, but I am feeling the emotions of knowing that later today we will say good bye to each other. I think these feelings will come out in my prayer,” I told them. They all nodded their encouragement to me. I bowed my head and forgot entirely to pray for the tea about to be served, for instead my prayer was about the twenty-five teachers in the room—for each of their classrooms and all of their students, for their making do without enough materials and books, for the small pay checks that they must stretch, and for the crops that they cultivate around their houses and the cow they milk so that their children have enough to eat. When I came to the “amen” and looked up, there were twenty-five teachers smiling back at me and then they clapped. It was a moment that I could not have anticipated or orchestrated. It was one of those times when I had let myself be entirely vulnerable. In forgetting myself, I gained empathy and caring for the teachers and in turn had received their affection—not based on my credentials or how good the teacher training the workshop had been, but simply because of the humanity that we shared and recognized in one another.
And I am being vulnerable with you now, for you might think how crazy and sentimental I am. That is probably so, but the truth of the lesson remains the same. We often hide behind our accolades and titles, when our compassion and care for others near and far is our real accomplishment and the one that will count the most in the end. Africans are good teachers of such things.