Today, this blog is dedicated to the young struggling masses in all corners of the world. I want to share an experience from a few days ago.
As a senior at Wesleyan University, there is a tradition called “senior cocktails.” “Cocktails” is a series of events put together for the senior class to party together before graduation.
The cocktails event from a few nights ago had a theme attached to it, “Rock and Roll.” For this event, everyone is supposed to dress up, wearing a costume that reflects any kind of “rock and roll” from the Beatles to Bob Marley. There was only one problem: I had nothing to wear. My friend Nathan and I decided to go to Good Will to get an outfit for the night. As we drove, I sat in the car thinking how strange my life has become, how disconnected from the real world that I used to know. Now, in my new life, I am going to go spend money to buy an outfit that I will only wear once, yet before I didn’t have enough clothes or food and such an idea would have seemed ludicrous. I couldn’t help think to myself, “I’ve been given all of these opportunities, and what am I doing with them?”
When we arrived at Good Will we walked around for several minutes. When Nathan saw that I had nothing in my hand to purchase he asked if I planned to buy anything. I tried to be polite, as I said no, “Buddy, I think I have something in the house that I can use for tonight. He looked straight into my face as if he read something there. We continued to walk around but after a few more minutes he refused to buy anything too, and we left the store empty handed.
In the car I started laughing with Nathan and asking, “Why did we change our minds?” He laughed too and I saw that it was time for me to break the ice. I said, “You know you are my friend, and I better be honest with you. I felt bad as a person who grew up in poverty to go and buy a piece of clothing for one day that I will never use again. I don’t want to forget where I came from. I worked in the factories as an unskilled laborer for many years. It was ten hours for a dollar in horrible conditions, and I can’t help reflecting on that past life.”
My friend listened to me carefully, and told me that in Good Will he had been hit by the same feeling. After visiting me in Kibera, he also felt that he had seen the outside world and cannot waste money on a one-night thing. I am struck by his perceptions, his understanding. Even though we grew up in totally different lifestyles, he sees where I came from—he sees me.
We decided to use what we have instead of buying new clothes. We had a great night, but all throughout I was amazed by the protection afforded to me. There were Residential Life Coordinators, Public Safety Officers, and Police Officers all there simply to ensure our safety. Even as we enjoy ourselves inside the party, Area Coordinators from ResLife are standing outside, giving up their nights to ensure our safety and comfort.
This is not a world that I am used to. When I was growing up, no one looked out for my safety like this. Every time I saw a police officer in Kenya they were there to harass, not to protect, me. Police officers in Kenya would threaten to imprison me if I couldn’t pay them a bribe: my only crime was poverty.
This is a call to the struggling masses to say that another world is indeed possible if you do not give up hope, and if when you reach the other side you remember where you came from. I will never forget the time my friend Eric and I were hit by a car. We tried to follow the case to get compensated so that we might be able to go to the hospital. The police immediately dismissed the case, because since we were poor no one cared if a rich driver hit us. Look at my life now: people take care of me, I get on the bus with the other Wesleyan students and the police are there to make sure I am safe and taken care of. I must remember—none of this came to me on a silver plate, I worked to get where I am. I vowed never to give up, to work hard in my life so that my children will never have to suffer as I did. No matter what, no matter how many people told me I should, I never gave up hoping. I knew the system was against me, and that no matter how hard I tried the system kept holding me back.
Don’t give up hope—and don’t forget your roots, your values and your struggle.
I am confident that another world is possible!