Tuesday 4th October 2016
Looking at Each Other with God’s Eyes.
Last week in church we were being told about looking at each other with God’s eyes, which means treating each other as fellow creatures of a common artist, as fellow images of the One who created us, treating each other as God would treat us, as a loving parent would treat their child, or anyone a person they love. It’s a call to charity and compassion. I was wondering if this is something actionable or whether it’s one of those things you hear and think, “Well, that’s nice,” and the minute you walk out of Church you have no idea how to implement it.
But an example came to my mind. During the August holidays this year, on one Sunday we decided to go to Uhuru Park- a park in CBD Nairobi- which has grass, benches, water and boats, and people, adults, children, couples, families, groups and artists meeting, fan-fare, ice cream and soda vendors and so on, you know, just, a park! It was the first time that we were taking our kids there and as soon as we got into the park, Lulu ran off to freedom 🙂
We were balancing between chasing after her and her brother and trying to find a nice spot to set up our picnic. At some point I realized she was running towards this lady who was seated on the grass with her daughter who looked about five or six years old. I got to them just as Lulu was stretching her hand out to have some of what they were having. This lady and her daughter had been eating sugar-cane, the ones that you buy in a clear bag, chopped into small chewable pieces. And as I reached them out of breath (because you know how fit I am, I exercise every day – in my mind), this lady was saying ‘Sorry’ to Lulu. I was also, at the same time, telling Lulu, “ No, Mum, No,” Embarrassed that my kid had gone to ask other people for food. This lady was so apologetic, she said, “Haki tumemaliza miwa sasa sina kitu ya kupatia mtoto haki. Sasa nitampatia nini haki? Ningejua hata singemaliza, imagine kamekuta tu tukikula za mwisho. Woi, pole.” (Basically, “Gosh we have just finished the sugarcane, now I have nothing to give the child, now what will I give her surely? I wish we hadn’t finished, she just found us eating the last pieces, I’m so sorry”). I stood there stunned. This woman was genuinely apologizing for not having something to offer a little child that is not even her child. I got tears in my eyes. I thanked her and told her ‘Ai, hata usijali, asante, tena pole amewasumbua.” (No, don’t worry, thank you, sorry that she bothered you). And she said, “Hakajatusumbua hata,” (She didn’t bother us at all), still looking so apologetic.
I thought this was such a rare person. She and her daughter were pretty simply dressed and didn’t look particularly rich, if you can judge by looks, but she had a heart of gold, that she could see my child not as a stranger but as another child just like her own. I held Lulu’s hand tight (so that she wouldn’t run off to some other group :-)) as we walked back to her father and brother and I knew that whatever else we were going to experience at the park, I had already had my God moment. This lady, essentially, looked at my daughter with the eyes of God.
It’s moments like these that restore our faith in humanity.
Later as we sat eating, some street kids came by and they were quite dirty. They stood hovering around, sitting sort of away from us but too close for comfort, and it didn’t help that they kept darting their eyes towards us. So I gave them some chips and then they said they wanted chicken also, and soda, yoh, this must be what Obama calls The Audacity of Hope, and we gave them. I’d like to claim that this was my Mother Teresa moment but honestly I did it more out of fear of what they may do if we didn’t share our food. I started talking to one and asked him his name and why he hadn’t gone to church yet it was Sunday. He told me his name was Ken and that he hadn’t gone to Church because he didn’t have sadaka (offertory), but that if I gave him Sadaka he would go to church. Really, hahaha, very funny. I told him I’d give him next time. Poriot and I just smiled because we knew if we gave him as much as even ten shillings he would use it to buy ‘Glue’ which they sniff and get high on. Lukundo was super quiet through this whole exchange- I think it was also his first time to see street children. This was going to be a day of many Firsts.
Later when we were going home Lukundo asked us how come the boys had wanted his food. We told him it was because they don’t have their own food, that’s why we shared. Thankfully they have been taught in school that sharing is good- he is constantly saying that line to us all in case we forget “It’s good to share” so you cannot eat anything not even chewing gum basically without sharing. That night I was tucking him into bed, when we finished praying and I was getting up to go turn off the lights, he asked me, “Mum, kwani hao watoto hawana maji kwao?” (Mum, do those children not have water at their home?) I asked him why, he said “Sababu walikuwa wachafu sana” (Because they were very dirty). I got tears again. How would I explain to him that these kids didn’t technically have a ‘kwao’ (their home) ? That they have chosen or found themselves, for whatever reason, to have the streets as their Kwao? I told him that “ Yes, hawana maji kwao, Baba”. (Yes, they have no water) “Lakini maji yao itarudi tu, si ndio?”(But their water will return, right?) “ Ehh, itarudi”. (Yes, it will come back), he nodded and put his head on his pillow and slept.
Essentially, this young boy Lukundo had looked at the street children with God’s eyes. He knows that children should be clean so it bothered him that they were not and he wanted to understand what the issue was. He didn’t see them as street kids but as children just like he and his sister are. What great lessons children teach us! In any case, I pray that the street kids can go back to their homes or a home, where hopefully there is water so that they can bathe, and maybe one day also be able to eat chicken and chips without asking for it from strange families visiting Uhuru Park. I also pray that we will all always have sugarcane to give anybody who comes running to us, in parks and elsewhere. Indeed, may we always look at others with the eyes of God.