One aspect of the Kenyan lifestyle that I appreciated was how much they respected each other and everything they owned.
An example jumps to mind which happened during my first few days at school in Kenya. Whenever I sat down I kept putting my bag on the floor. As soon as I used do this a girl would pick it up again and neatly place it on the back of my chair. I eventually realised that the girls were protecting my bag from getting dirty as their classroom floor was covered in dust and dirt. This showed how much the girls respected their belongings and appreciated everything they owned. As a result I felt really ashamed for dumping my bag on the floor so carelessly. I felt ashamed that I hadn’t respected my belongings – there were girls sitting beside me who didn’t have copies, pens, books and whom I knew wouldn’t have taken my school supplies for granted had they had the chance. However, it wasn’t just about possessions. The people I met had the utmost respect for everything and for everyone. It didn’t matter whether a person came from a rich background or from nothing, everybody was equal. This brings me back to the initial teachings and ethos of Mary Ward – she believed that it was necessary for both men and women to be treated with respect and as equals. Mary Ward fought so that we could call her dreams our entitlements. Mary Ward is our evidence that a little respect has come and does go a long way.
The most uplifting part of my whole Kenyan experience was the faith of the people. Although their lives were marked by greater hardships than ours, they were still thankful to God for being alive and trusted that He would protect them. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how they managed to keep up their mental and physical strength. I suppose that as it was the only life they knew they simply had no other choice.
I can only imagine how disheartening it is to be continually knocked down by life. And then to get back up, remain positive and still have faith. If it wasn’t for Mary Ward and her continuous struggle against all the odds, none of us would be sitting in this school right now getting our education. None of us would have the opportunities that her perseverance and faith opened up for us.
Every day in class in Kenya the girls would say a prayer just as we often do here in our school. However they prayed together even before the teacher came into the room and prayer was a big aspect of their daily routine. I’ve noticed that when we pray in Ireland we often don’t actually listen to what we’re saying. In Kenya the girls all added to the prayers, included special intentions and even took it in turns to lead the class. It was nice to see my classmates genuinely praying together and for each other, fully showing the depth of their faith. I then thought about our society and how that often isn’t the case. In an ideal world it shouldn’t have to be like that. If only we had the courage to express our faith as freely as our Kenyan counterparts do. If only we realised that we all have the potential to do good and do it well.
If only we had the courage to be like those who know the odds and do so anyway.