斯坦福学生在肯尼亚孤儿院:发现,领悟和反思

Jason Zhao


Jason 爸爸写在前面

凡在北美有养娃经验的父母都知道,“做义工”是孩子们成长过程中十分重要的一环。与我们小时候在“学雷锋做好事”运动时“扶老奶奶过马路”的应景之举不同,北美孩子们做的义工常常是“劳心劳力、流汗流泪”的“苦”差事。


Jason读高中时每年暑假都要去德州南部乡下一个”残障儿童夏令营”服务:“喂饭喂水、把屎把尿”。有一次他照顾的那智障儿发脾气,一把掌把他脸上的眼镜打飞了。等到我们去营地接他回家,发现他脸上的伤痕时,才知道这做“义工”的不易。那一年,他十六岁。

可是当我们收到他从斯坦福打来的电话,谈到他的暑假安排有“去肯尼亚孤儿院做二周义工”一项时,我们这做父母的真的是“心里一沉”。


但我们也知道,除了支持,能做的就是多唠叨些“注意安全”之类了。那老戏词不是也说,“孩子大了,要走哪条路,由他自己挑”嘛。美国的这些顶级高校,并非就是媒体常常攻击的“只会陪养精致的私己主义者”那样,更多的是盛产“胸怀祖国放眼世界”、“人类解放我解放”的莘莘学子。

能去这娜奥米村服务,按Jason的说法,是件很荣幸的事。他也是正好与鲍勃和朱莉的大三女儿Emily 住同一栋楼而成了朋友,才有此机会的。Emily是在11岁那年随父母搬离德州Dallas 去肯尼亚创办了这所孤儿院的,而每年夏天她都招几个斯坦福的大一新生一起去那儿做义工。


而做这“精准扶贫”的所有开销,如机票,都是义工自己解决。所以,这才有了Jason借在大名鼎鼎的“晓鹿讲坛”上做讲座的机会,向公众幕捐,向一些听他讲座的高中生提供“升学指导”咨询服务以赚取路费。所以,这也才有了他原本准备的“每日博客报道”,以答谢他的“金主”们。

可谁知道他那“博客”也就是在他飞往肯尼亚的路上开了个头。一入住娜奥米村,他忙得根本没时间写一个字。回到了美国,有时间有精力才发现此时写“日记”式的行踪报道己了无意义,所以他就一笔挥就了这篇短文《希望的启航》。向他的“金主”们报平安,道个谢,汇报汇报自己思想的变化。


可谁知道文章发表后,被另一大名鼎鼎的,也是“福妈“的阿朵喜欢上了,要我翻译中文后在她的《北美养娃那些事儿》公众号里发。


我哪儿行呢?Jason的文章用字“典雅”,我就一半文盲,靠查字典也不能全解其意。于是就求助于我那“英美文学”出身的中学同学Dawn。她二话不说,二一添作五的“刷刷刷”就译完了。几处略不明了之处,就由我找儿子“商榷”,这样我也就混了个“校对“的头衔,以示“文责吾负”。

不过,译文终究不是原文。你若识ABC,我强烈推荐你读原文。同时,你也会了解斯坦福教出的孩子们文笔几何;若你的孩子还小,就“推”他/她也入福园吧。这样,你的孩子也会有机会去娜奥米村,去服务那里的孩子。

娜奥米村的孩子应该与你我的孩子一样,有个美好的末来,幸福的一生!



儿行千里母担忧,妈妈在目送Jason 登机飞往肯尼亚。



希望的启航
悟于肯尼的孩子 

在看似不可逾越的困境中发现那不同凡尘之美


作者:Jason Zhao        翻译:Dawn   

校对:Jason 爸


1.
娜奥米村庄的孩子们 


二十四个多小时的的长途跋涉之后,我从家乡奥斯汀来到了娜奥米村的儿童之家。小村庄依偎在一个乡村卡车站旁,距离内罗毕约有一个小时车程。


 

好奇心满满的幼儿们那可爱的喧闹声洗尽了我四肢的疲乏,充满欢乐和纯真节奏的清脆笑声弥漫了整个幼儿室。


小萨姆平稳的举起他那细小的指关节击打我的手指,这也许是我收到的最温柔的击掌。同时,小大卫在室内四周步履蹒跚,犹如闹剧一般滚动着他那作为奖励品的球:一顶偷来的帽子遮盖了他的额头,只露出了获胜般得意的憨笑。外边长满青草的院子里,忽有忽无但确实存在的余音传入这“幼儿室”--一帮小男孩们欢叫着、嗤笑着、嚷嚷着要踢足球。


我笑了。这情景太熟悉了,就像我小学时的课间休息一模一样。

 

可就是这同一帮小男孩们,他们能不加思索地嘣出“前五名”足球运动员名字(按照顺序是:罗纳尔多、梅西、内马尔、萨拉赫和凯恩),然而,他们却想不起抛弃他们的父母的面孔来。冠了偷帽子恶名的顽皮的小家伙,名叫大卫,意思是“被爱的人”。


但是,就在二年前,在那咯克医院,大卫的第一个名字是“弃婴”。弃婴是一种委婉的说法:大卫是从一个12英尺深的茅坑里救出的,而之所以得救是因为他母亲把他扔进茅坑前那用来包裹他的塑料袋的浮力救了他。当今和过去的这种对比反差之烈于娜奥米村里的孩子们而言乃是生活之常态, 但我很快就发现,这种熟悉的感觉直截了当的终止于对表象的观感之外了。

 

熟悉与否,这些孩子从不需要你的怜悯。恰恰相反,他们值得你的钦佩。



他们快乐、聪明、健康。年龄稍大的孩子有着令人惊愕的雄心壮志。伊芙琳想成为纽约市的神经外科医生。保罗想周游美国,分享他的故事和经历,为娜奥米村募捐筹款。米莉森特想行医,将来的孩子们就不会像她那样,经受因疾病而失去父母的痛苦。精心投入的爱驱动着他们的目标,自信十足的决心陪伴着他们一路往前。

 

与大孩子不同,年幼的孩子们常常还不知道他们以后想要成就什么。但是,他们已经赢得了许多迷人的气质,而有时又是同情、怜悯和喜悦的矮墩墩胖乎乎的守护者。


艾茜和伊丽莎白不声不响地走到足球比赛的场边,乖巧地拿出一种叫做Jolly Ranchers的糖果盒子分给大家,等到孩子们(包括我的内)惊讶地发现自己手里原来拿到是一把石子时,俩人就开怀的坏笑起来。


雍盖酾和凯文如敬神般地省视着人行道和草地之间那两英寸高的坎儿;没有了这个坡度,他俩在下午就无法在玩独轮车游戏时算出腾空飞翔的时间(尽管这些时间是多么的微不足道)。


乐观深深地植入了这些经历了苦难过去的孩子们的心中,抹平了他们所有忧伤的痕迹。

 

无论年龄大小,这里许许多多的孩子在成长过程中,除了经受了被忽视、受虐待和悲惨过去之外,他们什么都没有经历过。现在,在娜奥米村,他们充满了渴望、无私和爱。


尽管我的mzungu身份(Swahili斯瓦希里语,意思是外国人),但娜奥米村里的孩子们会问我关于我家乡的问题, 这是他们在失望地意识到我不能像成龙那样教他们拳打脚踢之后的第二个话题;给我起斯瓦希里人的绰号;甚至还会提出他们对(通常是不请自来的)爱情和婚姻的建议。


有些人甚至给我做手镯,主动教我学斯瓦希里语,或者给我写信。他们都知道,在不到两周的时间里,我就会在一万英里之外了。但这并没有阻碍他们把我当成他们中的一员。


 

经历娜奥米村的孩子们那无私的爱心更加令我忐忑不安:我和他们生活太不相称了。


我生长在一个安定,有保障的,在家庭氛围庇护下的环境里。周围是富裕舒适的近郊社区和那享有着一流的公共教育的特权。然而 我在意的主要是以个人的发展为中心:我的学习分数, 我的暑期实习,我的形象。拥有了一切所需的,都足以影响他人生活的资源之后,我选择的却是注重个人的化。


相比之下,娜奥米村孩子们面对着无穷无尽的挑战,可他们将每一天都奉献给他们身边的人,奉献给他们所信仰的上帝,坚韧不拔的守护着他们的梦想:直到有一天彻底改变这曾经几乎毁掉了他们人生的社会制度。


是什么赋予了他们这些?


2.
肯尼亚的人们 


我和娜奥米村里的孩子们心态的差异最终归结为我们成长环境的截然不同。从悲惨环境中拯救出来的这些孩子们面对的是无条件的爱、无私的爱、全方位的爱,而这爱不期回报。


娜奥米村的创始入鲍勃和朱莉放弃了他们在美国舒适的郊区生活,舍弃了丰厚的职业生涯,投身于这一个发展中国家的传教工作之中。正是有了他们的牺牲奉献,娜奥米村的孩子们得以明白了他们每个人都享有份那独一无二的、无与伦比的炽热的爱;明白了人们赋予了他们以希望;也明白了他们对他们自己和周围的人来说是更加重要的。


如果没有鲍勃和朱莉的投入其中,这些孩子们不可能陶醉在这些同情关爱之中,他们只能去当地的小学上学——这所小学占了镇上妓女总数的三分之一。绝望和希望的二极对立正在消失,然而没有鲍勃和朱莉的努力,就连希望也不复存在了。

 

鲍勃、朱莉和娜奥米村团队其他成员之杰出的自我牺牲精神在肯尼亚并非罕见。在约翰的身上也同样能发现这种心甘情愿而自我舍弃的牺牲精神:当他发现自己瘫痪的女儿在公立学校得不到尊重时,他为残疾儿童创办了一所学校。除了资助他班上的学生外,约翰还帮助穷人开发食品项目,教寡妇缝补衣服以赚取收入。而他则去当汽车修理工,靠工作的收入维持自己女儿的费用,并赞助了多个慈善项目。


再以尤妮斯为例,她有六个孩子,每天挣不到2美元。问她每周最期待的事情是什么,她马上回答说:她最开心的是,把一些额外的收入攒着,在孩子放学回家时给他们一个大大的惊喜:喝碗麦片粥。

 

在这极端贫瘠的条件下,这些人士宣扬福音的希望、福音的爱。他们认识到,一个人的“自我”概念——即一个人担负的责任和领域——必须扩大,以适应整个家庭、整个社区,甚至履盖整个人群。


鲍勃、朱莉、约翰和尤妮斯没有利用其他人作为达到目的手段,而是让人们他们自己本身成为那最终的目的,让自己贯穿在他们全部的行为中。孩子们享有了这种慷慨,自然学会了回馈未来:在娜奥米村里,孩子们从小就开始在其他孤儿院做志愿者。在为他人服务的过程中,他们发现了自己的尊严,学着成为一种新的文化、一个新的政府和一个新的肯尼亚的领导者。


 

与我在肯尼亚所碰到的处处可见的无私精神形成鲜明对比的是,我感到我的生活中(以及我的伙伴的生活中)的那诸多人生激励无一不是围绕着“个人卓越”论。由于班级排名竞争激烈,密集的考试截止日,追逐美国文化中盛行的个人卓越思潮,一种人为的不平等性从年幼就开始制执行了:每个人的价值都是由周围人的成绩来衡量。这和人们在肯尼亚见证的真实的、灭性的不平等性是不同的,这种不平等性孕育了像约翰和尤妮斯这样的英雄。


而这人为的竞争机制下的不平等能激活一种世界观,往好的说,他人被视为达到目的的手段,朝坏的讲,他人则被视为实现这些目的的障碍。


在美国,富饶的物质财富与匮乏的社会同情形成了鲜明的对比,在肯尼亚,这两者的区别恰恰相反。目睹和体验两种的并存,我悟出了一个简单的机制,即可固化贫穷的循环,也可加速繁荣的循环: 爱使爱永恒!自私让自私不灭!欢喜孕育着喜欢!这就是文化教育那与生俱来的惯性。


3.
我想成为这样的人


我想把肯尼亚文化中鲜明显现的同情心和同理心融入我的生活。我要用真心、欢乐和爱来迎接其他的人,就像我在旅途中遇到的人,尤其是纳奥米村的孩子们迎接我那样。


在某种意义上,我想以一种更加高尚的、以更加宽容为目标和方向的态度,不仅仅是为我自己的生活,更是为了全球人类社会的利益而生活。

 

为了成就我的希望,我开始意识到我需要学习一些我从未想过要学习的东西;以前没有, 现在也没有在学校教过的东西;那些我认为我已经通过做一个“好人”而掌握的东西。


例如:怎样全心全意地爱他人? 我怎么会对那些开车太慢或吃起东西来嚼声振天的人感到沮丧呢, 而同时在肯尼亚,有些人没有车,常常有一餐没一餐的,却还能把自己的生命奉献给他人?

 

是什么构成了不折不挠的毅力?是这不折不挠迫我为了完成一个课题而熬夜至凌晨? 如果真是如此,人们怎么看待尤妮斯呢?她每周在别人的农场里做七天苦工,而工资不到20美元,没有自来水,没有电,她为的是她那六个孩子能够上学。


那约翰呢? 在他的一个女儿瘫痪的时候,他妻子带着另一个女儿走了, 但他仍然想方设法扩大他的牧道场所来帮助孤儿,扶助寡妇。当数以百万计的人经受着那极端的困苦却仍然充满希望、富有成效、甚至是快乐的时候,我的消极情绪(以及面对这些情绪时的不折不挠)合理吗?


 

快乐,幸福和喜悦之间的区别倒底是什么? 当我看热闹搞笑的电视节目时,我感觉“好”;我花了数百个小时实现了我的一个个人目标时,我感觉“好”;当我有机会和肯尼亚的孤儿呆在一起并成为他们的朋友时,我感觉“好“。但是,“好”是一个含糊不清、不精确的词; 在很多方面,我开始细分昙花一现的快乐,为自己取得成就的令人满意的喜悦,以及为他人服务而忘掉自我那腾腾向上的幸福。


当一个名叫山姆的婴儿来到娜奥米村时,我看到七年级的玛丽一边啜泣,一边欣喜地感动的看着山姆的生活发生了巨大的变化。虽然玛丽只有12岁,但我推断她在那一刻对快乐的感受比我至今享有的充足物资的快乐感更深刻、更有意义。

 

我应该依据什么标准来做决定? 我为谁工作?什么才是真正重要的? 


当我在准备实习面试的时候,焦虑和自我怀疑淹没了我。是自我价值的负担沉重地压在了我身上,左右着我的情绪和行动。我背负的重担是什么?我是否愿意或有能力用我自己的负担来换取那些需要帮助的人的无数的负担? 


进一步讲,我是否应该放弃自我成就的意愿? 为什么要予我以拥有时间的权力去批判性地思考”我要什么样的生活”?或,“我到底是谁”呢? 对这类在哲学上的探索来说,那怕是最令人满意的答案也无法糊住一张嗷嗷待哺的嘴。


事实上,这篇文章里所有的反思都是供给那些拥有惊人的心灵归属感,在非物质的这个层次上思索生命意义的人来阅读来琢磨来领悟的。

 

4.
开始行动


我希望听完了我的经历,你会想到和这些被肯尼亚大裂谷里那绮丽的连绵群山环抱着的美丽的人们面对面。


我希望你能去娜奥米村看看那85个生龙活虎,勃勃生机,语笑喧阗,踢球技术变化多端,在手推车周围推推挤挤,开心地叫嚷着的孩子们。


别的不说,我希望你能牺牲个人利益,花一点点时间,就在当下,攒下你平日里买几杯咖啡的钱, 腾出你平日里花在社交媒体的时间来帮助那些你从未见过,看过,甚至没有听说过的人,那些他们没可能当面向你致谢,可能永远没有机会和你握手。


我希望你去做一些对你没有任何直接好处的事——就像娜奥米村里的孩子给我做花生酱三明治,试着教我武术,或者坚持让我轮流玩他们最喜欢的玩具那样。

 

值得我再次重复: 爱使爱永恒!自私让自私不灭!



我们只能用自己的眼睛看,自己的耳朵听,自己的头脑思考。不可理所当然认为,我们可以由自己的内心感受别人的感受是多么神奇的事。

 

5.
最重要的部分


捐赠给娜奥米的村庄。

捐款给约翰的项目。

 

如果你想帮助,但不想捐款(或如果你想做额外的帮助!),请每天用30秒的时间与你的朋友+家人分享这篇文章:通过复制url链接或按旁边的社交分享,或按住“clap”(👏)按钮也将有助于传播本文更多的人分享。


至此,谢谢你从头到尾读了下来。❤️



英文原版如下:



 英文原文:

 https://medium.com/@jasonzhao/hope-begins-what-i-learned-from-children-in-kenya-3fca2ea9a64a


Hope Begins: What I Learned from Children in Kenya


Discovering incommensurate beauty in the midst of seemingly insurmountable challenges

I. THE CHILDREN OF NAOMI’S VILLAGE

It has been over 24 hours of travel from my hometown of Austin to Naomi’s Village, a children’s home nestled in a rural truckstop about an hour away from Nairobi.The adorable cacophony of curious babies washes the weariness from my limbs, high pitched giggles filling the nursery room with the rhythm of joy and innocence. Baby Sammy calmly lifts his delicate knuckles against mine; it is perhaps the most tender fist bump I’ve ever received. Meanwhile, Baby David waddles along the circumference of the room, a ball of mischief wielding his trophy: a stolen hat that swallows his forehead, leaving only a triumphant smirk. Faint yet unmistakable tendrils of sound make their way into the “baby room” from the grassy courtyard outside — the cheers and jeers of young boys clamoring for the soccer ball. I smile. It feels familiar, like an elementary school recess.

Yet many of the same boys who will rattle off the names of their “top 5” soccer players without hesitation (the consensus, in order: Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Salah, and Kane) cannot recall the faces of the parents that abandoned them. The name David, given to the playful baby of hat-stealing notoriety, means “Beloved.” Yet just a couple of years earlier, the first name given to David at Narok hospital had been Abandoned. Abandoned was a euphemism: David had been rescued from a 12 foot pit latrine, saved only by the buoyancy of the plastic bag his mother had wrapped around her child before tossing him in. Jarring contradictions between the present and the past are the norm for kids at Naomi’s Village. The familiarity, I quickly discovered, terminates bluntly beyond the surface.

Familiar or not, these children do not need your pity.

Quite the opposite, they deserve your admiration. They are happy, smart, and healthy. The older ones are frighteningly ambitious. Evalyne wants to be a neurosurgeon in New York City. Paul wants to travel around the United States, sharing his story and experiences to fundraise for Naomi’s Village. Millicent wants to practice medicine so that children in the future might not endure the loss of their parents to disease in the way that she did. An ardent love drives their purpose and a confident determination accompanies them along the way.Unlike their older counterparts, the younger children often do not yet know what they want to accomplish later in life. However, they have already achieved much as charming and sometimes pudgy bastions of compassion and joy. Essie and Elizabeth stalk the sidelines of pickup soccer matches, meekly offering candy from a box of Jolly Ranchers and squealing with delight as surprised children (myself included) instead receive a handful of gravel. Nyongesa and Kevin worship the two inch dip in elevation between the sidewalk and the grass; without it, they would have no ramp to score airtime (however slight) for their afternoon wheelbarrow rides. Optimism is canvassed so thickly over these childrens’ grim pasts as to smother any trace of melancholy.

Regardless of age, many of these children grew up experiencing nothing but neglect, abuse, and tragedy. Now, at Naomi’s Village, they are brimming with eagerness, selflessness, and love. Despite my mzungu status (Swahili for foreigner), the Naomi’s Village children would ask me questions about my hometown (their second option after disappointedly realizing that I could not teach them to fight like Jackie Chan), give me Swahili nicknames, and even offer up their (usually unsolicited) love and marriage advice. Some even made me bracelets, offered to teach me Swahili, or wrote me letters. All of them knew that in less than 2 weeks I would be almost ten thousand miles away. It did not stop them from treating me as one of their own.Experiencing the selfless compassion of the children at Naomi’s Village exaggerated an already uncomfortable dissonance between their lives and mine: Despite being raised in a safe, sheltered family environment, surrounded by the comfort of a well-off suburban community and the privilege of a stellar public education, my concerns largely revolved around personal advancement: my GPA, my summer internships, my image. Given all the resources I needed (and then some) to impact the lives of others, I choose instead to focus on individual aggrandization. In contrast, despite an abundance of challenges, these children devote every day to the people around them and to their faith in God, tenaciously holding onto their dream to one day revolutionize the system that so miserably failed them. What gives?


II. THE PEOPLE OF KENYA

The discrepancy between my mindset and that of the children at Naomi’s Village ultimately boils down to the starkly contrasting environments in which we were raised. Rescued from dire circumstances, these children were exposed to unconditional, selfless, and all-encompassing love; love that comes without expectation. Bob and Julie, the founders of Naomi’s Village, relinquished their comfortable suburban lifestyle and lucrative careers in the United States to devote themselves to missionary service in a developing country. Because of their sacrifice, the children at Naomi’s Village are made to understand that they are each uniquely and passionately loved, that they are desired, and that they are more than enough for themselves and for those around them. Without Bob and Julie’s intervention, these same children would be attending the local primary school instead of reveling in compassion— a primary school which constitutes a third of the prostitute population in town. The dichotomy between desperation and hope is obliterating, yet without Bob and Julie’s efforts, even hope would not exist.

The remarkable self sacrifice evident in Bob, Julie, and the rest of the Naomi’s Village team is not uncommon in Kenya. The same willing self-effacement can be found in John, who founded a school for disabled children when he discovered that his paralyzed daughter was not being treated with respect in public schools. In addition to supporting his classrooms, John also organizes food programs for the impoverished, manages a project which teaches widows to sew for income, and works as a car mechanic to provide for his daughter and fund a plethora of charitable projects. Or take Eunice, a mother of six children who makes less than $2 a day. When asked what she looks forward to most each week, she replies immediately: She is most ecstatic when she is able to pull some extra money together and surprise her kids with porridge when they return home from school.Under conditions of brutal poverty, these individuals preach a gospel of hope and of love. They recognize that one’s concept of “self” — the domain over which one holds responsibility and agency — has to expand to fit the entire family, the entire community, perhaps even the entire population. Instead of utilizing other people as means to an end, Bob, Julie, John, and Eunice made people themselves the end-all, be-all of their actions. The children who experience this generosity naturally learn to pay it forward: at Naomi’s Village, children volunteer at other orphanages starting from a young age. In serving others, they discover their own sense of dignity, learning to become the leaders of a new culture, a new government, and a new Kenya.

In contrast to the pervasive selflessness I became acquainted with in Kenya, I feel that many of the incentives in my life (and the lives of my peers) are aligned around individual exceptionalism. With competitive class rankings, intense exam cutoffs, and the obsession with individual excellence that is so prevalent in American culture, an artificial inequality is enforced from a young age in which everyone is measured by those around them. Unlike the real and crushing inequality one can witness in Kenya, which breeds heroes like John and Eunice, this artificial competition can encourage a worldview in which others are treated at best as means to one’s ends, and at worst, as obstacles in the way of those ends. The abundance of material wealth in the United States contrasts starkly with its dearth of social compassion, a distinction that exists in reverse in Kenya. Through witnessing and experiencing this juxtaposition, I learned a lot about the simple mechanism that can either cement a cycle of poverty or fuel a cycle of prosperity: Love perpetuates love. Selfishness perpetuates selfishness. Like begets like; such is the inertial nature of cultural education.


III. THE PERSON I WANT TO BECOME

I want to incorporate the compassion and empathy that is so present in Kenyan culture into my own life. I want to welcome others with the heart, the joy, and the love that I was greeted with by all those I met on my trip, and in particular the children at Naomi’s Village. I want, in some sense, to live with a higher, more inclusive sense of purpose and direction: to live not solely for myself, but rather for the benefit of a global human community.In order to satisfy these desires, I am beginning to realize that I need to learn things that I never thought that I would have to learn. Things that weren’t (and still aren’t) taught in school. Things that I thought I had already mastered by being “a good person.” Things like:

How to love people wholeheartedly? How is it that I can so readily experience frustration at people who are driving too slowly or chewing too loudly when there are individuals in Kenya who don’t own cars and often have to skip meals, yet still manage to devote their lives to the service of others?

What constitutes resilience? Is resilience forcing myself to stay up into the early AM in order to finish a problem set? If so, what would one consider Eunice, toiling seven days a week in others’ farms for less than $20 with no running water and no electricity in order to allow her six children to attend school? What about John, whose wife left him, taking one of his daughters with her just as his other daughter became paralyzed, yet who still managed to simultaneously grow his ministries to the orphaned and widowed? Are my negative emotions (and my supposed resilience in the face of these emotions) justified, when there are millions of people experiencing far more extreme conditions and still remaining hopeful, productive, and even happy?

What are the differences amongst pleasure and happiness and joy? When I watch a hilarious television show, I feel good. When I achieve a personal goal that I have spent hundreds of hours working towards, I feel good. When I have the opportunity to spend time with and befriend orphaned children in Kenya, I feel good. Yet good is a vague and imprecise term; in many ways, I’m beginning to draw distinctions between the ephemeral goodness of pleasure, the satisfying goodness of achieving something for oneself, and the exuberant goodness that is losing oneself in the service of others. Upon the arrival of a new baby named Sam at Naomi’s Village, I watched as Mary, a 7th grader, sobbed in the joyful appreciation of how drastically Sam’s life had changed for the better. Though Mary is only 12, I reckon that she experienced a deeper, more meaningful sense of joy in that moment than I have experienced in all my years of material abundance.

Under what criteria should I make decisions? Who am I working for, and what really matters? When I am awash with anxiety and self-doubt as I prepare for internship interviews, it is the burden of my own self-worth that is bearing down upon me and driving my emotions and actions. What are the burdens that I carry, and am I willing or capable of exchanging my own burdens for the innumerable burdens of those in need? Moreover, should I abandon my will for self-actualization? Why privilege myself with the time to ponder critically about “what I want in life” or “who I really am” when not even the most satisfying conclusion to these philosophical inquiries can feed one mouth in need? Indeed, all the reflections in this piece will be consumed by those with the incredible entitlement of pondering their lives on a level immaterial.


IV. THE CALL TO ACTION

I hope that after hearing about my experiences, you’ll want to meet these beautiful people face-to-face, surrounded by the gorgeous rolling hills of the Kenyan Rift Valley. I hope that you’ll visit Naomi’s Village to see 85 living, breathing, screeching miracles playing soccer and pushing each other around on wheelbarrows, squealing with delight. If nothing else, I hope that you’ll take a moment to make a personal sacrifice wherever you may be right now: skip out on the money you would have spent on a couple cups of coffee and set aside the time you would have spent scrolling on social media in order to help people who you’ve never met or seen or even really heard of, people who won’t be able to say thank you in person, people who will probably never shake your hand. To do something even though it doesn’t directly benefit you in any way — the same way the kids at Naomi’s Village offered me their peanut butter sandwiches, or tried to teach me martial arts, or insisted that I take turns playing with their favorite toys.

It bears repeating: Love perpetuates love. Selfishness perpetuates selfishness. We can only see from our own eyes, only hear from our own ears, and only think from our own mind. Let us not take for granted what a miracle it is that we can feel what others feel from our own heart.


V. THE MOST IMPORTANT SECTION

Donate to Naomi’s Village here.

Donate to John’s projects here.

If you want to help but don’t want to donate money (or if you want to help extra!), please take just 30 seconds out of your day to share this article with your friends + family by either copying the url link or pressing the social sharing buttons on the side! Pressing and holding down the “clap” (👏) button will also help spread the article to more people. Thanks for making it this far! ❤️


 

 

 


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