The value of a person is not determined by their abilities, but by the sheer fact of their existence as a creation of God. This extends to all of us regardless of gender, race, origin, religion etc. We all have intrinsic value given to us by our Creator as part of His grand design. The challenge is that often the value is not recognized, not given or is all together dismissed, especially for the most vulnerable in our society.
To my shame I have walked by the most vulnerable in deplorable situations and used my busy schedule, lack of expertise or not knowing how to “really help” to excuse my inaction. I have left the severely crippled, young and potentially even abused in my shadow as I travelled past onto whatever urgent thing was calling me that day. I didn’t give a thought to the tragic situation the person crumpled on the sidewalk was enduring at that moment and possibly for the rest of their lives.
Today I drove by a slumped over figure with the tell-tale blue plastic cup placed in front of them by whatever “handler” had put him there. I had driven by him before, but today was different. Whether it was the cold 6:00 AM weather or the fact that he was laying facedown, I parked the car and came back. I approached him slowly and greeted him softly with “Habari ndugu” so as not to scare him in the early morning. He didn’t move. I knelt down beside him and put my hand on his back, feeling the malformed bones poking through his clothing as he lifted his head slightly from the sidewalk and looked at me with a mixture of fear and confusion. Over the next few minutes I tried to get him to speak, as did Emmanuel, the young South Sudanese man who had just dropped his bus fare into the blue, plastic cup, but to no avail. Emmanuel and I went across the street to see if the person who dropped this young man here was nearby but the boda boda drivers said he had been dropped off very early and the people responsible were long gone. They proceeded to tell me one of the commonly held theories that this young man and others dotted along the roads of Nairobi are from Tanzania and were brought to beg where there was more money, as if that excused the drivers from helping.
I was at a loss of what to do, but I knew that “nothing” was not an option. I went into a local restaurant, ordered chai and a small loaf of bread and took it to him. As soon as I set the bread and tea in front of him, he used whatever energy he had to grab the bread with his one able hand and eat like he had not been fed in days. I sat with him as he ate and I watched person after person, car after car pass by this fragile, neglected, needy fellow human, without even a glance except to figure out why this mzungu was sitting on a curb staring back at them. I was upset at first at the uncaring disregard for this life sitting crumpled on the sidewalk, until I was reminded that until about 45 minutes before, that was me passing by…
I haven’t stopped thinking about this young man and the many like him in our city all day. I am not sure what the answer is, since there don’t seem to be public institutions to care for the disabled in Kenya other than for children. When those who are over 18 years old are taken to the police they are often just jailed, not helped. What I do know is that doing "nothing" is no longer an option. So let’s begin a conversation. What do we do? What can our community do? How can we change the story for so many who are abused and neglected in our city, even if it is one by one? I’m ready to listen and learn.
Post By Shawn Koonce
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