Time seems like an old friend in Kenya. The kind of friend you want to linger. The friend you feel safe with.
Time that allows you to dance, not rush, into church high above the Rift Valley.
To take seats on pews only to stand up too many times to count to greet one another. To acknowledge the neighbors, the church leaders, the guests.
Time to welcome the people. All God’s people.
Especially the children.
Time to sing.
This is time as friend.
We drive long dirt roads and see people just lounging in the fields and Sophie names it, “People are happy to linger here.”
We order lunch and wait. We wait. We wait. In the waiting there is conversation with Mildred, a young woman going through the Compassion program and Eliud, a Compassion alumni.
Our conversation is the slow kind that steeps and has time to grow more potent.
After awhile I lean towards Eliud, the man who grew up in the Mathare slum. I look at him beaming bright with his boy right next to him. And I hope for Smith, the child I just sponsored who is right now this very minute in the slum, I hope that he can grow up and be like Eliud. With a good job. A family. Out of the slum.
I ask like I’m digging, “What was it your sponsor told you in the letters he wrote that you needed to hear?”
I ask because I am digging, I think. But for what?
I want to know what Jeremy and I should say when we write Smith. What do you tell a child who has a life you’ll never understand? A hardship you’ve only seen but never tasted? A road that looks pocked with more valleys than one’s share.
He leans back into my question like he doesn’t just hear it. He feels my desperation.
“You must ask him, ‘How are you?’”
I hold my breath and move my eyes back and forth searching for more. I was ready for Eliud to wax on reciting Bible verses, giving me the most encouraging words to share.
I say it back like I misunderstood, “I should ask him how he is? Like, just how he is doing?”
“In the slum, no one asks you how you are. Everyone is fighting for survival. They are too focused on how they are going to get by. The children are of little concern. My sponsor was the only one to ask me how I was doing. And I knew, he wanted to know me.”
Because we were created to be known.
He helps me, “When you sponsored Smith you conveyed to him that you want to know him. Now you have to know him. You have to ask, ‘How are you?‘”
Back in America I know I will let time be less like a friend. I will let it overthrow me like a merciless dictator. I’ll rush. And get flustered. I’ll stop only to consider why I do not have more time.
But I want to be more of a “how are you?” person. I want to stop and sing. I want to dance into church, into a home, into a heart. I want to stop and say, “You are welcome here.”
Smith will remind Jeremy and me to be a “how are you?” people. To be curious about those in front of us.
To be inquisitive and timeless.
To remember that it wasn’t enough to just invite Smith to our table. Now we need to make him known to us. We need to ask, “How are you?”
You can be a, “how are you?” people too. You can sponsor a child from Kenya and get curious. You can send your first letter and write it like you mean it, “How are you?”
Will you sponsor a child from Kenya today?
At the writing of this, 53 new children have a sponsor and will get to hear, maybe for the first time in a long time, “How are you?” Will you join us?