Sunday, February 8, 2009

John 9:25

A few days ago I watched as a blind man in a mustard colored blazer very nearly ran into a wall adjacent to the sidewalk on which we were walking. I had not noticed him until I was just to his right, and about to reach out to re-direct him when a nearby security guard beat me to it. He had a worn wooden cane that he used as one would use the much thinner, white canes I’m accustomed to seeing blind people with. I worried as I walked on that rush hour in downtown Nairobi is no place for a blind man.

When I reached my bus I watched him from the window as he slowly and cautiously made his way down the street, finally past the point I’d walked ten minutes before. I started to think of how independent he was, but also how much he must rely on others to help him during those times in which he finds himself up against a wall, or at a busy intersection, or perhaps facing a new roadblock set up to accommodate construction.

I have also been thinking a lot about the current economic crisis, which I imagine I am experiencing in a very different way than my friends, family and fellow Americans back home. I check the news online, but in general I am shielded from the daily gloom and doom headlines referencing corporate bailouts and crumbling wall street institutions (they are replaced for me with the doom and gloom of staple food shortages and increasing corruption on behalf of those tasked with addressing the problem). I am not, however, shielded from the fall out – if I include myself (last July), I’ve just heard from my fifth friend whose been laid off as a result of the recession. Many friends who a year ago were talking about making changes in their job and pursuing better pay or opportunities are now quick to acknowledge their good fortune of having a job at all.

In Kenya, I’m not living the daily reality as it hits my country – but it still permeates my thoughts and analysis of what I’m studying. It even touches the words I choose to share this experience - I find myself worrying that if I am too honest about the realities of life in a developing country (more what I see, than what I experience), people will feel powerless to help, given the struggles everyone is facing at home. If I don’t share honestly about what I’m exposed to, I worry I’m dishonoring the opportunity to be here and the voice I can provide to those who are mired in the cycle of poverty, simply waiting for the added burden of the trickle down effect of the developed world's financial crisis to hit.

I have known many people who lived through the Great Depression or who came from desperate backgrounds to create successful and full lives. Many of these people can vividly recall vast expanses of time without employment, going to bed hungry, having to deny their children some of what they would desperately like to provide to them, and so much more. I have never felt as if I was living in a time in which such concerns were quite so global – or were threatening even the most secure and successful of those I know. It is, quite simply, a scary time – a time in which there’s no real way to know when the scales will tip and the forecast will finally improve.

Until that time, I fear we are all a bit like the man I saw the other day – making our way as best we can, but unable to see what comes next. Sometimes we trust the well-worn paths that have brought us this far, the familiar markers along the way and the confidence in ourselves that we will get from point A to B. At the same time, we are forced to recognize the world changing around us – the need to adapt, to plan ahead – and sometimes even to ask for help when we find ourselves up against a seemingly insurmountable wall.

I found comfort in this realization. No matter how blind we are to what lays ahead, if we are willing to take a step to redirect each other (and sometimes walk side by side until a safe path has been found), we will make it through this. We may end up with alliances we never knew we had and strengths we never thought we’d have to draw on. We may realize that things we once clung to for security pale in value compared to the freedom we find to pick ourselves up from the ashes of past choices and forge ahead.

It is my hope that we emerge with a new sense of humbleness that will serve to better our actions and the direction we take as a global society in the future – that if anything is understood from it all it is that we are in this together, the whole world, blind leading blind until we find a way to open our eyes and forge a new, safe and secure path for all to follow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Megan, that was beautifully thought out and written. Thanks for sharing! :)