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Thank You Lay Sunday 2015!

Our All Souls NYC Board of Trustees performed a Lay Sunday for the ages last Sunday, January 25, 2015. I am obliged to my fellow trustees for their hard work, dedication and resolve. Carol Kirkman warmly welcomed us with her wry humor, full presence, and set the tone. Heidi DuBois performed with excellence the chalice lighting and extinguishing. Board Nominee David Poppe opened sincerely reminding us of what makes our All Souls home spiritually vibrant and personally nourishing. The Community Choir joined us on stage for the Call To Worship, showing a beautiful Lay demonstration (between Lay Leaders and Lay Musicians). Marilyn Collins gave us a deep credo: reminding us the importance of showing up prepared, particularly as you join this board of hard-working individuals. Marilynn Scott Murphy acknowledged our history and bridged us to the future, while leading us to a unison reading of the Seven Unitarian Universalist Principles. Li Yu invited us to ask about our priorities on who we want to be, what we want to do, inviting us on a vision and mission journey, as he introduced Hymn 112 “Do You Hear?” Sabrina Alano led us into deep prayer and meditation – serene divinity was present with her comforting words. Heidi DuBois deeply raised the question of how we abide by one another, and she convinced us to hear Hymn 241 in the hot months as well as the cold ones too: “In the Bleak Midwinter”. Miday Wilkey gave his credo expressing personally how he lives a full, deep and enriching life. Richard Ford introduced Hymn 169, “We Shall Overcome”, which is about coming together, working together, and cooperating across any number of political, age, gender, class, and ethnic lines. These themes are fully in line with the goals of the Board for this past year: to help the congregation be more inclusive, transparent, collaborative, listening, and eclectic. The Choir, Misa Iwama, and Renée Anne Louprette were a joy to work with – this service could not have been put together so well, were it not for their musicianship, creativity, craftsmanship and professionalism.

Our 2014-2015 All Souls NYC Board of Trustees:

Top Row: Richard Ford, Heidi DuBois, Sabrina Alano, Marilynn Scott Murphy
Bottom Row: Li Yu, Marilyn Collins, Victor Fidel, Miday Wilkey, Carol Kirkman

Thank you for your support. You wanted my sermon – it is below (and here thru podcast). I want to express my deep gratitude to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of All Souls, NYC, and the Congregation of Nairobi UU in the heart of Kenya: you both are deep inspiration to me. This message is for you, but it is birthed from you as well. Thank you! Lastly, but not leastly, I could not have done this sermon without my Dear wife, Heather Floyd, who is my Master Editor and has so much patience with me! I love you Heather darling!

NOT TO BE SERVED, BUT TO SERVE

A Sermon Preached by Victor Fidel

Unitarian Universalist Church of All Souls, New York City
January 25th, 2015

 

Last August, I was fortunate to join a group of All Souls friends, led by fellow board member Richard Ford, on a mission of fellowship to Kenya. We met with Unitarian Universalists from the Nairobi church. Our mission foremost was to get to know one another.

Let me tell you about Joyce, an active Unitarian Universalist church member. She works as a seamstress. She has an imitation Singer machine, from China. She makes blouses, dresses and other clothing. She learned sewing at the school nearby. She sells most of her dresses on Sundays after church; if she’s lucky she makes about 200 Kenyan Shillings on an average Sunday (or about 3 US Dollars). She has 3 teenage sons. The eldest son has a son too. All five live in a home that measures about five feet by five feet, or about the size of a bathroom of a New York City apartment. There you will find the comforts of humble living: a single burner camp stove, a bench covered with a pillow (which serves as a sofa), a 7 inch TV, next to a cup with toothpaste and a toothbrush, a few plastic cups and a few dishes, one small pan, on top of a table covered by a cloth. Curtains separate a home-made bunk-bed where all 5 sleep (2 on top, 3 on the bottom). It’s tight. Joyce does her sewing outside, since there is no space inside. There is a bit of a shed that keeps the water away from the machine when it rains.

Another church member, Margaret sells milk. She sells cows' milk from morning to evening at a small table on the street. She buys milk from the farmers in Central Kenya at 50 shillings per liter (or about 50 cents). She sells the milk at 60 shillings per liter, making 10 shillings profit (or 10 cents). The farmers don’t pasteurize the milk. She has to boil it at her home first, and then she goes out to sell all day for a daily total of about 2 dollars.

There is also Jane, who spends a lot of her time at a nearby slum.[1] There she runs a school for children orphaned by AIDS and other diseases, called the Little Angels. The school has 55 children, from Pre-Kindergarten to 2nd grades. They have a little corrugated metal compound, with 4 classrooms -- the entire thing is no bigger than a mid-size NYC apartment living room. Jane bought a toilet for the children, for which she's paying monthly installments of 3000 shillings of the total cost of 60,000 shillings (or about 600 dollars).

The toilet was a necessity. There is no indoor plumbing in the slum. Distress and squalor are the landscape. There was garbage everywhere, sewage going down the streets, black water like petroleum, corrugated metal homes, and other sadness. The skinny cows passing by the area eat the garbage. It was the hardest thing to see because I imagined that the children would eventually eat this garbage-filled cow that has who knows how many diseases from drinking the petroleum black water, but what can the parents do, they must feed their children.

The school is free for the children. Jane runs it with donations collected from the Unitarian Universalist church members at Sunday services.

What impressed me the most about our UU sisters and brothers in Kenya is that their faith is strong in the promise religion sets out to achieve. These are folks who do not even have a church building, they have no budget; they have 3 lay volunteer ministers and no paid staff, but their immediate concern is not getting a church building, instead they focus first on how they can help those who have even less than they have.

Coming back to NYC and my comparatively luxurious lifestyle, one of the things I keep reflecting upon is how we at All Souls—with our massive resources, our long illustrious history and our educated, well-connected congregants—can make an impact outside our doors. Think of what we could accomplish... in New York City and the World.

All Souls has played a major role on the large stage, dating as far back as the Civil War with the Sanitary Commission—helping the Civil War wounded—an organization that later became the Red Cross, and as recent as the impactful AIDS Task force of the 1980s. We were the first to affirm that AIDS was a human disease and deserved a humane response.

Isn’t it time for us to add to this list of accomplishments? All Souls has the opportunity to not only make a major difference but to be a leader among Congregations and Social Justice and charitable organizations. But in order for us to fulfill this promise, we need to take a long and hard look at ourselves and our priorities. One question in my mind is: will we be able to make peace internally and to trust one another? Can we be compassionate and humble, and dare to sacrifice our comfortable beliefs, and thus, like our Kenyan friends, have a bigger vision for our place in the Universe?

Jesus said, blessed are the peacemakers, but he also said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword [of division].”[2]

Do you have a sword of will to sever opposition that is holding your faith back? We want religion to give us comfort, but too much comfort can leave us numb. This is not entertainment. This is more than an “analog experience in a digital world,” as our Senior Minister Galen Guengerich has brilliantly stated. Our late Reverend Forrest Church once said, “Religion shouldn't be a pacifier. Religion should awaken us, throw open a window, point to a trap door.”[3] I also think it should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted, as Reverend Cheryl M. Walker used to say. The sword of belief cuts deep. Its message isn’t always an easy one to take.

It’s hard to think about things differently. It’s a battle within. We’ve got pent up judgmental anger and righteousness; we are intellectual snobs with a history of dissent, bonafide Unitarian Universalists, one way or another. We’ve got our own ways and our big egos, and we know just how things should be. In fact, we don’t really care if our fellow person thinks differently.

Can we be vulnerable enough to leave behind our egocentrism and go do the work that religion begs of us, which is to look beyond our comfortable selves and truly care for our neighbor?

Then we can be the blessed peacemakers, children of the Universe, children of God, children of your Mother.

But wait: Are we going to be doing social justice work for ourselves or are we going to do it because it is the right thing to do? Because the true message of religion is to care for your fellow person. If we are doing it just to list accomplishments and self-aggrandizement, we will fail. If we are doing it for the sake of serving our neighbors, friends and not-so friendly neighbors alike, we shall succeed.

In the Book of Mark, on one of their journeys to Capernaum, the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest, and Jesus interrupted them and said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”[4]

Jesus repeats this sentiment when James and John want to be his right and left hand. He says, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”[5]

This is called Servant-Leadership: I’m sure this is where Robert Greenleaf found the inspiration to write his essay, titled, “The Servant As Leader”. He founded the Center for Applied Ethics (later renamed the Robert K Greenleaf Center). His work focused on how to get things done in organizations. Greenleaf’s “objective was to stimulate thought and action for building a better, more caring society.”[6]

He concluded that true leadership is serving others. And success in leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others. They place the highest premium on serving others rather than being commanding, controlling, self-serving individuals.

The characteristics of servant leaders are these:

    1.   Listening

    2.   Empathy

    3.   Healing

    4.   Awareness

    5.   Persuasion

    6.   Conceptualization

    7.   Foresight

    8.   Stewardship

    9.   Commitment to the growth of the people

   10. And Building community[7]

Begin with listening because this is the initial action that demonstrates you put the values of others first. Empathy is stronger than sympathy, as you put yourself in the sandals of others. Heal and you shall be aware. Persuade: You need to work together. Conceptualize how you can help. Then you can foresee utilizing your stewardship and succeed in commitment to the growth of the people and community. To be successful leaders you must be able to follow. Your charge is to be leaders through service. Be a beacon and shine for others. Serve in the harmony of being. Will you be the servant of others? I hope you all souls will. There is much work to be done.

I leave you with the three great treasures from the Tao Te Ching:

Simplicity, Patience, Compassion.

Simple in actions and in thoughts,

You return to the source of being.

Patient with both friends and enemies,

You accord with the way things are.

Compassionate toward yourself,

You reconcile all the beings in the world.[8]

 

And may our faith always be strong. Amen.

 



[1] She does not work anywhere else apart from giving evening tutoring classes to her neighbors’ kids for a small fee which she survives on.

[2] Matthew 10:34

[3] Church, Forrester, “Ready, Fire, Aim” A Sermon by Reverend Forrest Church at All Souls UU Church, NYC. January 17, 1997.

[4] Mark 9:35

[5] Mark 10:35 – 41

[6] Spears, Larry C, “The Understanding and Practice of Servant-Leadership”. Servant Leadership Research Roundtable – August 2005. School of Leadership Studies, Regent University. The idea of the servant as leader came partly out of Greenleaf’s half century of experience in working to shape large institutions. However, the event that crystallized Greenleaf’s thinking came in the 1960s, when he read Hermann Hesse’s short novel Journey to the East—an account of a mythical journey by a group of people on a spiritual quest.

[7] Spears, Larry C, “The Understanding and Practice of Servant-Leadership”

[8] Tao 67 by Lao-tzu, from Stephen Mitchell’s Tao Te Ching: A English Version. New York, NY. HarperPerennial, 1992.

If you would like to download a printable copy of the sermon, here it is:

2015-01-25-Victor-Fidel-Sermon-Not-to-Be-Served-But-to-Serve.pdf (178.54 kb)

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All Souls | Events | Sermons

Africa 2014: Vignettes of Kenya

I was fortunate to join a group of friends from my church, All Souls NYC, led by Professor Ford, on a mission of hope, outreach, and fellowship to Kenya.

In Nairobi, everyday is different. Going with the flow rules the spirit. There’s a thread of energy that connects the people from the earth’s deep dust, flows through them and out beyond to the mauve skies of the city nights. How could it not be a spontaneous marvel, for though no drivers pay attention to the traffic lights, there are never any accidents. Though the rain doesn’t come much from the heavens this August time of year, there is no drought of friendship, smiles or humility.

The people, warm as a hot summer’s day, greet you, even if they don’t know you, particularly on hikes, and while I was recognized as Mzungo (White Person), I was always blood human familia to them. They are beyond difference and are interested in helping others – they know religion is not just about you but about all in the universal tent. They possess less material things than we in the western world, but their concerns lie in assisting their neighbors who have less.

As I write, over a week has passed since I came back from the cradle of civilization, as one of our guides called his homeland, and as a reflective mindset, what follows are some African vignettes. They are stories, which connected me to this continent where all of humanity comes from.

Click here for the Vignettes!

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Our collection of Unitarian Universalists (UUs) from Nairobi, New York, and D.C. – here we are at the Quaker compound where the Church of Nairobi rents space for their services.

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Here we are at the United Kenya Club.

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Reflections

Ahead of their time: Vision and Mission

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The Nairobi UU Church does not have a building, but it has a stated written vision and mission (something even our own Church of All Souls in NYC doesn’t have – we can learn from them). Their vision is:

1) To capture an inspiring vision for our future

2) To use as the basis for developing a strategic plan for the next three years, a blueprint to help us realize our vision

3) To help us make an informed decision on the future of our building.

On our third day together, we met in the Nairobi Church’s preferred rented compound, in a Quaker village. There we joined together as a big group, and in All Souls Young Adult fashion we performed a food and fellowship, whereby we ate first, then organized later into one big group, and then formed smaller groups who would discuss vision and the issues tackling the UUs of Nairobi. Thereafter, our small groups rejoined and present what came out of our discussions.

We made sure that each small group would have at least 2 members from each congregation. My group had Grace, Margaret, Robin, Joyce, Kate and Justus. Kate and Grace facilitated our discussions. Through our discussion, five ways of outreach organically birthed:

1) Train and educate women and youth.

2) Enrich women with life skills.

3) Educate women and the young about abortion (it is not illegal in Nairobi – what is illegal is to perform one outside a clinic, and unfortunately, young women are undergoing dangerous procedures outside clinics – it is an issue that no other church is addressing, which is an opportunity for the UU Church in Nairobi).

4) Help orphanages. Noteworthy: A member of the UU Church in Nairobi already runs a school for orphans in one of the slums (The Little Angels).

5) Feed the hungry.

What impressed me the most about our UU sisters and brothers in Kenya is that they are strident in their outreach. These are folks who do not even have a church building, but their immediate concern is helping the other. They do not have the time or the care for internal divisions. They are true believers in the power of helping others; they practice religion’s core value of being there for your neighbor.

Here’s a visual scope of our day (on August 9, 2014):

 

Our combined group, three times!

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Professor Ford & Deacon Robin

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Rev Ben discusses empowering women and youth education, among other topics.

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A little spiritual dancing started it all!

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Our small, but mighty group, led by Kate & Grace:

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Robin gives us a great insight into this day with his video, titled, “The Workshop”:

The Workshop from Robin Bossert on Vimeo.

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Reflections

My First Sermon

I thought I was just going for a ride this trip. Little did I know I would be chairing meetings, running groups, and in apex of one Sunday, also delivering my first sermon (!). It was of amazing coincidence that I took my traveling chalice, which we ended up giving as a gift from our congregation to the Nairobi UU Church, at the end of our sojourn.

My sermon would have been titled, "Spokes make the wheel turn when joined together", but I never got to write it because I didn't know I was going to preach, till 15 minutes before I performed the oration. Ben, our Nairobi UU Church’s pastor, at the beginning of the service said to me, “Please sit next to me. Ok, so you’ll light the chalice, give a brief welcome, and you’ll give one of the sermons.” Ah, ok, I said, I thought, well, I’m really welcomed to Africa now! Well, I confess, there was a bit more warning than that, as Ben did walk over earlier and Tom, as well as Lois, and they overheard his ask, which I was just peachy to accept. And, to penetrate my subconscious, Sara hinted the night before that they might ask me to preach, to which my conscious didn’t believe.

The inspiration for my first ever sermon came from our group of Nairobi UUs and our troupe of Wazungu UUs, who became tight with each other and within our own groups. Each of us shared our gifts of talent and generosity with the other, and each shaped our trip, the way two hands shape clay to make a pot, the way a rainbow shines with color, meeting the sun and the rain at once. I was moved by the Kenyan spirit of spontaneity and by Tao number 11, about how much we focus on being, but we work with non-being, and how the wheel turns because spokes join at the center to make it roll... I gave it in the oratory tradition, in the spirit of what our board has tried to do, to be united and work in the spirit of collaboration, in the spirit of Kenyan warmth and rigor.

Victor's Sermon from Robin Bossert on Vimeo.

Kenya inspires you to be and live in the intensity of the moment, to trust your impulses.

Images that inspired the sermon and the fellowship that arose:

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Sara and Kate create a moment with the children.

 

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Did anybody tell you, "I love you", today?
Put me on your list, let me be the first
I love you today.
God loves you.
And I love you.
And that's how it should be.
I love you today!

--Rev. Rose

 

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Expert Linesmen!

 

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Professor Ford donated outfits to the soccer team. Check out the teal shirt for the Referee!

 

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Can you see Jesus behind Sara?
It’s not my best selfie, but does show you the soccer field’s terrain.

 

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Rev. Ben offered me the honor of performing my first sermon. Asante sana, Ben!

Robin, video-master, shows you our ride in this video:

Sunday with the Nairobi Unitarian Universalist Council from Robin Bossert on Vimeo.

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Reflections

Bond 7 Whiskey Nights: Heri!

After a hard day’s work with our Kenyan sisters and brothers, our crew would engage in fellowship, kindled by Kenyan whiskey, Tuskers, and the mauve skies of Nairobi. As I look at some of these pictures, I think about the distance created by time and space, and I know these friendships will endure, and that they will say at some point, “Habari, hakuna wasi wasi”, and “Ndyo,” as well as “Asante.” Asante, thank you for the memories… Cheers! Sláinte! Heri!

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The Trifecta: Were it not for Cory, Professor Ford, and Kate, I would not have had the experience of a lifetime. I am most grateful for the Trifecta. I will join them where-ever they decide to go, should the allow my company. Asante sana you GREAT THREE!!

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Reflections

The Slums: Little Angels Lifting The World in Hope

2014_08_11JaneChildrenOne of the members (Jane) of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nairobi runs a school for orphaned children who live in a slum. The Little Angels Academy, as it’s called, has 55 children, from Pre-Kindergarten to 2nd grades. Several of their parents have passed away because of AIDS. The school is a little corrugated metal compound, with 4 classrooms. Living a western life, many of us would find the conditions distressing and depressing, seeing the squalor and smell around the slum. And, yet, I met there the most humble, proud and happy of all people. One gentleman who is friends with Jane and lives in the slum told me, “Karibu (Welcome), Victor, you are welcome anytime. It is safe here. The people are grateful you come here.” The community has a movie theatre that has a theatre that has 7 films a day for2014_08_11LittleAngelSign five shillings per flick . Life—or as they say—the show, must go on.

2014_08_11_MoviesThe UUs of Nairobi practice the core message of religion. They don’t care about internal divisions and useless minutia within their church. They do not even have a building; they rent out space.  They manifest their concerns by helping those who are less fortunate than they are. Could we learn from them? I wish we could. Their message of selflessness and caring for your neighbor is something that, while we aspire, we unfortunately have forgotten, particularly in New York City. The purpose of religion is to save the world. It’s not about you and your personal belief of what the world should be. It’s about us. It’s a collective. The Kenyans know it. They practice it.

Jane bought a toilet for the school, so that the2014_08_11KateArms children could experience dignity and cleanliness. She is paying 3000 shillings a month in installments until she pays the full amount of 60,000 shillings, which is about $750.00.

The day we visited the slum, the children came back with us to the Quaker compound where the church rents rooms for services, where we had our church service. The children ate lunches that we brought for them. They were so well behaved. They all had purple outfits too. They were adorable. They 2014_08_11Sara-Grace-Mariesang for us. Kate (my Mzungu Swahili teacher) jumped in and sang with them and led them into songs that she brought from the US – she and the kids engaged in that soulful universe called magic. Then Heli came in and led in her share of the songs. It was a sweet cross-cultural, intergenerational experience. It was so inspirational that it made our souls cry with the spirit of love. The best we could do was stand with them, on the side of love, we brought this message from the UUA, and we didn’t even know it, till we got there, such is the spontaneous spirit that reigns over you as you immerse yourself in the Kenyan way.

2014_08_11HeliGift520Heli and Kate offered a gift to the church leaders
that they could use as they saw fit to help the children.

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Karim was ready to adopt every child, even me :-)

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Despite the squalor surrounding them, the Little Angels lift us in hope because our Kenyan sisters and brothers care about our neighbors – they live true religion.

2014_08_11KateNoseKate shows how it’s done! How could these kids not love her!

And, here is one of my most favourite pictures of them all:

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Pop!

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Reflections

Haggling!

Professor Ford had told us that one must haggle when purchasing souvenirs in Kenya. It would be an insult to a Kenyan for a tourist to not engage in the barter practice, even if the price given by a merchant is already less than one would pay for the item, particularly since for us westerners, one dollar goes a long way in Kenyan Shillings (approximately 1 dollar to 90 Shillings). In a bartering exchange, Kenyans learn who you are, where you come from, even your profession, and it is significant for them to understand the buyer – it is part of the culture. Also, as Professor Ford would tell you, even the price you would end up paying after your best haggled offer, is still the Mzungo price, which is much more than the price that a Kenyan would pay. So, it is what that in mind that I encountered my first haggling situation. It is noteworthy to inform the reader that I am not a purchaser of souvenirs as much as I am an avid consumer of experiences.

So, I went to the Nairobi City Market, which used to be a zeppelin hanger, with my friends to view. As I walked along with Sara, there was one merchant who introduced himself, right away as Charles Kiarie, who would not let us pass his stall. He started asking us to buy everything, and we were just browsing nonchalantly. Then after showing us everything he finally said, "Oh, but you must not leave without looking at this. See, I think everybody needs this, and you need it too. People now a days only text, Facebook and send emails, but what we have forgotten to do is write. So I have created these cards with traditional artwork that you can send to your friends. These are the only cards made like these in this market, in all of Kenya. They are all hand-crafted by me...you must not leave without one of these..."

2014_08_05_05_42_25---IMG_3945_thumbI remember Sara’s smirk towards me. I knew what she was thinking, that this guy was selling to my soul because I love to write, but the interesting thing was, how in the world could he have known this -- this is just like she said, the universe is conspiring on your behalf, or something like this...

So, he said, "I'll sell one of these cards for 400 Shillings. You must take one."

"Wow," I said, "Four hundred! That's a lot for a card!"

He said, "Well, there is better price for more cards sold."

"Aha, go on," I said.

"Yes, if you buy 2, then it's 750. If 3, it's 1100"

"Ok, keep on going."

"So, if 4, 1500."

"What about five cards?"

"Oh, then that's the best price, at 1750."

"Ok, 5 at Seven Fifty, then?"

"Oh, no, why that would be stealing. But I can do 1600."

"Eight hundred."

Charles: "Oh, but that is so low. 1500."

Me: "850"

"1300", his turn.

"900", my turn

"Ok, I see, 1200", Charles again.

"950", me again!

"1100," Charles again!

"Ok, Charles, 1000 is my final offer."

Charles said, "Sold!"

And then we went on to choosing them. Sara helped me choose three of them, the lovers, the friends, and the market lady, which had red, teal, and yellow colors, respectively (red for lovers, teal for friends, and yellow for the market lady, I presume?).

Then Charles gave me his card and said, "So tell me, what do you do?"

I said, "Can you guess?"

Charles said, "You are either a salesman, a banker, or a writer."

I said, "and you would be right! I'm all of that!"

We shook hands in the Kenyan way, with our arms touching our opposite shoulders one time on each side, while one looks the other way. I then gave him my 1000 shillings.

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Reflections

Professor Ford: Our Chief Apostle

We were called Professor Ford’s 122014_08_10_05_44_55 - IMG_4564_thumb[5] apostles. He has been going to Africa for 40 years; so he is masterful at navigating the continent. He has practiced consensus building in areas where men have laid their weapons down in order so that the community can move on to a more prosperous collaborative environment. He has also led water conservation projects. Before going to Kenya, when we asked him, what would we be doing, he said, "Nothing strenuous. No ditch digging or anything like that,” and he then joked with me that we should have our women dig the ditches, while the men watched and took photographs, which they would with honor and pride. He takes himself lightly, but his spirit is always firm and supple. His voice may be soft, but he carries with him high gravitas of intellect and reason.

He took us on a learning mission, a cross-cultural interchange. Professor Ford enlightened on a tour of a world that has had much struggle and strife, and yet, with the powers of collaboration and resilience this continent has been 2014_08_13_15_36_48 - IMG_5092_thumb[7]successful in many ways. As he understands it, the nation state will change drastically in the next few years, but yet, Africa will continue to thrive, as it has succeeded in many ways, despite the sordid past of colonization, slavery, racism, AIDS, war, and other challenges.

In this mission, he put me to work, and I will be forever grateful for the experience. Asante sana, Buena Kubua!

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Reflections

Justus: Philosophiam, Vir Magnus

2014_08_12_11_28_43 - 20140812_112844_thumb[7]I met my philosophical uncle from another continent. He was born some 77 plus years ago, but he would prefer to say that his birth certificate is just paper concealing the real magic of rebirth. Many years ago, over the side of the road on one of his drives, he saw a baptism and decided to join, and as the water rolled down his body, he renamed himself Justus (née Ndungu), derived from “Justice” because on the debate team at school, his friends said he always stood on the side of justice. So like me, he changed his name, but he made his first name the middle, while I made my middle, last.

He was friends with Obama’s father, who comes from the Luo tribe, where the intellectuals reign. He is going to be a Unitarian Universalist minister and he will form the Church of All Souls Outreach in Africa. Thanks to Justus Connections, his driving company, our troupe of 13 UUs got around safely throughout the Kenya roads of traffic and dust, from Nairobi to Naivasha and beyond…2014_08_13_06_08_56 - IMG_5034_thumb[1]

The cow horn: It’s his libation chalice. He drinks out of it, where ever he goes, not just beer, but also whiskey. Since the horn is not able to stand on its own, you can only have one drink and therefore you have created moderation by drinking out of it.

Selected Justus’ philosophy in quotations,
you see…:

“My friend, you are making life most difficult; drop the heavy luggage and let me help you.”

“Corruption has become religion. Fight it. That…and monocracy.”

“Where there are more poor, religion thrives, you see. Where there are more rich, religious organizations do not do well.”

“When I meet new people, I realize how foolish I am.”

“Things go wrong when people don’t listen and think they know everything.”

2014_08_10_11_46_10 - IMG_4683[1]_thumb[6]“Life is easy when things go wrong: How you handle the bad things is the right experience” [i.e. In handling life’s challenges, you earn the true experience of life, however hard, that is the best way].

“Drink from your pembe n’gomebe (cow horn), in order to keep moderation. If you cannot hold your cow horn, you cannot go home.”

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Reflections

The Water at Mount Longonot

Our fearless troupe (Sara, Cory, Kate, Christine, and me) hiked Mount Longonot, a stratovolcano located southeast of Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley. After hiking up about 2 miles (3.1km), we hiked around the entire crater rim too (approx. 4.5 miles or 7.2 km), which earned us bragging rights, particularly because the day before we had arrived to Nairobi via JFK and Amsterdam, in a trip totaling 24 hours (of course our stay in Amsterdam had been a heavenly 8 hours – luckily Schiphol is so close to the city).

One of the hiking stretches of the crater while I hiked with Sara, a group of Catholic school kids walked by. They were so friendly. They would pass by and shake our hands. They would say, "Hello, how are you?" We'd say, "Mambo", which is the kid’s version of Hello, we were informed. On one instance, a girl walked to us and said, "Excuse me, would you have water?" She had her water-bottle. Sara took out one of her water bottles. I proceeded to help her open it, and when I did, I passed it to the girl while I held the cap. The girl then took the bottle and walked away with her troupe. As she was walking away, I said, “Oh…well, do you want to take the cap with you? Here” and her friend took it, and they walked away. Sara and I laughed. Well, I’m generous – Sara was a gently baffled. Ok, there goes your water. It was a silly moment, and it made us appreciate the geniality of our passersby. I ended up sharing my water with Sara, and it made for conversational jokiness, later on. In Kenya, like water, all goes with the flow… Here are some pictures of the hike experience.

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Oh, and we saw zebras at the end of the hike!

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Tags:

Reflections