Sunday 9 January 2011

He lives in a slum

"Jo - the guards really like you." Do they I thought. What a strange thing to say.

"Yes, because you are kind and smile and give them food. They would protect you if you needed."

So said Stephen as he came over as we talked about his life, career, how things were going. "January - it's been hard. I did work for people and they didn't pay me. And - I would like to and visit my mum but I have no money. Oh..and I got put in prison last week.."

What? Why? Smiling at me for my naivety and innocence.

"Jo - this is Kenya. People are put in prison for anything. Me, I took a bus from somewhere I wasn't supposed to. Two policemen came and dragged me to prison asking for 2000 shillings. I only had 50 on me for my travel. But it was ok - they just made me work for the afternoon. It was good really..I could have been there 28 days.." I asked it. Stephen - do you live in a slum? "Yes, it's a slum but it's not that bad. It's cleaner than Kibera. (The one the Constant Gardner was filmed in).But someone got electrocuted and died last month so now we have no electricity. But it's ok. We can live."

I gulped. Sipping tea in my three bed, three bathroom apartment with a pool and gym.

Stephen, I ask, "There's something I've always wanted to know. How do the guards feel looking after all these rich people when they have nothing. Do they hate it? Do they want to hurt people?"

Suddenly I feel stupid for my direct and possibly insensitive question. "Jo, it's about self-esteem more than anything. These people can be awful to us and shout at us for things that are not our fault. That makes us feel bad having crossed town - usually having walked to work as we can't afford the bus fare. And yes, if we earn 5000 shillings a month and a thug offers 15,0000 to rob someone or threatens our lives, then yes, some people do bad things."

Stephen looked at me clutching the bag of groceries I had hastily thrown together for him.

"All I want is to make a difference in this world. I want to stand up and help someone and be a good person. I don't know why you're helping me but you've given me back my self esteem and some qualifications. I know things will get better. Bless you."

As always, I feel humbled and grateful to have been one of life's lottery winners.

It doesn't take much to do a little.

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