“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other.” - Jean Vanier
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” - Acts 2:42
Our stomachs were full after a large meal of beef stew, chapati, cabbage and fresh bananas. Our cheeks were hurting from the laughter that hadn’t seemed to stop for the past hour. We stood up to sing and pray.
The CARE for AIDS administration has developed the practice of visiting staff in their homes if they lose someone in their family, or - as in this case - they have the joy of giving birth to a new baby. This Monday, we visited Martin, the Regional Coordinator for Nairobi East. His wife gave birth to a beautiful girl three months ago, and we paid a visit after our weekly administrative meeting.
After a wonderful meal and lots of joking and laughing, we stood up to sing a traditional song from the Kikuyu tribe. During the song, everyone dances and claps as the baby is passed around the circle, and finally given back to the parents. The song translates to the following:
“Don’t hold the baby in your left hand,
Hold it in your right hand
[Name of someone in the room], come take the baby and hold it in your right hand”
After singing, we sat down again, and Bosco (Regional Coordinator for Nairobi West) commented on how our staff feels like a family, and how good it was for us to be in Martin’s home and to have been laughing, praying and singing together for the past hour. As we prepared to leave, we each shared a few words of blessing for the newly expanded family. All of us had a similar theme in what we shared:
“Visiting you in your home has let us see a side of you we would never see at work, and it increases our understanding of you and our love for you."
“I’ve never worked somewhere where people care so much about their coworkers to visit them in their home.”
“It’s so good to work somewhere where people care this much about each other.”
“This feels like a family.”
I realized in that moment how unique CARE for AIDS is, and how lucky I am to work here. CARE for AIDS is a christian organization, and that has a lot of implications that affect how and why we work, but I think the biggest impact it has on our organizational culture is the way we approach each other as colleagues. The secret is that we see each other first as brothers and sisters in Christ, and only secondly as colleagues. We are first a community of believers, a family. Because of this, we work together with joy and a sense of mutual respect. Visiting each other in our homes is one of the biggest factors in creating this sense of community.
Not all of us have the privilege of working in a Christian organization, or have the opportunity to eat chapati and sing Kikuyu songs about holding babies, but there is a take away here for everyone. Namely, that visiting people in their homes and eating with them produces joy, inspires respect, cultivates love, and bonds us together in community. How often are you in someone else’s home for a meal? How often do you open your home to others?
Something I learn over and over again from Kenyans is the importance of hospitality. In a world that seems increasingly broken and divisive, hospitality is a simple and powerful way to demonstrate love and unity. Let’s reach out to our neighbors, families, and friends and prove that love is possible.