“Community cannot for long feed on itself; it can only flourish with the coming of others from beyond, their unknown and undiscovered brothers.” ~Howard Thurman
“...A community needs a soul if it is to become a true home for human beings. You, the people must git it this soul.” ~Pope John Paul II
During the past few days I've read a book called Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card - written as a sequel to Ender's Game. A great read for anyone who enjoys a Sci Fi book.
At any rate, near the beginning of the story one of the main characters - a young girl is asked what community she belongs to since she appears to be an outcast of the fictional colonial society. Once I finished reading the book, I got to wondering: Which community(ies) do I belong to?
I'd like to believe that the primary community I belong to is the community of helpers. The community of people who enjoy helping other people potentially to the extent that their primary mission in life is to help.
The more immediate community I belong to is more easily described, through this blog, as well as through emails and phone calls: the community in which I reside. In this community, I am known by many names. Sometimes I am called Sheikh (meaning elder, leader, noble, [literal translation man of old age]), other times I am called Mwalimu (teacher) or Macalin (teacher), and even more recently I've been given the name Shamsudin interpreted as bright warrior (Sham = sun, din = warrior).
In my community, I am a teacher of computer studies (computer applications mostly) and this coming January I will also be teaching introductory psychology courses at my school - the North Eastern Province Technical Training Institute.
In my community, I am known not as a foreigner but as a mwenyeji (a local resident, a native). As such, I have been blessed to have a very unique insight into the lives of my community. The members of my community are for the most part Kenyans; Kenyans of Somali and non-Somali descent.
I am known as a mewnyeji as a result of many different things. For starters, I have a tremendous respect for the community at large. I dress as they do and walk as most people do. I am friendly and respectful to everyone.
By the way, anyone who lives in a warm/hot climate should try wearing a kikoi (a man skirt). In fact, when I return to the States, I will bring back plenty of my kikois :) [Side-note: any guy who visits me will try out a kikoi.]
Another thing that has helped me integrate into my community is the fact that my skin color is not that of a stereotypical American or European. In fact, many people have told me that upon first seeing me they thought I was Arabic - still to this day some times children will call me mwarabu (Arab).
I am happy to be a member of my community, here in Kenya, as I continue my quest to help my brothers and sisters in our journey together. Even after my tour of service with the Peace Corps, I know that my journey will continue and I know that the lessons I will have learned from my community will stay with me forever.
For that I am grateful to all the members of my community.