Too Cool Little Boy Joseph
Just beyond the National Youth Service gate, where I live on the side of a hill overlooking Lake Naivasha, Kenya, are a number of very small wooden structures, where a number of families live. After I exit the gate on my way to catch a matatu bus just down the winding road, swarms of small children come pouring out of the houses. One way to avoid having to shake hands with a lot of germy kids is to give a GO-TA greeting, where you tap fists together than take your fist to you heart and than raise your fist to the sky. I think it means from you to me to God. All the kids come running up to me to get their GO-TA greeting. Some Peace Corps volunteers get a little tired of this ritual, but so far it just makes me smile. Maybe it is because I have lost my heart to one of these little munchkins---“Too Cool Little Boy Joseph”.
I don’t know why he is tugging at me more than the others. They all have nothing of material value. No running water, no electricity, only one set of tattered cloths, a tired mother and usually an absent or abusive father. The one thing they do have is a big smile and a twinkle in their eyes. There was an article in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago talking about how the outside world has a one dimensional view of Kenya and other 3rd world countries…the sad and tormented faces of the poor. Poverty, pain and despair are indeed seen and heard, but the face I see mainly on those who have nothing is pride, passion, pure joy, big smiles and infectious laughter.
“Too Cool Little Boy Joseph” is always one of the first who notices that I have crossed the gate and am heading his way. His eyes light up and he hangs onto to his “too big” pants as he starts running towards me. He doesn’t really run in a straight line – his right leg is trying to go too fast and it crosses over his left leg making him turn about 90 degrees off course….than the left leg does the same thing and takes him 90 degrees in the other direction. This twisting back and forth insures that he ends up being one of the last to get to me. The day I asked him what is name was (Unaitwa?) he stood up as straight as he could and said proudly in English “I am boy Joseph”. That is when he had me.
I want to give him things, but know that if I give him anything of material value that his alcoholic father will just take it and sell it to buy more “Tusker” beer, so I will just continue giving him my love, my smiles and my GO-TA greetings – From me to my heart to the hope that the powers above will take care of this “Too Cool Little Boy Joseph’.