Ten weeks ago we were in the food court at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. We’d gotten chicken sandwiches and pizza. Daddy John was giving us suggestions and setting some parameters for Bargaining at the Maasai Market (located on the roof of the parking deck). How many dollars to shillings? How does one bargain, REALLY? Seven of us ~ Gamma, two boys 11 and 14, two moms and two dads ~ all sharing lunch on a Tuesday afternoon.
Ten weeks ago we’d shopped in the Market and gotten several treasures. Some better at this whole bargaining idea than others (OK, everybody better than me). We’d been outside in the sunshine bargaining for a couple hours with the vendors and gotten gifts for the folks back home.
Ten weeks ago Linda had taken Sam shopping in a shoe store ~ looking for Desert Shoes while I stood outside the store close to a cart filled with chocolates, trying not to spend more money (and calories) than I needed to.
Ten weeks ago Linda, Gamma and I had gone up to the restrooms on the third floor next to the theaters.
Ten weeks ago Brogan and I had gotten tea and played a game of cribbage at the tables by the coffee shop.
Ten weeks ago there were old ones and young ones, ones with light skin and dark skin, mothers and grandmothers, professionals and students walking around and shopping. If you listened you could overhear bits and pieces of conversations about parties and school, about travels and futures, about buying this and that, about “mall things”…ten weeks ago.
The world has again been turned upside-down and inside-out by random violence. Old ones and young ones, daughters and fathers, security keepers and ones who believed they could be kept safe…Minutes into hours into days…one breath holding a lifetime…
My world is not very big. I have traveled internationally twice ~ once to Israel and recently to Kenya. And both trips have broken my heart wide-open. In Israel when I first saw the Palestinian Wall, I experienced despair in ways that I’d never before seen. That wall left me with no words to describe how I felt. Nine weeks ago my heart was full of the vastness and beauty of Kenya’s Maasai Mara. And now ten weeks later my heart breaks each time I see pictures and hear the sounds of those hours in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall.
I am praying for the ones who came in with guns instead of hope or words or anything, anything, anything else. I am praying for the vendors and the merchants who have lost their ways of supporting themselves and their families. I am praying for the soldiers who had to fire weapons on this building that was not a war zone, but a shopping mall. I am praying for the victims and their families whose lives are forever changed. I am praying for all of us who have watched from afar and wept in the night.
Days around Friday, October 4th are known as the time to celebrate St. Francis of Assisi. I find myself praying words attributed to him when I’m not sure what or how to pray:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned…
Light a candle when you can ~ for sisters and brothers in Nairobi. May they somehow know that we are holding them in our hearts this day and throughout the days and nights to come. And may we live our lives so that we may become instruments of peace.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.