“Do you speak Swahli?” He was a kind man bringing me lunch at the hotel where we staying in Nairobi. It was a very Kenyan question. It felt invitational, full of welcome. I shook my head and he responded, “No? Well, let’s get started. What’s the next word you’d like to learn?”
“What’s the word for`home?’” I asked him and put my hand where my heart is. “What’s the word for the place where our spirit lives?”
His smile was as big as I’ve ever seen. “I don’t know that Swahli word. I know a Spanish word, roha, heart. I think this is the word you are wanting. This is our home, roha, where our spirits live.” And he bowed and walked on.
This roha place, it companions us from the beginning. And except for a very rare few, we are given this one heart for life until our last breath.
It beats for us, keeping time, marking moments. More than a beat a second. Steady most of the time. Reflecting our pace in the world. Our heart pushes and pulls our life-blood from the tip of heads to the tips of our fingers and toes, and back again.
It’s said to be the place where love lives; the place that holds our connective tissue (seen and unseen). It is the place that breaks at our deepest losses. Breaks…but somehow lives on with the loss.
Here in this place of round-abouts and new words for “Good morning” and “thank you” I long for seeing bigger than what I’ve seen before. There’s energy to pay closer attention ~ to not miss the beauty- and the compassion-threads that hold us to God and to one another, while always holding God and one another to us.
Here in Kenya, I’ve already felt a very different rhythm and pace than the one back in Atlanta that sometimes feels like continually going round and round the perimeter. Here in Kenya most of the roads are pretty straight (if you don’t count the round-abouts with their own lifestyle). Here in Kenya my understanding of what’s normal and routine would not be translatable. Here there are new words for places I’m wanting to see again or maybe for the first time: a new language of Swahli and Spanish mixed in Roha. Heart. Home.
(thanks to Rande Allen for this amazing sunrise picture from the Masai Mara)
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.