Christmas Looks So Different

Let me “unwrap” (a present? no!) that statement …


Christmas looks so different… to my kids in Mathare. 

I believe my kids in Mathare are so blessed to be a part of the Inspiration Center! They recently went to the Kenyan coast for a five day art camp and are anticipating a big celebration on Christmas day, including music, dancing, and roasted goat and chapati (there you go- traditional christmas!). For years now, these Christmas traditions have been pillars for children who live in a very unpredictable and harsh environment. They will probably not decorate or bake cookies or sing silent night (well, let me not underestimate them entirely!) but they will celebrate in their own unique way with their “family” which is the Inspiration Center community. The year I celebrated with them, I will never forget! That day I was just trying to get through without hearing “Joy to the World” and bursting into tears. But after that Christmas, after “I made it through”, I feel like my mentality was altered and what I need during that season has been changed. I even hope to have Christmas in the slums of Nairobi (to be with those kids) again. The place is different- more flies, dust, and grabbing hands; but the joy and anticipation are overflowing.

Christmas looks so different… to me now that I live in New York City. 

Though I did travel back last year for Christmas, my perspective is different from last year because I am not able to come and go like before. There is a permanence now that I did not experience before. I am grounded to a cold cloudy place called New York instead of the warm dusty Kenya. Looking at the lights and the decked-out decorated streets, I realize that I used to enjoy them more than I now do. I am realizing that Christmas has relocated from my eyes, to my heart.

Christmas looks so different… when I examine it through my heart.

In Kenya I longed for Christmas in the US, lights, cold outside-cozy inside, Christmas traditions and movies. And now that I have these things, what do I long for? I long to be in a place where I feel completely me. Where I can speak Swahili (in addition to english), and eat chapati and drink chai with my friends and family while singing american carols, watching Christmas movies and decorating an real evergreen tree with Shem. I wish to have a complete union of two worlds and, in a deeper way, a union within myself. Christmas has forced this wish to the surface and I am sadly reminded that this wish is near impossible.



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