If You Can Be All Shiny, Why Not?
Seven years ago, my friend Natalie McCullough, in her wisdom, said that she wanted to sponsor one of our students that was NOT top of the class. She knows the value of a late bloomer, someone who is not necessarily performing well, but you can see that light in their eyes. When I met Konzi, I knew I’d found the student. His grades were low. His family was exceedingly poor. And you’ve never met a sweeter boy in your life. Big and gangly, he towered above other students.
His junior year of high school he worked really hard on an environmental project with his teacher. Worked hard every day, including the weekends, to raise tiny seedlings that would eventually be sold to nurseries, enabling him to earn some much needed cash for his family. But when they were sold, the teacher took all the earnings and disappeared. “Well, he can’t take what I learned,” said Konzi, resolutely.
Now Konzi, 5 years later after getting a diploma, has become a preschool teacher at a private school. He had come to find me to tell me some good news: he had gotten married last summer! He wanted me to come meet his new wife. “She is a very good tailor,” he said. “She could make you something.” There was no telling him no. He was waiting for me every day after he finished school.
So I’d come with him to meet Helen and to see the photos of their wedding. They lived in a 10-x-10 cement room. It was also where Helen did her sewing, using a rented machine. When I saw her gentle smile, I was pleased. She seemed a good match for Konzi. Smiling, they pulled out their wedding photos. Thanks to a harambee (fundraiser) held by their villages, they had pulled off quite an event, Konzi in a real suit. Helen with a handful of bridesmaids, all in shimmery purple dresses. “Wow!” I said. “The dresses are beautiful! Did you make them?” “Yes,” she said. “And I made one for myself to remember the day.” Then a pause. “Would you like me to put it on and show you?”
“I’d love that!” I said, smiling. I was going to get a taste of the wedding after all. A moment later she came out, shyly, in her shimmery purple, like a Christmas ornament brought out of its box. Konzi beamed with pride.
Earlier I’d asked my Kenyan friend Susan about the draw to shiny fabric over the traditional African ones we love. “If you can be all shiny, why not?” she said. And now I saw why. Shimmery purple and lavender against the grim backdrop of their lives. It was perfect. Konzi had chosen well.