restoring innocence


A few years ago I had an interesting conversation with a young man from Kenya. He sat at my dining table for probably two hours as we discussed spirituality and what it means to be a christian.

His name was Kevin.

Kevin's one unforgettable feature was his big beautiful smile. It was the kind of smile that you know runs deep and connects with the inner parts of a person's soul. It was the kind of smile that reflects a preserved innocence but with the tempering of life experiences and hardship that instilled character. It was the kind of smile that reflects joy.

The reason he was in my house may sound like a total disconnect.

He was measuring my windows.

Hired by Home Depot, he was the individual they sent out to measure windows and write up an estimate for window replacement. We were at the beginning of our remodeling process and this would be the first step to getting our "shack" into shape. But what was supposed to be a simple interaction of homeowner and contractor ended up being something I will never forget.

While he sat at my table filling out the appropriate forms I offered him something to drink and we began what ended up being a lengthy conversation. Raised and educated mostly in Kenya he spoke of some of the differences between his country and mine. We compared our experiences in our countries and where we thought the shortcomings were in each, and also the privileges. He spoke of the village in which he came from. As he talked, always with that wonderful smile, I was reminded at how much we were the same. He spoke of hope and possibility and how each person can make a difference. I remember being a little envious at his optimism, in contrast with my own cynicism. At that time I was collecting people to photograph for a sort of "faces of the world" collection, and I asked him if he wouldn't mind playing along. He agreed, promising to come back at a later date. Smiling.

As our conversation continued it shifted from faith to politics. He told me that his family was very excited about a particular person that was serving in washington, and their faith in this particular individual to be able to accomplish real change in his country as well as mine. Kevin told me that I should watch for him and very proudly said, "He is my cousin". Even though I admitted how unpolitical I was I promised to "watch for him", and asked him for his name.

Barack Obama.

The name sounded vaguely familiar.

I never followed up with Kevin to get his photo, I wish I had. That smile of his spoke volumes. But I did take his advice and watch for his cousin. And now, years later, so is the rest of the world. For the first time in many years I don't feel quite so cynical.

In fact I could even say there's hope.


Yeah, I feel it in the air. I just finished reading Obama's first book, and for the first time ever, I have made phone calls and knocked on doors for Kevin's cousin. It is good to read of this conversation.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Blair published on February 1, 2008 9:54 AM.

in pursuit of a police record is the pursuit of happiness was the previous entry in this blog.

time really does go by is the next entry in this blog.

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