In Kenya there is a definite hierarchy on the roadways. The Kings of the Road are the large vehicles – the vans and pickups and cars. All of them are old, with the occasional glaring exception, and the bigger the vehicle the higher up on the food chain they rank. Next are the piki-pikis, the motorbikes that ferry around single and sometimes double passengers on a vinyl-encased cushion of foam. These extra seats are often emblazoned with slogans such as “Ride in Comfort” on the very back of them, which seems like a bit of an exaggeration to me! After the piki-pikis are the bicycles, again ridden by 1-3 people. Although somewhat lowly, the bicycles command respect from those at the very bottom of the pecking order – those on foot. At least 1/3 of the traffic on any given street is on foot, and the farther out from the city you go, the higher that percentage grows.
There are no signs indicating this particular hierarchy to people. No one gets a ticket for challenging the established order. But you’d better beware if you do challenge it because you’re in for a rude awakening! Cars and other large vehicles push through the streets with what appears to be little regard for anyone or anything in their way. Pausing only to avoid the frequent potholes, they brush by walkers, squeeze through lines of bikes and piki-pikis and frequently honk at herds of cows or a clucking brood of hens who happen to be in their way. Too bad for the unwatchful pedestrian who is next to one of the massive puddles in the roadway when a car comes driving by, even a slow moving one. Most people jump back off the roadway or stop in their tracks so as not be get murky road water splashed all over them. They must wait till the driver has passed them by so that they can continue their journey once again. We’ve been told that if someone gets run over by a vehicle, the driver probably won’t even stop (mostly out of fear that those who have seen the accident will take the law into their own hands, and the offending driver could lose his own life!) No one messes with these vehicles!
Sitting inside of a Toyota Safari Van, being driven safely by Beatrice’s brother Frank, I can’t help but think of how I as a Westerner am very much like a 10 passenger van on the highway of life. Because of my very make up I am afforded privileges, given respect, and am deferred to, even if it costs someone else something. I have the freedom to go barreling through life with little regard as to how it impacts others. If I’m not careful I can roughly brush by the people outside, even injuring them, and never stop. Some view me with distrust, for they have had run-ins with others like me. Some envy me for the ease with which I maneuver through life. Some ignore me, for I am not part of the world which they inhabit. There will be those who try to pass me or maneuver around me, but because of my size and importance I may never see them… unless I choose to. Being in Kenya is one reminder after another that I cannot ever take my life for granted. Being born into comfortable circumstances doesn’t give me a free pass in life, nor does it make me a better, more worthy person. It simply is what it is.
My job, as I travel down life’s highway, is to keep my eyes and ears open. To maneuver carefully and with deliberate thoughtfulness. To show kindness and respect for my fellow travelers. To stop, get out and help those who have been injured or are weary or cannot carry their burdens alone. And ultimately, it is to show others that there is a God who knows every traveler by name, who loves them dearly (dents and all) and who wants to give them a life that is rich and full. There may be flat tires on the journey; detours, potholes and long, dry, dusty stretches of road. But the God who carefully and thoughtfully created them will be with them till they reach their destination. Just as He is with me on this journey I am on.