The Mathare Valley slum is an area of about three square miles in Nairobi, Kenya. About half a million people live in those three square miles. That is 50,000 more than live in the county in which I reside (which contains 341 square miles, by the way).
They live in makeshift shacks of cardboard or discarded galvanized roofing. They live there without running water, without electricity, without sanitation facilities. But they do not live without laughter.
I visited Mathare on my first trip to Africa in 1985. Randy Beckloff took his uncle, Ken Beckloff, me and Bob Jollif to see an agricultural project he was operating in the valley. As we walked into the valley dozens of children followed us. Many were trying to practice their English – words they had picked up here and there were strung together in ridiculous nonsense phrases. One I remember hearing was “Mister Sarg, kiss my grits.”
Bob Jollif demonstrated a couple of simple “magic” tricks, and the children roared with laughter. At one point we saw a small group of boys kicking a home-made ball (a rag rolled up in a bundle).
Yes, their life is difficult, yet somehow they manage to live, and some even manage to be happy. I heard as much laughter in the Mathare Valley as one commonly hears among many groups of suburban children who have running water, flush toilets, electricity, televisions, dishwashers, cell phones, designer jeans, ………………..
It has been more than thirty years since I walked through the Mathare Valley. But the laughter still haunts me.
But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (1 Timothy 6:8, ESV)