I stood in the entryway of my middle-class home in my above-average neighborhood, and my eyes scanned my lovely surroundings. I took in my leather sofa, my overstuffed chair, and the large portrait of my beautiful family.
And I wept.
I didn't cry because it wasn't nice or good enough.
I cried because it was too much.
It was my first day back from a life-wrecking trip to Africa, and I was burdened with more than the heavy luggage at my feet or the desperate need for a bed and shower. I was burdened with my mess.
At a glance, my home looked neat and tidy. Everything had a place; there was order. I've always been one of those irritating neat freaks, organized almost to a fault, and friends would scoff at my so-called mess.
But then sometimes we discover that we are the mess.
I traveled to Kenya in 2010 as a blogger with Compassion International. I knew it would be a life-changing trip, but I had no idea just how much it would alter my family and our future. I added new words and phrases like slums and orphan-led home and prostitution-for-food to my vocabulary. I stood on garbage floors where children slept, I walked through sewage on my way to cardboard shanty homes, and I inhaled smells I will never forget. I met the poorest of the poor—people who had nothing, not even enough to eat.
One of the people I met that day was a boy named Vincent, a sponsored child who was an orphan and also served as parent to his little brother. While we were standing there, I was startled when water began dripping through the cracks in the tin roof and hitting me on the head. I tried to move out of the way. I blocked out the sounds coming through the community toilet's walls, one that Vincent and his brother shared with their neighbors. I closed my eyes and listened to Vincent tell us how he walked miles to school every day, coming and going in the dark.1