At KGSA, about half the of the students are Christian, the other half are Muslim. It is easy to tell the two groups apart. The Muslim girls wrap their hair in pretty head wraps and wear pants under their uniform skirts to keep in line with their practice of modesty. On Fridays, the Muslim girls are able to go to mosque since the school has a Christian Religious Studies teacher, but is currently looking for an Islamic Religious Studies teacher. I am encouraged by how much the two groups of girls respect, admire, and intermingle with each other effortlessly.
At the crescent moon, in Kenya on August 21, Ramadan started, or the month of fasting. While the Christian girls each lunch, the Muslim girls sit on stools in the courtyard chatting and laughing. They will not eat until sun down for a month. When I ask the girls about their fast, they genuinely like it. They explain that fasting in the slum is not that hard. They are used to being hungry. “I look forward to it,” one said. “It gives me more time to sit and think.” Another added, “When I get hungry, I pray, and God gives me strength. It is easier to see blessings during this month.” Their parents have eased them into the fasting when they think they are old and healthy enough to handle it. They wait a little longer into the day to eat every year, until they are fasting until sunset. It makes them feel like adults in their worshipping community. I was most struck when one young woman said, “Fasting is good for the mind, body and spirit. It is important in our community because there is so much poverty here. After fasting, when someone tells me she is hungry, I really know how that feels. If the whole world fasted, there would be no more hunger because fasting build compassion. When you fast, you realize why people who are hungry beg for food.”
The student I have been working with most closely is fasting, so I find that I fast as well. Without realizing it, I have been working through lunch with her. It has brought an element of mindfulness to my day. It helps me see food as a blessing, and be reminded while I eat of the people who do not have ready access to food.