What are the odds?
In case you don’t know about it, there’s a game among us…continually maturing…people called What are the Odds. It’s pretty simple. I think of a dare, something silly like eating a stick or wearing a faux-hawk for a week or devouring a mountain of ugali (is starch-poisoning a thing?). I ask you, “Hey, what are the odds that you only use hop-scotch jumps as your mode of transportation for the rest of the day?”
You give me the odds, and if you’re a real champ, you keep them low. So you say, “One in six…halfsies.”
We count down from three and both say a number between 1 and 6, or whatever the odds were. If we say the same number, you will find yourself with sore, slightly toned hopping calves at the end of the day. Because you pulled the halfsies card, if we don’t say the same number, we halve the odds (we millennial aren’t ALL rocket scientists). Count down from three and say a number between 1 and 3. Hopefully I’ll be breathing a sigh of relief because if we say the same number, then it’s on me to fulfill leg day via hopping torture. Otherwise, we both get off hop-scotch-free.
To give you an idea of where “What are the Odds” has taken me here are some of my greatest victories and losses:
Teller bleached his tips like JT circa the 90s. Nobody even told him to, but he got them done at a salon and kept them for a month, including a wedding he was in. That’s scout’s honor right there.
I stuffed 100 mini marshmallows in my mouth at the McConlogue Christmas party. Please keep in mind, this was the first time I was meeting Erin’s entire family, with whom I’d be spending all of Christmas week, and their guests. I do believe I cried sugar tears and vomited a bit, but I’m not entirely sure because it would have gotten absorbed back into the ‘mallows. Have I mentioned I make great first impressions?
Just this past week, Eddie lost odds to eat a spoonful of vanilla extract. Apparently he didn’t learn his lesson and consequently lost odds to eat a spoonful of salt. He has yet to fulfill that one. No scout’s honor for him.
Alex one-bite challenged a burger at a Spanish airport McDonald’s. Joel one-bite challenged a plum in Amman (or was that just for fun?).
Obviously, my newest big endeavor is to bring the game to Kamulu. Except, as it turns out, a lot of these teens are, in a way, more daring than me, and, in a way, more mature than me.
What are the odds that you kiss the giraffe on the lips?
What are the odds that you ride the back of that moving truck?
What are the odds that you stay in Kenya for a six months? Actually, a year? Actually, forever?
What are the odds that you go to the doctor to see why you’re sick all the time?
What are the odds you substitute teach a class?
I’ve got to hand it to these kids. They really know how to nail down your fears. Maybe it’s from life experience of having no choice but to face theirs. Whatever it is, they’re making me feel pretty convicted of the fears I’ve held onto as a safety net.
(I could probably also say something about how the vast majority of my American what-are-the-odds have to do with food and gluttony, but we’ll just let that one sit there.)
We don’t need to be fearless. Based on their stories, I thought some of the MITS students were. But it turns out that they a lot of them learned, far too young, that it’s just that your fear cannot get in the way of your survival. It needs to make you move.
For my young friends here, that has meant moving through fears until they reach a safe place, like MITS. It has meant leaving behind the friends who teased them for refusing to sexually abuse the woman they mugged. It has meant hitching a ride from upcountry on the back of a truck after years of neglect. It has meant watching their peers be beaten or shot to death on the streets for being caught stealing. It has meant moving, unceasingly, physically, mentally. Too many of them have seen their abandoned mothers fall prey to alcoholism and poverty to do otherwise.
I have never watched someone die, be raped, or even arrested. And yet, I’ve built so many walls of fears around me. For me, moving will mean not freezing up at the idea of leading a classroom of 20 teenagers. It will mean allowing myself to be taken care of, because it turns out that I’m not a wholly self-maintaining machine after all. It will mean not moving, physically, until I’m going home for a reason other than comfort.
I asked one of the students I’m closest with here if they were sad from missing their friends and family. His response was, “Safeena, I love them, but the only thing that can really ever bother me now is death, maybe.”
I’ve got miles to go before I have half the strength of heart that any one of these students do in the face of adversity. But I am thankful to at least be on the journey. What are the odds that you dare yourself to keep moving forward? Or if you’re not moving, to pick yourself back up and start again? I’ll even go halfsies with you on that. Now, you’ll have to excuse me while I jump on the back of a moving truck.
Just kidding, mum. I would never.
There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just on keep rolling under the stars. - Jack Kerouac