This week I’m sharing the story of how I came to write Twitter for Good and become an early employee of a funny little startup called Twitter. It’s a story that begins in the highlands of Kenya, where I first learned to tweet (and blog).
To enter to win a digital copy of Twitter for Good (my book on using social media to make a difference in the world), leave a comment answering the question below this post. Two winners will be selected from today’s post and will be announced on Friday.
image by J.Carrier, Runner’s World Magazine
I went to Kenya to climb a mountain.
It was the end of 2006, and I had spent the previous nine months on a dreamed-of adventure: traveling the world, and writing about it. In nineteen countries, I did exactly what I wanted to do – and nothing more.
I trained for my first marathon on a two-week cruise across the Atlantic and skydived in South Africa. I trekked to the base camp of Mt. Everest. I spent months on Indian beaches, and fulfilled one long-held dream when I boarded the Transiberian Railroad in Mongolia, bound for Moscow. (It was dusty, though, and a day later I jumped off. I flew the rest of the way.) I read 100 books, and no one batted an eyelash. I lived for myself, and for no one else.
Kenya was the last stop on my tour and despite my poor experiences with altitude sickness on Everest I was dedicated to climbing Mt. Kenya. When the friend of a friend recommended a cheap guest house near the base of Mt. Kenya where I could stay the night before starting the trek, I gladly accepted. The fact that the guest house was owned by an orphanage (Tumaini Children’s Home) was immaterial; I just needed a place to sleep.
The day I was set to make the four-hour journey to the guesthouse started out all wrong.
I was taking tea in the picturesque garden of a posh home in Nairobi when a truckload of Kenyan teens pulled up in yellow van, telling me to get in back. They were orphans, I found out, and in the typically over-the-top hospitality I would come to learn that Tumaini Children’s Home is known for, they had been sent on an eight-hour round trip to bring me to my lodging for the night.
I climbed in back, wary that things were already getting significantly more complicated than I had bargained for. I just wanted a place to sleep. I wasn’t looking for a dozen new friends, let alone of the orphan variety.
By the time we arrived at Tumaini Children’s Home in Nyeri, Kenya I was famished. Our lunch of biscuits at a roadside gas station – although ideal for the nausea-inducing roads — had done little to curb my appetite. When the teens asked me if I wanted to have lunch with the church elders (the orphanage standing on the ground of a Presbyterian church), I jumped.
It was in the middle of the lunch that something changed. Maybe it was the little girl I glimpsed weeding the orphanage gardens with a smile as wide as Oklahoma, or the bright-yellow sun on the grassy lawns, or the milk tea and food in my belly. Or maybe it was Him.
I asked to use the restroom, and was taken to a spotless room where a mirror hung above the sink.
And as I looked in that mirror, I vividly remember the way I whispered to God with an urgency I have done few times in my life. It was a premonition, and a question, all rolled into one.
“God,” I said. “If you have put this place in my road to change me — please open my eyes so I can see.”
Join me tomorrow for Part 2…
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