Max Van Rensselaer | Ralph Ogden

(Max is a college student from Los Angeles. He wrote this following his first trip with Humanity Through Baseball in January 2012.)

As a 19 year old heading to Africa, my life experience outside of my own world was relatively limited. Though we hear of poverty in third-world nations, the middle class American experience cannot capture the destitution of parts of a place like Kenya through images or words; only experience can do that. Before arriving I did not know what to expect. I knew that since childhood baseball has brought me happiness and taught me a few things about perseverance. With that in mind, when I stumbled on 42/22: Humanity Through Baseball’s website I instantly recognized the opportunity being offered.

On the other side of the trip now, back in Los Angeles, Kenya is still with me every day, and I find myself perceiving my environment in a new way as I did in Africa, though obviously in a different sense. Truly the trip provided a vision of what I have and have the power to change, and served as a lesson in selflessness. I only glimpsed a corner of the unexplainable processes of human existence, but the experience will last a lifetime. Witnessing the strength and maturity of the children of Kenya, and their richness in spirit, has brought me a profound sense of hope and empowerment. Though many of them are younger, they act as role models to me. Already I see modifications in my behavior and changes in thinking.

The challenges of this trip include physical exhaustion, emotional vulnerability, and a spiritual awareness beyond what is taught by religion, but which can only be learned through the human experience. This is what makes this trip worth its weight in shillings. You must be able to handle the extreme limits of mind and body, both your own and others’. There is no way to prepare yourself for it. I only believed I was making the right choice in going, and brought a mindset that not just baseball but most importantly human interaction can help those in need. These ideas are firmly ingrained in me now, and I feel I’ve grown and been rewarded much in these past weeks.

I can never represent the experience in words, or with images on a camera, which lose their potency compared to the experience. However, if you take this trip there is no doubt you will be a wiser, more appreciative person upon returning. I am inspired to live to my best ability for the benefit of my brothers and sisters who live in such diverse and extreme conditions of this alien planet, not just in Kenya but throughout the world where lives are invisible and talent is wasted. I urge anyone who is even remotely interested in this organization and its purpose to contribute by volunteering personal, material, or financial aid, because this trip changes the life of everyone it touches.