I knew Americans were rich. I knew other countries were poor. I read about the wealth factor all the time. I’ve seen the commercials asking for money for the world’s underprivileged children. I’ve seen the pictures and videos of AFrican children with malnutrition. I’ve experience a small scale of need in Kazakhstan. I’ve seen the footage of the devastation caused by Haiti’s earthquake. In other words, I’ve seen and heard it all. But I have never faced it head on. I’ve never truly lived it. I’ve shed tears at the levels of poverty across the world. And then the next day I’ve bitched and moaned about my workers not finishing my 30, 000 dollar porch fast enough, about my 20,000 dollar minivan not being hip enough, about not being able to take the lush vacation I want.
And then Haiti enters my life. I step foot into a life I cannot even fathom. I can’t fathom it and I’m standing in the middle of it: seeing it, breathing it, tasting it, but still not living it. I have an air conditioned van picking me up at the airport. I have 3 meals a day, snacks, and water. I have 7 changes of clothes, 2 hats, 2 pairs of shoes, sheets, a pillow, medicines for every possible calamity and I have a wallet full of US dollars. I have a cement house with a bed, shower, electricity, AC at night, washing machine, internet and a full kitchen. I’m not living it. I’m still a wealthy American.
The Haitians are living it. They are fortunate if they have a tent to sleep in, more than one outfit, a pair of shoes on their feet, a dollar to their name. They’re lucky if their child makes it to the age of five or if they live to see the age of 50. They can’t even claim health. Every day is a risk. Disease and death lurk at every turn. It’s in the contaminated water, the mounds of trash that pile for miles, spoiled food bought at the market, malaria spread by mosquitoes, and by the risks of simply crossing the streets. It’s just a society without order and without hope. It’s sad to see. Nobody believes in the Haitians. Not even the Haitians believe in the Haitians. Everyone can see the potential but nobody knows how to achieve it.
They’re on a beautiful, tropical island with a huge potential but it would take a complete overhaul. Globally millions have been donated to relief efforts since the earthquake. Nobody can account for those funds. Buildings are not rebuilt. The roads are not fixed. There’s an awful lot of tents now which apparently is a upgrade to the homes many Haitians had prior to the quake. They have port-a-potties now but as a society they still urinate and defecate in the water, sides of the road, on tap taps. It’s all just so overwhelming. I found myself asking, “can any society eventually succumb to this level of poverty?””And if so how does a society every pick itself up?” I know the Haitians will have to do it for themselves but instead the wealthy and educated Haitians choose to abandon Haiti for the comforts and opportunities of America. And I can’t say I blame them. Even with all my luxuries in Haiti I couldn’t wait to abandon it all for the comforts of home. It takes someone truly remarkable to sacrifice their own comforts for the good of others. Mama Michelle is one of those people. She has sacrificed her comforts, her family and friends, her security for 47 little orphans, 16 nannies and cooks, and for countless people in Jacmel, Haiti. She has one of the hardest jobs imaginable but thank God she’s up for the challenge. The world needs more Mama Michelles. I wish I had the depth of her heart, the spirit of her soul and the level of her commitment.
And then there are the children of Jacmel. 47 boys and girls who love Michelle, who have found a family with hands and feet, who have a community of peers. They have food, clothing, education, shelter and a deep faith. My deepest respects to Hands and FEet for the love of Haiti they show by caring for the least of us.
I will always remember the sights of Haiti.
I will remember the eyes of a child begging for water.
I will remember two boys playing on a pile of trash with banana peels.
I will remember a boy pulling his toy down the busy street. His toy was a “dog” made of a water bottle and four caps attached as wheels and a string to pull it.
I will remember the miles of tents lining the streets.
I will remember crumbled buildings with stories of devastation.
I will remember the collapsed schoolhouse that killed all 81 children inside.
I will remember pigs eating trash out of green streams while naked humans bathed and filled water bottles in the same streams.
I will remember mobs of people in tap taps, airport lines and in markets.
I will remember the smell of absolute poverty.
I will remember Sophia in her starving two pound body and her Mama struggling for life.
I will forever remember these moments of feeling uncomfortable with a destitute country.
But I will also remember the most magnificent smiles. Haitians smile big and you can’t help but smile with them.
I will remember laughter and hugs from H & F orphans.
I will remember Kerby’s machine gun laugh.
I will remember Barbara saying “My name is Georgina.”
I will remember Marco calling my muscles peanut butter and jelly.
I will remember having a sand sifting competition with a man at the worksite.
I will remember all the greeting Mama Michelle receives in town.
I will remember my favorite hardware store.
I will remember the beautiful mountains.
I will remember amazing women carrying baskets on their heads.
I will remember teaching the kids the hokey pokey.
I will remember Maudeline’s hug goodbye.
I will remember 47 faces of peace and love.
This experience has made me realize so much about myself. I’m hoping to go home realizing how wealthy I am. I am rich in more ways than one. I have NO needs unmet. I have health and I have four healthy boys. I have today and I likely have tomorrow. I’m not sure why I have been blessed with these gifts but I’m gonna work my hardest to cherish them and realize their significance each day. As for being uncomfortable, I’m open to that. I’m more open than I’ve ever been to looking at people and seeing their needs. I’m no longer going to look past but instead look those needs straight in the eye and feel uncomfortable. I need to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Only then will I truly be living.