The faces of those in Haiti: Memories from my trip there
We woke up yesterday to news that yet another earthquake had rocked the land of Haiti. Another.
The thing is that I really struggle with these kinds of things. Not because people have lost lives and loved ones and everything they once held dear. I struggle because, in spite of those truths, I still continue to be moved more by friends who have lost jobs, by my own problems, even by movies, than by the devastation that has ripped through this country. It honestly makes me ashamed.
It’s so hard for me to pray for an entire “people” and to put myself in their shoes, to feel with them—whether it's the homeless of Atlanta, the nation of Israel, or all 10 million of the Haitians. It’s much easier for me to connect with a face, a name, a life.
When I was in Haiti, I got to know a boy named Johnny. He was probably twelve or thirteen at the time. I remember hanging out with some of the Haitian kids as they let out of school and trying to communicate with them. I had taken French in high school and much of the Haitian Creole that they speak there has its roots in French, so I discovered that there was a lot of overlap in words and phrases. Johnny, this young lanky kid, walks up and I’m trying to talk to him in my broken French. When I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say, he finally translated it in English—much to my surprise. Only the translators could speak English, much less a 12 year old! It was not long before we learned how smart this young kid was, with a mind and wit that could do incredible things in the years to come.
Later in the week, we took a holiday to the Haitian beach for a day. We climbed into a hand-carved canoe and a local paddled us to a tiny little island off the shore, just yards away from a coral reef. We splashed in the bright blue waters, ahhed over all the sea shells dotting the sand and the vista of pure sea and sky. I remember a couple of locals came over to our group, where we were suited up with our swimming suits, our snorkels, our goggles. These guys, probably in their late teens, had never seen anything like it and I don’t think they even knew how to swim. At one point, someone handed them their goggles to try. They poked their faces beneath the water and were given new eyes to see the waters of their backyard: Like little children, they began jumping and pointing at the things they could now see in the salty waters. I was amazed…and humbled.
I remember our translator who could tell the time of day just by looking at the sun and never had the need to wear a watch. I remember the little child who was naked and covered in dirt and ran up to hold my hand as I walked through the village and who dragged a plastic bottle on a string behind her as a toy. I remember the teen girls from a local orphanage who taught me some hand-clap songs and a hip-hop dance and we laughed our heads off about it.
I remember these faces, these stories, these people who call Haiti home and have had to experience the events of the last week. I remember them--though I have no idea how they've been affected by all this--and I am encouraged to pray. No longer is it 10 million people, an overwhelming amount for me to wrap my head around. But it is these people who I once met, I once laughed with, I once knew, I once prayed with. Now, I continue to pray.
Some more photos from my trip: