Last April, I spent 5 days with Help One Now in Haiti.
It was a trip I will never forget.
Haiti will always be under my skin, creating some friction between the ease and comfort of everyday life and the memories of watching people with so little overflow with abundant joy.
April feels like forever ago already~ but Haiti feels always close to my heart.
Our team spent a day in a village called Drouin. We drove hours to get there. Bumpy roads. Hot as hell. Eighty miles an hour into oncoming traffic. Car sick. And just a little concerned about the lack of traffic rules/safety/signage. There were a few moments I thought, See you in a few, Jesus. When we finally arrived at the village, the ‘bathroom’ was something I’ve never seen before, and so I tried not to drink anything the rest of the afternoon to avoid using it twice (which is a pretty smart move in 98 degree heat). The canal through the village was not sanitary, but often used anyway. So, I didn’t eat the rice offered to us for lunch because I was too afraid of getting sick. The place felt so foreign to me, I felt a thousand years away from who I was and the things that filled my life. And I wondered if I had been born in Drouin, would I still be me. Would I know how to be creative? Or goofy? Do people here ever curl up with a book and read? Would I still be a runner? Would I have laughed with my family? Would there be anything to laugh about?
There were moments early in that visit where I wondered what made the people in this forgotten and terribly poor village even want the sun to rise each tomorrow.
And then the children ran out of their classrooms to meet us.
They laughed and talked to each other about us, pointing…giggling. They touched my lip piercing; and I knew by their hand motions, they wanted to see how it looked from the inside of my lip. After I showed them how it was locked into my face;), they let out that ‘ahhhhh’ that is understood in every language as ‘gottcha.’ They watched videos of my kids on my iphone. At one point, I was under probably 20 kids~ like, under a mountain of them~ all pushing and screaming as they watched me scroll through photos of Niamh and Philly. They braided my hair. Tried to rub away my tattoos. Held my hand.
They told us, through a translator, what they wanted to be when they grew up. We walked through their village, meeting mothers whose hearts were for and after their children and their children’s futures. The appreciation for two meals a day and education far surpassed anything I’ve felt in my own heart~ because these parts of life are expected and normal in my home. We laughed with the people here. We stood in their yards and in their dwellings. We tried to absorb their stories so that we could come back home and pour those stories out to others.
As I let Drouin sink in~ all of it, from the sweaty smells to the gentle mothers we met~ I realized these far away people are just like me. And that, if I had had Niamh and Philly with me, it would have taken two minutes before they were off playing, making new friends the way only kids can. The parents wanted the same things for their children as I do~ health, education, opportunities. There were two differences only~ the surroundings in which we live our lives out and the reality of what it means to truly be thankful for everything.
I live in a 3 bedroom house that has two working toilets and plenty of clean, running water… but the satisfaction I feel towards it is often determined by vacuumed floors, strands of twinkly lights, and my latest score from Pier 1 Imports. And when we “pare down” and take part in an Advent Conspiracy this Christmas, I’m still “parring down” in the top 3% statistic of world income. My life is full of things~ and even when I clean out, live simply, or give to others…the reality is that I am still living in a very different place than the one I visited on a hot day last April.
I struggle with what to do with that. I do not like fostering a spirit of thankfulness in myself or my kids by telling them horror stories of Haiti~ because I was blessed by the abundance of beauty and joy in the people there. There are real needs~ but I didn’t want to only bring back stories of need. I wanted (and still want to) tell stories of what Haiti gave to me~
a deeper understanding of poverty,
a slant towards compassion first and questions later,
grace for people struggling, for immigrants, for single moms, for the guy who sits behind a ‘homeless’ sign by my Target (whereas before I would probably have kept my $5 and wondered why he doesn’t ‘just get a job’),
and a first-time love for seeing justice worked out.
I choose to live in the daily journey towards what Haiti began in my heart. I cannot solve poverty for Drouin. I cannot clean the canal water. I can’t ‘fix’ that small place in this big world. And those thoughts feel overwhelming if all I am looking for is a solution~ an end instead of a means. My family will live in the means~ the daily grind-blessing of moving in the direction of justice, love, and thankfulness. So, yeah, we choose less this Christmas, because I think that might be the key to finding more. And we actively look for opportunities to move against our comfort boundaries and serve others in loving, even crazy ways. We chose to take on a Drouin child sponsorship, because it is a small choice that creates ripples of change in the future of one girl’s life. And we hope that our choices and actions more and more align with the opportunities we are gifted with each day to step into looking more like Jesus.
If you have $40 a month that can be redirected, I encourage you to think about sponsoring a child in Drouin~ providing them with two meals a day and an education. As one who has walked through this place and seen the changes Help One Now is affecting, I am honored to be offered the chance to help continue their work in this small way.
And if you buy my stamps and have a stack of cards made but no place to send them… sponsoring and sending cards to a child might fill your crafty hours with a little more weight and delight. I’ve included a link to a digi I gave out as a promotion last year~ she is not in my shop. Feel free to download her to use on cards for sponsored children…
...Or, if you cannot financially sponsor a child, consider donating to Help One Now this holiday season so that their work is supported and continued throughout the year.
If interested in sponsoring a child, please click through this link and select “Drouin” in the “location” tab.
I'd be thankful and honored for you to share the link to this post through all your social media sites/reach. It is a privilege for me to have you join in sharing these stories.