I’m no expert by any means in Haitian culture, but I continue to learn a lot more with each trip that I’m down here. I remember on my third or fourth trip to Haiti when I freaked out a little when I realized I wasn’t having the same kind of emotional response to the things I was seeing and experiencing that I had on my other trips. I was afraid I was becoming calloused or hard-hearted, that I was losing my compassion or caring spirit. I eventually realized that it wasn’t that at all, but that God was maturing my outlook on Haitian culture and missions. As I continue to see and learn more, I realize how much I don’t know. I’m amazed as I realize that there’s so much more to learn that I didn’t even know existed with my first few trips here. And as I continue to learn this, I’m finding that God seems to be teaching me the things He first taught me. It’s just that now, my perspective has broadened, and I’m seeing the same things in a new light.
In an earlier post, I talked about the balance I’m trying to find between being emotionally exhausted with the fact of reality of life in Haiti for most Haitians and seeing that reality without it draining me emotionally in a way that prevents me from doing the work the Lord has called me to do. For the most part, I’m not daily burdened with the troubles I see. But I am thankful when I do see or hear something that for some reason, grabs my heart; it reminds me of why God has sent me here and of the things God taught me with my first trips.
One afternoon during free time, our American youth that was here were running around playing with some Haitian kids. I was walking back to the dorm carrying my tennis shoes that I had lent to a friend so she could play basketball when I heard my name. It was a kid I had been seeing in therapy and his friend. They were watching a game of soccer between the Americans and Haitians. The friend called out to me in Creole and said, “You give me shoes.” I hate it when people ask me for things because I’m not allowed to give anyone anything during times that aren’t designated for giving through one of Lifeline’s ministries and because I’ve learned that a lot of people ask for things just because they see that I’m an American and their perception of all Americans is that we are rich. Many times, they ask for things that they don’t need. I love to give to those who don’t ask, but when people ask out of greed, even if they don’t have a lot to begin with, I get frustrated.
I called back to the boy, “I can’t give you anything.”
The boy that I knew yelled back at me, “Ou kapab paske you gen lot.” (You can give me because you have money.) I walked away frustrated and disappointed with this kid because he asked me for something he didn’t need but wanted, and then tried to make me feel guilty about it. I thought to myself, “He thinks I’m so rich and I can buy anything I want to. I must have a lot of money because I am an American, so I must be rich! He has no clue! Actually, I have more debt after just graduating than he could ever imagine. He probably has more money than I do because of how much money I owe.” Seven years ago, I would have wanted to cry with his words, but today, I was upset by them.
I don’t know why, but his words wouldn’t leave my mind. He doesn’t know how much debt I have; but I do have some money. Even though I owe a lot of money, I know that I will eat at every meal and have a safe place to sleep. If my shoes get worn out, I’ll go buy a new pair. And I know I’ll be able to find a job and pay off my debt and then be able to continue to work and then save money. He is right; I do have money. I wanted to cry when I heard his words again in my mind. I felt fifteen again and like I was in Haiti for the first time.