TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
June 6, 2014
F I N E E X A M P L E S
Living and working in a third world country like Haiti has its share of challenges and difficulties. Amazingly, however, life in Haiti has its share of fine lessons to teach anyone who dares look around and see that there is a lot about life here that actually should make an American sit up and think about who really “has it right”.
On the days that I am living in the city of LesCayes, my next-door neighbors are REALLY right next door. I have measured the distance between my rental house and the one of the neighbor’s and it is literally less than ten inches from our home.
It is no wonder then that anything that happens in their home can at times feel like it is happening in our home. Their conversations and everyday comings and goings are clearly heard in the rooms of our house. We know when the neighbors wake up. The neighbor’s favorite radio music is by default now also ours. We know when the neighbors are arguing. We hear their metal pots and pans banging as they wash them before meal preparation. We smell their food cooking. We know when their toilets need flushing. Yikes! And they can say the same thing about us! One would think it would make a family quieter or more cautious about what was said or done, but not so. It seems everyone in overcrowded areas of Haiti knows everything about their neighbors. Nothing is private. There are few subjects that are not openly discussed with adult or child, whether it is childbirth or another intimate subject. It really does not seem to faze anyone, as this is Haitian life and one just goes about one’s everyday business of living.
Thus, my knowledge of the life of the little boy next door is quite fine-tuned. Ollie is six years old and lives life at full tilt from the time his feet hit the ground in the wee hours of the morning until the moment in the evening when he can go on no longer. I find myself in a love-hate mode with this boy! At times, I am wishing he would not use his “outdoor voice” (as Americans would call it) from the moment his eyelids open until he is off to school for the day. At other times, I wish I could follow his every-single-morning fine example of waking up with such a zest for life! Every morning he is instantly looking for something to spend his energy on. It is always something LOUD. He will find a stick and start drumming on the bottom of a plastic 5-gallon bucket until his heart and soul are content. No one tells him to stop. No one tells him to be quiet. No one tells him not to do it right under my bedroom window where I would love to be getting at least one more hour of sleep. If the drum does not suit him well enough, his little plastic flute (that I hoped would break soon after someone gifted it to him) is his instrument of choice. Its one shrill note, has thankfully expanded to what very well might be a “Mary Had a Little Lamb” tune which Ollie plays with as much gusto as possible.
I have to say that Ollie comes by his loudness naturally. His mom is known to break out in boisterous singing at any given moment. Gusto must be a family trait! Here too I find her setting a fine example…not the “loud part”, but the singing part. Ollie’s mother has a beautiful voice and her choice of songs is always a Christian song. She is not ashamed to belt it out for all to hear. Even at times, a neighbor or two will join in on a chorus that they too know and love. Haitian people, especially Haitian women, are often found singing while the work. How often in America do we still hear people singing while they work? “Hardly ever!” has been my experience…but why? It certainly is a pick-me-up and makes one’s tasks seem to go by more quickly.
Patience is another fine example that I have been observing in the Haitian people. It is not uncommon to have to wait for four hours to see a doctor here. People wait! No shaking of fists at the receptionist is witnessed! Their choices are few, so they wait and do so patiently.
On the road in front of our house, I see another form of patience. This stretch of road is used as a truck stop. All during the day, people and the goods they wish to sell at market begin appearing beside the road. Many times it is a group of women who have come down from the mountain with huge and multiple sacks of fruit that they want to transport to the market at Port-au-Prince (some 125 miles away). They arrive by donkey, by motorcycle taxi, or by pickup truck.
The goods are piled onto the shoulder of the road and the women dismount and begin the wait for a larger truck to pick them up along with the goods they wish to sell. Often the wait is long, as there are too few trucks to take everyone and all of their goods OR they have missed the last truck traveling to where they want to go. Thus the wait begins. The ladies (and sometimes men) will sit on their merchandise and start a conversation to pass the time of day. If they have enough money to do so, they will find a roadside restaurant (where a women is under a staked-up tarp cooking over an open fire) to purchase food or drinks. Sometimes, they will just sit and watch the world go by. If night arrives and there is still no truck, they will arrange a comfortable spot on their goods and sleep the night away under the stars, guarding their merchandise while they do so. If it rains, they will huddle under the porch of a nearby home or stand under a large tree to dodge the raindrops. When morning comes, the wait continues. Once a truck finally accepts their load, the goods will be piled into the huge open-bed of the enormous truck and finally the women will sit on the very top of the loads for the long trip to the big city – a trip that will be made at breakneck speed through curving mountain roads during all kinds of weather.
There is no use complaining – this is what needs to be done to earn a little money for the family that awaits their return. “The patience of a saint” does not begin to describe what I witness in these workers!
Patience is also seen at the water spigot. A large percentage of Haitian homes do not have running water. Any water that is needed for drinking, cooking, cleaning or bathing has to be brought into the home from a water source outside of the family home. For some it is just a matter of a few steps away.
For others, it is a matter of being a few miles away. Such trips need to be taken multiple times per day. Upon arrival at the water source, there are always lots of other people waiting their turn. Each arrives with as many containers as they can carry…usually one container for each hand and one container that will be carried on the person’s head. This means that each person has at least three containers to fill before it is your turn to fill your containers. No sense in getting impatient – a wait is inevitable and expected.
Most people make the best of it by striking up conversations with others who are in line or watching for friends who might be passing by. This definitely is a daily dose of patience!
Fine examples! Challenging examples for me to try to duplicate!
… waking every morning with a zest for life
… singing while I work
Those three are enough for me to try to tackle. How about you????
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………