Their faces capture my attention daily. I have become attached. My body has readjusted to the temperature. Truthfully I am sad about that. It may be stupid but it was one thing that kept me with them. People are sick of hearing ‘in Haiti’ yet for some reason I cannot stop talking about it. So instead of saying the stories out loud I replay them in my head.
Remember the truck? Big, imposing and one of the first things that made you feel like you were really on a missions trip? You had to stand in the back and eat dust for 2 miles everyday. It may not seem like a lot to some people but those 2 miles would take almost 30 minutes to drive. Brian swears it was not even a third as dusty before the hurricane. I am not sure how water could bring dust, but I guess I believe him. Amos was not a repair guy but he would pull out his little tool box and fix the truck right up whenever it broke down, which was not as infrequent as you would have liked.
Remember pulling up into Jubilee that first day? You had imagined poverty before, and this was what you imagined but yet you still were choked up and overwhelmed at the sight. The children yelled out ‘blanc!!’ as they ran to you. Instead of greetings though what you mostly received was ‘dollar? agua?’ and it made your heart break. You were torn between giving them what they needed and being offended they would ask before even greeting you. You were even more offended that they would try to take without asking or after receiving a ‘no’. You did not blame them though. Eventually the ones who only wanted something would leave and the ones who really just wanted to be with you remained.
Remember the children? As they swarmed you, you felt overwhelmed. Most of them were naked, even the older boys who you were embarrassed to see that way. One of your first thoughts was, ‘man this would be a perverts paradise, good heavens I hope they don’t know about this place!’ followed quickly by a silent chiding for letting that be your first thought. You were taken aback at the total uncleanliness. They were merely a 20 minute walk from the ocean front yet they were covered in dirt and had feces smeared on them. You were afraid to let them touch you but you really had no choice. Their hands were sweaty and sticky and 30 minutes into playing with them you were done and ready to go back to the house. You wondered how you would survive 10 days here in this heat.
Remember when you feel in love with the kids? It was not a moment, it was a progression. Slowly the smell mattered less, the cleanliness did not bother you, and you were excited to see the children. Going to the school house was the most fun thing you could think to do. The feeding program became encouraging rather than disheartening. You grasped the hands you were once afraid to let touch you and you picked up the naked children you were once embarrassed to see. You came home dirty, tired and hot but more encouraged than ever before. Do you remember that?
Remember the rooftop? Where the breeze was sweet and the air was cool. Where the sky was dark and the sounds of the streets filled your ears. Talking was one of the most relaxing things in the world and a cold coke was the best ending to a long day. Just sitting in plastic chairs on a cement roof. Things seemed peaceful, stress was far away and worries seemed ridiculous.
Remember April. Remember the calling you felt after the tugging on your arms ended. Remember the heartbreak you felt as you tried to say goodbye. Remember feeling lost and alone and confused. Do not settle back into this easy life where cold cokes are as watered down as spirituality. Refuse to heal. Refuse to be unchanged. Put feet to your love. Remember, so you never forget to go back.