Last week I slept in the poorest country in the world.
I’m not sure how best to explain it. Meeting orphans, their small brown hands slowly folding into mine, their eyes looking at me expectantly, longingly, just wanting to be held. Being sung to by 32 parentless girls under the stars, no electricity and in complete darkness – yet experiencing a glow like no other.
Visiting “Tent City” where 20,000 earthquake refugees still live, despite three years after the event. I see a woman walking a cat on a leash – pet or dinner? I see children flying kites made of string and plastic grocery bags. I see sad eyes peering out at me from inside dark huts. I greet them with a “Bonswa” or “good afternoon” and they light up and smile knowing that I see them in friendship.
Later in the week, I slept in a girls’ orphanage high up in the country near the border of the Dominican Republic. I see a girl sleeping on the floor and I am crushed knowing she has given up her bed for me. Girls shift in the night, finishing chores, putting the little ones to bed. They walk quickly by tiny handheld candles and flashlights, making efficient steps of their work. Their glow casts an ethereal quality as it lights up the mosquito nets, shadowy hard walls. I wonder if I am dreaming or awake.
On our last day, we visited a large orphanage and arrive into a cabin to find a huge stainless steel rice bowl covered with a mosquito net. “Were we eating already?” I thought. But inside was tiny “Jeff” – a newborn whose mother died in birth. His father unknown. Starting his life without parents. So much hardship and so soon.
But despite this desperation, Haitian people are filled with a kind of hope that is hard to understand. In the midst of all this, still they are filled with an easy joy and a reliance on God like no other. I am jealous of how rich they are in their tenacity of faith. I see that they have nothing, and yet they have everything.
Coming home filled me with such a mixture of emotions. Why is it that I have so much and yet struggle to feel content? Why do they have so little and yet are joyful anyways?
I return filled with stories that I hope to tell over time. I feel like I have to try my best to explain it, even though it may not be understood. Even though I am now home, Haiti stays with me. It permeates my thoughts and heart. I can never forget those eyes, those hands, that desperation. My dreams are of Haiti and finding a way to help back here in a place that lacks nothing, yet possibly everything.
To learn more about making a difference in Haiti, visit Help One Now at www.helponenow.org.