After living in Haiti for more than 2 years now, I find great interest in seeing and hearing the reactions of first time visitors. It is great to experience Haiti through their eyes. The sights, the sounds, the strange and unfamiliar elicit sometimes odd, sometime deep questions.
Their questions and comments remind me of some of my first experiences with Haiti 10 years ago and I am reminded that I need to keep my eyes and my heart open to the people, places and sights around me.
After having been here a while, I must confess I simply ignore many things going on around me that I found interesting or strange when I first arrived. Familiarity can lead to disengagement. I have seen enough pigs wandering through a ditch filled with garbage that it doesn’t register anymore.
I know the streets are busy with people doing all kinds of things so someone peeing against the wall is commonplace for me (no pictures needed). I think I have seen absolutely every kind of traffic jam, so waiting for the line in front of me to pass by the broken down dump truck doesn’t bother me so much any more.
The Haitian church congregation breaking out into a cacophony of mumbled yet loud communal prayer no longer puzzles me. Shotgun toting guards at every store, gas station, bank and restaurant don’t rattle me like they used to. Constant noise, roosters and generators have become the soundtrack of my life.
Have I begun to tune things out? Perhaps part of me is, and perhaps that is not a bad thing. Living in Haiti is difficult enough without dealing with sensory overload every time I leave my house.
Even as I tune some things out there are some things here that I hope never to tune out. I hope I will never tune out the mother struggling up the hill taking her little girl to school,
or the young child in the street carrying a heavy load of water, a restavek, a child slave. Or the young man, trying to earn a few coins cleaning the dust off my car, so he can eat that day.
I hope I will never fail to see the one armed lady who is always in front of the grocery store where I purchase our drinking water always offering a smile to my greeting or the driver of that tap-tap that rudely cut me off.
I hope I can always be tuned into the excitement of participants as they start to realize the potential of the new information and skills they are learning and to see their faces as they excitedly share their plans for making changes in their communities.
If, after living in Haiti for more than 2 years, I begin to tune out those who bear the image of my creator, I will seriously need to consider what I am doing here. With the firm conviction that all people are made in God’s image I know they all deserve my respect and dignity. I hope I never loose the realization that they are all individuals that have a story, one I will probably never hear, but one that is not complete until God is part of it. I know God loves them and that they need to experience this love so I pray many will come to understand their great worth in the eyes of their Saviour.