Sunday was a day of mixed emotions. Sitting in a sweltering church made of tin for two and a half hours on a hard bench listening to the Creole prayer was trying. Watching the children sneak us smiles while they sat still in their Sunday best was heart-warming. Sharing communion with the Haitians was special. But the music was the true equalizer. You just could not sit still during their hymns. After the service, I took pictures of the children and they loved to gather around to see themselves on the digital screen. This was my favorite moment in Haiti.
We then traveled to an entirely different scene, one that will forever pull at our hearts. We visited an orphanage of 28 girls. Don't you picture a building when you hear "orphanage"? When the metal door was pulled away from the long cement wall, there stood 3 tents on a dusty plot of land. One for sleeping, one with a big table, and one with supplies. No blackboards, no toys, no dressers, no books, no kitchen, no toilets, no beds. They were bathing in a distant stream. I hoped it was not polluted like every other body of water we had seen. When they saw us they ran over. The little ones were laughing and trying to get dressed as they ran. We brought crafts, soccer balls, beanie babies. A Chick's Picks designer had given me earrings to share. I wondered, however, if they thought we were there to adopt. The local pastor's wife who cared for them said they need toothpaste, soap, hygiene supplies. (I got her address -- although I am not sure a package would really be delivered. Worth a try.) We played with the girls for hours -- drawing on dry erase boards, blowing bubbles, coloring, playing hand games and kicking balls. It was wonderful for those girls to be surrounded by the kind, thoughtful adult men in our group. The girls sang for us in their pillow case dresses that had been made for them by another church group. We were all thinking about our own children, and their never-ending comforts. What a contrast. What an injustice. Leaving those 28 girls was just heart breaking.
So as it turns out, the Haitians we met were patient, hard working, spiritual people. They looked deep into our eyes as they spoke. Their smiles were generous. They praised Jesus often. They did not appear bitter or hopeless. We met a beautiful family with 5 happy children. We saw newborns with knit booties. We saw a funeral procession with a crying widow. We hiked over lush pastures, and dipped our toes into their Carribean turquoise water. Fiddler Cherie even wants to be a doctor. And they gave us what they had -- song and prayer. I know in any society there is evil, but they are people just like us, they live on the same earth, pray to the same god (at least the Haitians we met). Some will still risk their lives on a crowded boat to come to America. I wonder if I would?
Finally, there was an unexpected dimension of my Mission trip to Haiti. I had not considered our group dynamics. I had not thought through what would happen when 20 people were thrown into third world hell together -- working, living, talking, being scared and uncomfortable 24 hours a day. Picture yourself red-faced, dripping with sweat, truly at your worst, (ugliest), working so physically hard, sleep deprived and even getting sick. So many of life extremes happening simultaneously, with "strangers" to lean on. An unbelievable bond came over us. Not like college, not like a camping trip with friends, not even a big family adventure. More like soilders in a platoon -- like a "band of brothers." Every single one of us mattered. Every single one of us contributed something that was vital -- motivation, profound thought, experience, prayer, energy, quiet resolve, a loving partner (2 married and 2 mom/adult child couples), leadership, compassion, and much, much humor. We shared something that only the 20 of us will ever understand.
Many debate whether a mission trip is categorized as "humanitarian outreach," or "personal spiritual growth." Anyone that has ever volunteered knows it is both. I know I experienced both. Also, I can finally put into words why traveling to Haiti was on my bucket list. I know I wanted to challenge myself. But mostly, I needed balance in my life. I am so blessed with my surroundings, health, wealth, happiness, freedoms, choice ..... I needed to see, touch, live the world's reality.
80% of the world's population lives below the poverty line --
Albeit a fleeting glance, visiting Haiti will change my life view forever. Now that I look back, we all mentioned at various times missing home. Now that we are here, we realize that we also left a piece of our hearts in Haiti ... and we want to go back someday.
Post-script stories ... I am sure you can imagine the details ...
what the children wore -- boys in women's sandals toothpaste works as clearasil at night
12 of us huddled under a little shade tree ... positively goofy
the pastor walking through a huge cow paddy
to kill or not to kill the tarranchula
girls, please don't come out of the showers in just your towels, it IS a mission trip
a love letter from a Haitian Construction worker
2am ... if we throw a battery down, think the door will stop barking?
"It takes a village to get to a village" -- how one 10 minute TapTap ride became a 2 hour journey
baby powder is your friend
giving away our shoes, clothes, gloves, watches -- and a pencil
having lower GI problems in a 3rd world country
HOT cabbage soup for breakfast?
our young team member having the courage to explain her tattoos
children's lottery for the socccer balls
yoga moves with the 6'6" construction worker who looked like a Haitian Tom Selleck
how close can a UN truck come without hitting us
the lovely notes from home we read each night
If my luggage falls out of the TapTap enroute to airport, do I really care?
(*source: World Bank Development Indicators 2008)
Hillary Tattersall is known as the Accessory Queen. And for good reason! As owner of Chicks Pick's, a pop-up boutique and web store (www.chickspicksbyhillary.com), Hillary works with hundreds of designers and magazine editors to create products that the hip & modern mom loves! She lives in Loudoun County with her family and will be giving I Am Modern moms weekly hints and tips to freshen up either their homes or their personal fashion style. She is also Modern Style Guide Guru. She welcomes your thoughts, comments, and questions.