I’ve recently been asked, Why Haiti. Of all the places in the world, why Haiti?
My answer, after some pause was, it is what we saw.
I admit that my first trip to visit this Caribbean country took me by surprise. Of course i didn’t go to the gorgeous beaches or climb the lush mountain trails or swim in the cool clear rivers. I experienced that much later. I didn’t visit the homes of the middle or upper class or even visit any of the booming cultural centers and successful businesses.
I visited the areas where the people were hanging on to life by a tiny thread, a vapor. I spent time in the neighborhood where garbage was piled high in the ravine and then lit on fire each night to sanitize the area and make room for more. Houses were constructed out of found pieces of tin and scraps of wood. Most had no furniture, only blankets and cardboard for sleeping. A few pots and pans, a tiny charcoal grill that was the entirety of the kitchen. A few homes had a white plastic chair for bringing out for guests. I was u n d o n e by what i saw.
I never imagined that human beings could be living in this kind of environment in my lifetime. Just a two hour plane ride from Miami. The men and women and children were captivatingly gorgeous. I had never seen faces that carried such depth and knowing. And I desperately wanted to understand the conversations going on around me.
My encounter with the woman that tried to get us to take her baby, shook me to the core. She was brave. She was desperate. More than giving up her children, she really wanted a job, so she could provide for them.
I had little to no experience in the world of business, but I knew, in that moment, that i would do everything within my power to create jobs for mommas like this one in the world.
White saviorism? Looking back now, there was definitely a good dose of that. But what it felt like at the time was ‘not on my watch” or a “ behave toward others the way you’d have them behave toward you”.
But what i didn’t understand at that time was that i needed to learn as much or more than i needed to teach. What I didn't realize then was that each person that came to me with their needs also were people with great capacity and much to give to me and to the community.
Over the years there have been countless ways I have messed it up thinking I knew what was best. Countless times I have had to repent of thinking the white way was the right way. Still I am dependent on the team that is 2nd Story Goods to tell me what I can not see.
In this day in time when Black Lives Matter is sparking such needed conversations, it takes me back to
the first “seeing” of the situation in Haiti. Once we see, we cannot un-see. And once we know better, we must do better. I think we’re sitting in a place in History when real choices are before us to bring lasting change, to do better.
Onward you Glorious Beings!