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Haiti - REALLY LONG


danni
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A couple of you asked for a reaction to my trip to Haiti. I wrote this for a newsletter of some people who sponsored our trip. It's a rough draft so I will be cleaning it up and making it clearer. So....if you are interested....read on :)

I am with my friends as we gather in New York to meet several new friends from the Boston area. We are preparing to leave for a week of service and learning in Haiti. It has been but a year since the devastating earthquake shattered the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

A short flight brought us to the one runway in the Port au Prince airport. We make our way through chaos to find our luggage and make our way to the transportation that will take us to our home base. Young men are desperate and aggressive to help us with our bags. They cry out that they have families and to please let them help us. Many of us did.

As we drive through the city of Port au Prince, we began to see the external evidence of a natural disaster like we have never before witnessed. I have visited war torn cities/countries such as Sarajevo and Kosovo and talked with the people there but it still didn’t prepare me for the sight of devastation and destruction that occurred in only 5 minutes in Haiti. Collapsed buildings, entire villages destroyed, one million people still living in tents. It was a landscape festooned with devastation and hung with the black crepe of despair, which continued unrelenting in its bleakness up into the mountains from the valley of Port au Prince.

I am about to witness moments of stunning illumination. From disaster-ravaged individuals, I will be gifted with profound, simple truths and generosity beyond my imagination. I am to be allowed to experience the resilience, fullness and light of the human spirit, bursting with life and love and laughter in the midst of disaster.

We are taken to the place where we will stay for the next week. We will stay in tents along with the million others across the country who have now found themselves homeless. Our hosts are extremely gracious. There is no running water so huge barrels are carried up the mountain from a community well for our use. This is common. This is what Haitians do on a daily basis. These people were the epitome of hospitality and grace. I was humbled by such generosity.

Later, with all the neighbors crowded around, we are surrounded again with laughter and smiles. And I say, "I am so glad to see that you are all still able to laugh, despite the difficulties in the past year."

A young man answers in this way. "Before the earthquake, we had everything. We had a house, our tables were filled with food, we had our friends and relatives in our village. Now, we have nothing, nothing."

He fingers his mother's blouse. "This blouse, this is all the clothes my mother owns." He fingers his own shirt. "This shirt, this is all the clothes I own. We have nothing. "But," he says, "We are the lucky ones. We are the lucky ones. We have our lives! So we can laugh."

We visit the first of many schools built by our host. They tell us that after the earthquake they had rebuilt this school and were holding classes within a month. They wanted their children to get back to a sense of normalcy and routine as quickly as possible. But, within that trace of light in the darkness are the statistics that have been common in Haiti even before the earthquake. 50% of Haiti’s children don't go to school at all. Only 1% graduate from high school. I question in my head how can the cycle of poverty ever be broken with these statistics. It also increases my admiration for our hosts and the work they are doing in Haiti.

On we go to the next school. I enter a room to see what mischief and laughter I can get in to. I find myself in a small room packed with 14-15 year olds, whose teacher gladly yields to me. Faced with the prospect of entertaining a room of teenagers, I take out face paints and wade in. The room quickly dissolves into typical teenage laughter, daring and hi-jinx. I am charmed by these children.

In the midst of the laughter and high spirits, I also hear stories of destruction, sickness, starvation, deprivation and death. Then, one young man asks me to paint a yin yang symbol on his friend's forehead. I am surprised, somehow, that these teenagers would have an interest in a symbol like this. So, I ask, "A yin yang?"

"Yes," he says, "Do you know what a yin yang is?"

"I do," I reply, "but what does it mean to you?"

This child of the deepest of tragedies, with all his buddies standing around, answers in this way. "Oh. A yin yang means--Where there is great evil, there is great good. Where there is great darkness, there is great light. And where there is death, there is life."

My heart cries. A tale of survival and hope can not be told any better than by a child who has lived through the devastation, watched his family die, and still holds the light of hope for a better tomorrow.

A few days later was a day of healing for me. I visited the site where my friend who had been volunteering in Haiti at the time of the earthquake had died. I stood over the roof at that building where his body had been found but two others had not. I listened to the stories of those who live there: The stories of his last minutes of life. They tell of his rich spirit and his eternal optimism. They tell how as he was dying, he was singing. He was singing a song of hope. I say goodbye to my friend as we move on to visit the next school on our agenda.

At the next school I decided to use some of my other skills with this group. I wanted to write a song with them. So, with the help of an amazing translator, who also has a very gentle soul, the children wrote the lyrics to a song about the day of the earthquake. We set it to music and then learned it together in Creole. It translates like this:

January 12, a day of terror and tears

Eyes and hearts of Haitians filled with pain

A horrific disaster

Followed by Cholera and misery

Take so many to their deaths

Your blood spilled

But your souls live on and you are with us

Giving your fellow Haitians strength

We will bend but we won't break

For the work of rebuilding Haiti

The next morning we leave quite early. The neighborhood is out to say good-bye. "Don't forget us, please don't forget us," they plead.

May we all, in the midst of American comfort and plenty, live our lives with the gratitude of knowing that having our lives is enough. And may we never forget, not for a moment, that the principles of metaphysics teach us the absolute certainty that what happens to humanity anywhere on the planet happens to us. And may we take as supreme example the voices emerging from the hell of destruction who speak so eloquently of laughter, joy, and the riches of spirit.

Edited by danni
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I can tell this was a very powerful experience for you. It was kind of you to share thoughts of your journey. Sad that the devastation is still so prominent.

In the light of a child's eyes there is wonder and hope. No doubt you touched some hearts while you were there as well.

what happens to humanity anywhere on the planet happens to us

This is something that has always struck me about the forum here as well. There are members from all around the world...but when it comes down to the heart of it, we're all brothers and sisters...fighting the fight and doing our best.

It's good to know there is strong spirit in the wake of such devastation.

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