I know I’m the classic cliché of the countless foreigners who have walked this way ahead of me, but my stomach is objecting and a lethargic weariness is taking over that has nothing to do with sleep or rest. I feel that I am getting close to the point when all the images I have collected in my head will have to spill out. But I’m holding on.
In this country awash in misery and hope, I have questioned why it is that the plight of animals bothers me so.
Why do the plaintive cries of the tiny cat we’ve been feeding, whose four kittens disappeared after only 2 days (dogs or rats?), rip at my heart?
My first tears fell after unwinding a terrified puppy from a wire fence. He was tied with a short strip of rag to a big wooden frame to keep him from escaping its yard. When he tried to climb through the fence, he got himself hopelessly tangled and was choking. Rhonda, bless her, in her wonderful wise way, knew what would help..she took me on a hike to the top of the mountain. When I felt mired, she fed my spirit. She showed me the beauty.
But later, I had to ask myself, why was it this that broke me, in the midst of all that is Haiti?
The best I can come up with at this early date, is that the human tragedy is simply too complex and enormous for me to dwell upon. If I allow it space, I fear it might overwhelm me. But the feelings of compassion, of helplessness, are still there, so I direct them at something manageable. Something familiar.
Or maybe it’s like a release valve. Enabling me to continue looking the Haitian people in the eye…enabling me to see the ways in which they try to survive each day, and admire their strength and dignity and resilience. When I see that they can still dream, I am able to skim past the destitute and the dreary surroundings, watching for the smile lifted from a frown when eyes meet eyes.
In the midst of all this, I see You.
Isn’t it the strength of human spirit that compels us to seek the beauty? Isn’t this the pure evidence of our humanity? To strain our eyes, to peer into the gloom in order to find a glimmer of light? Any light?
I watch, day after day, as the young and old write carefully in their notebooks, then spill out words that are so simple and beautiful that they simply make my heart leap.
People have said, ‘This is such a gift”, but I think it is more accurate to call it an unveiling. As they have pointed out, “It is us doing the work. You are making us reflect.” Through their work, they have experienced the empowerment that sharing our thoughts and stories can bring.
I have not given them something they never had before. I’m just saying, “Listen, listen to your thoughts. Look into your mind, peer into your heart. See what is there in a different light. See? It is all in you, just waiting. Now, what might you do with this?”
They uncovered a part of themselves they always sensed was there, but did not know how to reach. We’ve crossed paths and that crossing creates change. I still don’t know what to do with all the dark eyes, staring into mine; the voices saying, “Will you come back? We want more of this training.”
For now I’m just holding on.