My stay in Haiti has reached its end. I landed in Portland last night, a bit under a cold, but happy to be with my fiancé and my family.
Emotionally, I am feeling shaken by the eye witness and the hearing of the stories of human loss, poverty, resilience, and hope. While I am well aware of the fact that I did not necessarily need to go all the way to Haiti to hear such tales, as they reside in our backyard here in the USA as well, my sudden and intense exposure to them on a daily basis did remind me of the reality of poverty, injustice, resilience, and hope everywhere in the world.
I had an agitated first night in Portland. Flashbacks of various interactions were unfolding in my head. Emotionally overwhelmed by some of the images, I woke up a few times. My five-minute interaction with Moise-Esai (Moses-Isaiah) at the JP/HRO camp on my last day in Haiti has impacted me like no other interaction.
From my first minutes in Port au Prince, I began questioning the significance of what I could give in light of the scope of needs. I thought what I could give was too little.
To sing songs with the children seemed insignificant in light of the gigantic challenges that await them as they grow in a country with a broken educational system. Before and during each jamming session, I would stretch to them the importance of holding onto their education. As a matter of fact, I adapted one of my songs to say “Toujours l’ecole” (always school) to help engrain the message in their psyche. I guess I was speaking these words out of an unflinching faith that one day the system will be fixed and will help create opportunities for these children. Never had I addressed the fact that some of them will never go to school, nor had I considered the fact that some of them will have vocational aspirations outside of the traditional educational system.
Moise, helped me confront this reality. The same reality I once faced in my own childhood. The reality of growing up in a socio-economic context that does not foster the blooming of liberal arts and music. Moise is 14 years old, loves music and can’t afford an instrument. He dreams to write music to uplift people but does not know where to begin. He said “it is so hard, to find a manager and a place to record”. He reminded me of myself 20 years ago, when I would voice my desire to one day make music that empowers and uplifts lives, and be met with cynicism. There were countless rational reasons to kill and bury the dream. The only thing that helped keep it alive, was the rare voices that encouraged me to believe, and to keep working hard at it.
I had no instrument, nor the phone number of a music producer to give Moise. However, I had my own story and the experience that unflinching faith and hard work never fail. I pulled him aside, wrapped my hands around his shoulders and told him, to keep writing music with the same noble goal of uplifting Haitian youth. I told him to never give up and to keep knocking at the doors of opportunity and eventually in due time, the right door will open. He paused for 15 seconds and seemed moved. He thanked me and quoted the famous biblical passage in Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” and went his way reflective. As I saw him walking away, I had tears running down my cheek and the hope that one day his dream comes through.
Words of hope are powerful, they can carry us through the hardest times in our lives and keep us alive when everything is gloom. As I reflect on this interaction, I realize that sometimes one may not have all the solutions, nor the resources to meet a need. But faith in the unrealized potential of a human being can be the most empowering help one can provide. I am not naïve to believe that words in themselves can transform a socio-economic context. However I am one to believe that words can empower the human spirit to transcend the difficulties imposed by such socio-economic context.
More processing will happen in the weeks and months to come. Though, each flashback will yield a distinct lesson and transformation in me. They all will prompt for the same question: “What will you do to help realize the potential of others no matter how small your contribution may be?” I only had my story and my experience to share with Moise and that seemed sufficient to carry him to the next stopping point where another helping heart will meet him with what is needed.
I go to bed tonight with the thought that it does not matter what we have to give, nor where we want to give as long as we are willing to give it whole heartedly.