Haiti Withdrawals by Madeleine Johnson
Haiti withdrawals; if you have been blessed with the opportunity to visit this beautiful country, you may know this feeling that I am talking about. As I’m sitting in my room, watching the snow accumulate outside my window, I realize that I am having major Haiti withdrawals. I am dreaming about the sun, the students, fried plantains, and the late night English classes held by Brother Bill.
I am dreaming about Fontaine.
I miss the assiduous, driven, and tenacious men and women. I miss the free-spirited, loving, and bright children running around. As I fondly reflect on my past two trips and eagerly prepare for my upcoming trip in June, I have to remind myself of how hard Haitians have to work for even the littlest of things as I simultaneously refrain from casting pity or grief. While so many amazing things happen everyday in Haiti, we must acknowledge the daily obstacles and barriers Haitians are forced to jump over just to merely survive.
Back in May, I had the privilege of attending one of the English classes with my cousin Claire, Lashawna, and about 12-15 young female and male students. Brother Bill posed the questions, “If you could wish for one thing to come true, for Haiti, for yourself, or for others, what would that one wish be?” and also, “What can Americans do to be more like Haitians?” The aura in the room was unforgettable. There was something about the dimly lit classroom and the buzzing of bugs in the light outside the door that really made this moment special for me. The pen in my hand then became the “magic wand”. As we passed the magic wand around the circle it came to a young man and his answer not only made me tear up, but it also made me question what the word “worth” meant. His response was this, “I see our American visitors as worthy and I see all people as worthy. If Americans saw people like I see people they would be more like Haitians”.
Worth is defined as, “the value of something measured by its qualities or by the esteem in which it is held”. Worth is not a measurement of materialistic items or how much money one has. I don’t believe you can numerically measure ones worth. I believe the way one holds their head high, wakes up morning after morning to do the hard tasks without complaint, and do what they can to simply survive truly show someone's worth.
I witnessed this every day in Haiti. I saw the students walk to school every morning eager to learn, many times on an empty stomach. There would be mornings when we would wake up at 4:30 to watch the sunrise and I remember seeing women and men, young and old, up, and already starting the day’s tasks. I once saw a woman sitting in the stifling sun on a tall pile of pebbles, next to her was an even taller pile of large rocks. With a handcrafted hammer in hand, she sat upon the pebbles and with every hard smash the big rocks would chip down eventually becoming another small pebble in her pile.
This is tenacity. This is worthy. This is Haiti.
The next time I am faced with the choice to either hold my head high or walk away from the obstacles standing in my way, I am going to go at those obstacles with everything I have. I am going to remember the hope and grit Haitians have, and I am going to remember that student’s statement about worth. If we focused more on the value of worth, not only in ourselves but also in others, I truly believe this would fulfill the students wish and benefit many.