Haiti is an interesting place.
I’ve been to the Dominican Republic. The Bahamas, St Kitts and St Lucia. All are Caribbean Islands. All are tourist destinations. Places where couples go to celebrate their love, their union, their new beginnings. But not Haiti. I’ve had so many friends have destination weddings, bachelorettes, you name it. But not once in my lifetime have I ever heard anybody say; “I’m going to Haiti” or, “hey let’s have my bachelorette in Haiti.”
I’m not sure about your radar, but, other than hearing about the devastating earthquake in 2010 and the hurricane in 2016 I only paid attention to Haiti when my girlfriend Natasha, who is on the advisory board of Artists for Peace and Justice would talk about it. I had never really given Haiti much thought. In fact, here we go again with my geography intellect. To my shame, I had always thought it was in Africa somewhere.
And here in lies the entire problem.
Very few people are paying attention.
Look I get it. With all that is happening in our own backyards, especially with homeland terrorist attacks spiking, people are definitely paying closer attention to their own cities, countries and issues. I understand why impoverished people and countries, unless they’re in the thick of a natural disaster gets no air play. The media has long since left Haiti, as has most of the on the ground aid. Which is a real shame, because I’m here to tell you that Haiti is far from being out of the woods. They’re still very much in need. They are in need on every level.
But you know what’s cool about Haiti that’s not cool with people in my own country who are living in poverty. Haitian people are not bitter. The Haitian people are not lazy. The Haitian people are joyful, proud, enterprising and hardworking people. What I experienced during my incredibly short time there is that most of the people that I had the opportunity to meet, talk with and observe are not sitting on their asses waiting for a government cheque to come in the mail. Now, that might be because there just isn’t any money coming. So they are doing what they can. They pick fruit and sell it. They grow chickens, who sadly live for the most part off the garbage in the street, and sell them. They take their art to the market and sell it there. They’re not “poor” poor people, they are in fact quite the opposite, they are seemingly independent in their poverty, if that makes any sense to at all.
I have an incredible respect for their upstanding character, for the pride they take in their appearances, and their devotion to their communities. Many of them live at a level of poverty that we in our first world countries cannot even begin to understand, and yet they do it with a joy in their spirit that I can’t even muster when my wifi is down for two days running.
They have much to teach us, if we would just go there and pay attention. I’ve learned a great deal about myself in the three short days that I was there; and I happen to think I’m pretty evolved. The most important thing that I learned is that I need to stop myself quicker when I begin to bitch and moan about how my life, my career, my relationships aren’t where I want them to be. I need to remember that everything takes time, and more importantly I need to remember that life could always be worse, everything can always be much, much worse. And when I stumble in my gratitude I will close my eyes and take myself back to the time I stood in the middle of Cite Soleil, with the stench of rotting food all around me, watching the children run with pure, unadulterated honest to goodness soulful joy into the ocean. Happy. Content. Living their lives to the fullest. Finding the beauty, blessings, and simplicity in fully living each moment, within the chaos.
For more on APJ and the work we’re doing in Haiti, please go to http://www.apjnow.org/
Thank you for coming on my inaugural journey through Haiti with me.
Peace, love and blessings,