I have only been to Haiti three times. My last visit, was in April 2012. I have made a pledge to myself, to visit at least once a year from here on out. The Earthquake on January 12, 2010 was in my eyes is this generation’s most tragic story of human loss. Was I there? No. But to watch the news and hear reports of thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands dead or missing was staggering. Like so many others, I was compelled to get involved by using my gifts, blessings, talents and opportunities to reach out to the people back home. But even before the Earthquake, Haiti had endured a decade of deadly storms, mudslides, floods and political unrest that seemed to have no cause or an end.
My first visit to Haiti as an adult in 2004 changed had a great impact on my life. I noticed that the people (my family to be specific) did not have much in the way of material wealth, but their resourcefulness, resilience, courage, strength and laughter were something that truly inspired me. They welcomed me into their humble abodes with open arms, hugs, kisses and smiles. They shared everything. No running water was available, like many families. Thus, someone would fetch water from a nearby stream and warm it up each morning so that I could have a warm bath (outside). We all bathed outside. This is the way they lived. No running water and no electricity (with the exception of a gas powered generator which they used at night).
We were considered fortunate, as the only house on the entire block with electricity. And that was their reality, 24/7. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Port-au-Prince. We went to soccer matches played on gravel roads, listened to live Haitian hip hop rap battles on rooftops. We walked through the streets of Carfour and met my cousin’s friends and neighbors. He even took me to the neighborhood gym, with weights made of pales of cement and used make-shift weight benches. This was their Haiti and now my experience of it.
I left Port-au-Prince with a totally different view of the world. While I complained about the things I did not have, in the way of material riches, I should have been praying to God to give me the strength of my brothers and sisters in Haiti. My experience was so profound, that I actually stopped going to church; I didn’t know what to pray for. After visiting my family abroad, I realized I had everything I needed. People at my church back home would cry on the altar, while pastors laid hands on them, to bless them with the ability to pay their water and light bills? Really? How could I return to Miami, get in line at the altar and pray to God for luxury?
Obviously, not everyone who visits their relatives back home come away with the same experience. Some people get on the plane and never return. Some people get caught up in the rat race and forget about the struggle of others. Living in middle-class America is not easy. We have bills and obligations to meet. We have our own lives and struggles too. I’m not here to be the judge of what is more important. However, if you have family back in Haiti, their should be some since of duty to at least stay connected.
I tried my best to stay in touch. I said that I would go back each summer, but I would not return to Haiti for seven years.