Tic Tac Cases & Eggs
It's been 19 days since we got back home to Haiti after our six weeks in the States. Last night, as we were sitting at the dinner table eating, Morgan and Jaron were telling us some stories of their day.
"Mom, today...my friend ****, she was SO excited! She found an egg! (We obviously weren't understanding the gravity of the situation.) But, seriously...she was really SO excited." Morgan got up from the table and started to dance around, showing us how her friend reacted to finding an egg. It was her lucky day. She found an egg. "And they're going to EAT IT. And she's going to share it with her family too."
I looked down at my food and couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. We had an entire chicken broccoli and rice casserole to share between the four of us. And corn bread. And this sweet girl was thrilled to find one egg. So of course, it made us think of the dozen eggs in our refrigerator. In that moment, we wanted nothing more than to run up to the family's house and share some of our eggs. But what would that do? It would steal the joy of her find that day. She was so excited to find that egg...but then here we come and hand them 12? It is so tough to know the right thing to do or decision to make in each part of our day. Today, Morgan did it right. She celebrated with her. Over one egg. She showed empathy.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15
If Morgan's reaction would have been, "So what? I have 12 of those in my fridge at home. Do you want some?" that little girl's excitement would have been squelched. Or, if we would go hand over eggs, we could unintentionally create so many problems for that family. Increased jealousy of their neighbors which leads to parents being upset with their children that they're not the "best friends" of the white kids. It seems crazy, but this is the reality that our children deal with.
Then, Jaron shared, "Today, we finished the tic tacs that I had and my two friends both wanted the case. I told them that if I gave it to one of them the other would be upset and they'd just fight over it. And I knew they wouldn't share it. But they both really wanted it." They wanted his empty tic tac case.
Over the past five years living in Haiti, we have had many different living arrangements. We've lived in the city, sharing walls with Haitian neighbors. We've lived up in the mountains, with very poor neighbors around us. One year, we lived in a hotel room while we commuted from the island to the mainland for our new job with Extollo. Last year, we rented a beautiful beach home that was built as a second or third vacation home for its Haitian owner. Our Haitian neighbors had yachts and would fly in on helicopters for the weekend or holidays. We were able to live for a year somewhat with blinders on. In many ways, we needed that year. But now, living back in a community where most of our neighbors live in extreme poverty, our eyes are even more opened and our hearts break every day. There is SUCH a vast range of wealth in this country.
Our discussion continued when Morgan said, "My friend's birthday is coming up. Do you think we could find a pineapple? I asked her if she could have anything for her birthday, what would she want and she said a pineapple. I know she would share it with her family and friends, but her eyes lit up and she said that pineapples are SO yummy." Craig and I agreed that a pineapple would be a great gift and that yes, we could try to find one for her birthday. So we asked when her birthday was. Morgan was shocked to find that this poor girl didn't only not know how old she was going to be...she didn't know what day was her birthday. She had never celebrated it! She thought it was the 4th, but then her mom told her no, it was the 7th...oh wait, maybe the 14th. You guys! She didn't know her birthday.
They went on to talk about how their friends said if we ever had any extra boxes, or suitcases, or a number of other things - they would be so happy to have them. My heart felt so heavy. I looked around my home and was surrounded by beautiful things. Furniture. Decorations. Food. Clothes. Running water. Electricity. Refrigerator. Toilets. Toilet PAPER. Showers. Screens on my windows. Fans. A TV. Computers. Tablets. An X-Box. Beds...for EACH of us. Towels. A washing machine. I could go on and on. We have so much. There is this difficult - yet beautiful tension, living here. There are some comforts from home that make it possible for us to survive long term, but there are so many things that are difficult to accept when our neighbors live with so little.
But...you know what? They're also not walking around with their heads down, sulking, and never being content with the little that they do have. Would they be happy to have more? Sure. But does it control their joy or limit their faith in God? Absolutely not.
When we were in the States, it was easier. It was easy to have a full pantry. To stand in the shower for 10 minutes instead of 2 because you knew there would be enough water. The first couple weeks, it was a little tougher to pull in to Target for no reason...just because. But, after that third week rolled around, after things like carpet, central heating and cooling, automatic car starters, realizing that there is other roadkill besides dogs and remembering to pump your own gas felt more "normal," I was shopping, eating out and enjoying "all the things" just like the rest of you. I didn't think twice when I ate three meals every day...and still went to the pantry for a late night snack. (I did think about the pounds that I was gaining!!) It was so easy to slip right back into that easy way of living. Not thinking too hard about the excess that was so quickly piling up. Those things that I didn't NEED, but that I wanted. Not thinking about my neighbors back home who were living with so little.
"Believing in the Jesus of the Bible makes life risky on a lot of levels because it is absolute surrender of every decision we make, every dollar we spend, our lives belong to another. And so that is relinquishing control in a culture that prioritizes control and doing what you need to do in order to advance yourself. The call of Christ is to deny ourselves and to let go of our lives. To relinquish control of our lives, to surrender everything we are, everything that we do, our direction our safety our security is no longer found in the things of this world. It is found in Christ." David Platt - Radicial Christianity
Don't get me wrong. Things aren't bad. It's okay to not have guilt when we feed our families. It's okay to buy that new back to school backpack - even when the one from last year is just fine. But...are we even thinking about it? Are we allowing ourselves to be oblivious to the fact that WE are the minority? Are we naive, or do we realize that the life that most of us live is NOT normal. The only real difference between me and my Haitian neighbors living in poverty is where we were born. We were fortunate to be born where we were...there was nothing we did to deserve it. We inherited American citizenship and all that it brings.
The fact is, sometimes we don't always see how much we have until someone who doesn’t have as much sees into our lives.
So what can we do? We can realize it. And we can admit it. We can be grateful for what we have and we can give generously from what we've been given.
"A generous person is always ready to spontaneously give to those in need. It’s usually inconvenient and unplanned. It will probably cost us comfort, even pride. It won’t be easy or bring us fame. This is Christianity." Kristen Welch - Rhinestone Jesus