Book Club Channel
One Year Later: Letters From Haiti
At one point I started to feel vulnerable down there. A lot of pedestrians and then a block with not many people. Roads blocked from rubble. Tough-looking young men. It always amazes me that it's not more dangerous, when I think about how much need there is in Haiti and what I might be willing to do if my family didn't have enough food.
So I was driving and feeling a little tense, and then I feel Enel and Guilloteau get tense. The men with t-shirts tied over their faces so they'd breathe in less concrete dust suddenly looked threatening.
Finally we found our way out and onto a main street. "That wasn't smart," Enel finally said. Ten minutes later, as we were driving through another part of the city where violence sometimes flares up, Guilloteau said loudly, "Stop! I don't know what he's doing with her."
I stopped quickly. Guilloteau jumped out of the truck. Enel and I shrugged and watched as he walked across traffic to where a middle-aged man was leading a young woman by her shirt collar and yelling at her while carrying a long stick.
Many people were busily walking in the street but not noticing the man. Guilloteau walked straight toward him and stepped directly in front of him. In a calm way Guilloteau started talking with him. They went back and forth. Eventually others stopped. A crowd formed. The conversation got heated. Enel and I were a little nervous.
Finally Guilloteau started walking toward us. A crowd of at least fifty people was still engaged with the man. He jumped in the truck and said, "Let's go."
He explained that it was a father with his daughter. He'd disciplined her, she ran away from home, he went and found her and was now bringing her home to teach her a lesson. Guilloteau had slowed him down and the crowd was convincing him that beating her wasn't the right choice.
I was humbled to be Guilloteau's friend—that he would do this at any time, let alone at a time of suffering and survival. (He himself had lost his home and many friends.) Conditions much less extreme make many of us unable to look up and pay attention to the needs of others.
A year after the earthquake, Guilloteau is profoundly discouraged by the present situation in Haiti—the aftermath of the earthquake, cholera, the political stalemate. He credits his faith and the chance to engage in meaningful work as keeping his spirits (maybe barely?) afloat. But in the midst of it all, he's kept steadily working to help others, not afraid to look out for someone else who is vulnerable, even if there's risk to himself.
I have this daily discipline of identifying things that bring me hope. It's not just a fun little exercise. It's a tool to ward off despair and cynicism in the midst of witnessing heavy daily doses of human suffering, pain, and destruction.
Haiti had unbelievable challenges before the earthquake and cholera. Now, it's much worse. And, the legacy of violence, brutal exploitation, slavery, colonialism, and the hatred that it all breeds, coats the fabric of this society. I know it. I live it. This is a place where giving one person a job and not another can lead to death. People develop unbelievably intricate ways to maintain safety for themselves and their families.
For twenty years, ever since I first moved to Haiti, I have continued to ask the question: how is it that a society so ill, where fear, distrust, and hatred thrive, can produce some of the most wonderful people? Gras a dye—perfect evidence of God's grace.