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.
I am blessed every single day of my life to be with people, many who are Haitian, who inspire me, bring me joy, make me laugh, and encourage me. From my family and friends to co-workers and colleagues, there are people all around me fully engaged in doing what they can to improve themselves, their families, their communities, and their country. It's in good people in Haiti and elsewhere and in God's grace where I find my hope.
John Engle is Co-Director of Haiti Partners.
As I was driving away the feeling engulfed me. What had just happened? Was that a dream or did I really brush up against something truly extraordinary? Is that what Jesus in our midst looks like? Did I just come into the center of God's will for a few minutes? Had I been part of a privileged moment?
Earlier in the afternoon a week ago, on December 31, 2010, I had driven to this downtown ghetto to spend time with a couple of gang members in the neighborhood. They were still living in tents one year after the terrible earthquake. Over the past three years I had been facilitating dialogues to promote peace between members of this poor community, including the gangs, and members of the formal business community, the well-to-do. Now, as a gesture of goodwill, I had gone down to spend some time with the guys just shooting the breeze over a couple of beers.
It was amazing. They loved that I would take the time to come and be with them without any agenda other than sitting in a plastic chair and talking about family, sports, or the events of a horrible year gone by. As afternoon grew into evening, other members of the community would drop by to say hello, marvel at my presence, and walk on. Then darkness started moving in and I knew that it was time for me to go home. I asked them if I could pray for them, half expecting to hear embarrassed laughter and crude jokes. Instead these hard men readily agreed. We formed a small circle. Some stayed out, yet we had a good group and I lifted all of us up in prayer to the Lord.It was short but sweet in the intimacy of the unlighted street.
What a joy divine. What a privileged way to end the year.
Louis-Henri Mars is director of EuraOdos.