A walk around our block is always a walk to remember. Sometimes I just want to forget that we live here. Sometimes I just want to do something about it…faster than it can be done. Other times I just want to walk and watch, learn and listen but most of all love however we can along the way. This was one of those walks.
We set out. The street dog that won’t leave our house because we loved it a little tags along too. The biggest pig I’ve ever seen stands in our path. A mommy goat and her two babies shuffle along beside us. We attempt to cross a patch of road covered by trash and sewer water almost stepping on a mother hen and her chicks pecking along in front of us. A baby cries loudly in the house across the way. I try not to think about why she might be crying. We hear a mother down the street tell her child to go ask the white people for some food. The child obeys and tells us he is hungry. We tell the child to go tell his mother. He looks at us confused. Then we tell him to tell the mother to come talk to us herself. The mother hears us speaking Creole and realizes we heard her before. A few kids who have been watching us curiously for the past few weeks point at us calling us the “blan hatian”. I first take this as a complement that the word “hatian” followed the usual “blan” but then wonder if the kids have labeled us real “white haitians”–as in the lighter skinned Haitians that are not foreigners like us– or if we were being labeled as bourgeoisie. Wait. Never mind.
The bourgeoisie families we know would not be living in this neighborhood, sending their kids to school with these locals, and certainly not spend their Saturday taking a walk around this block. The thought passes as I stop to look into the eyes of a skeleton of a dog. I pet it out of mercy. I hear a man yell at me in English, “Hey! That my dog!” I yell back, “Really? Then you better feed him!” He replies, “I have no food to give him. Can you help me find a job?” I just stare at him. “Well then can you feed my dog for me?” I told him we are already feeding two just like this one. He shrugged and went back to his card game. Later he followed me back to the school to ask for a job. Eric and I asked what kind of work he wants to do. He said he would do just about anything such as pass the broom, mop, clean up trash…whatever kind of work was available he would take. We asked him what kind of work he wanted to do. Same answer. We asked again, “But if it was possible for you to do any kind of work, what would you choose to do?” Same sad answer. It has been too long since this man believed or hoped he could do anything but go along surviving. Most of this generation in Haiti believes just like this. Those who have been able to get a little beyond this believe it is ok to take whatever from whomever to get a little more. No one is better for it. The one who takes and makes a business out of the less fortunate has done nothing but make this country a worse place for his children to grow up while trying to make a better life for them. But we believe in the next generation. That is why we are here working with this school and these kids in this neighborhood. They need someone to believe it could be different for them.
The kids in our neighborhood make their own toys. This handmade kite is made from a plastic sack, sticks, and old cassete tape for string. I asked them to show me their kite which they did proudly.
Evan doesn’t hesitate in making quick friends with the kite makers. They spend the next hour playing with stick swords and racing each other down the street. Jetson (pictured on the far right) follows us home. I notice he is in bad need of shoes. He is in between my boys sizes so I go search for some and find a little toy car as well. Jetson stays over for a bit to play with legos and puppies. Yes. I said “puppies” as in the plural. We adopted one pup and another has now adopted us. He won’t leave and we can’t make him because he is small enough to squeeze through the bars on our gate. Our house seems to be the place everyone wants to be (except me who often takes these walks around the block to look at other houses for rent).
We stop to inquire about a house for rent while Evan and his friends race. We watch a freshly bathed naked toddler run up and down the street making vroom vroom vroom noises until he falls down in the ashy dirt. A young mother stops to talk to us as she notices us watching the little boy. She too has a toddler, a little girl. She asks us if we would like to have her little girl. We try to encourage her to be a good mother. She says she doesn’t know how to do that since she is only 17. We talk to her some more about her life. She says we can have the little boy too if we like.
This lovely house is a few houses down from us. It appears to be the nicest house on the block. The kids say they really want to rent this house. It’s not for rent and I don’t want to know how unaffordable it would be if it was available. Passing by this house makes me sad. It is yet another reminder that we live in a country of great and confusing contradictions. I stood staring at this beautiful house while standing next to the broken young girl who was trying to give away her child because she feels she is too young and too poor to care for her.
Another contradiction is the fact that a large lot of trash is the view from this nicest house on the block. Building a big house doesn’t keep the pigs or kids in rags from living right next to your riches. I’ll bet this lot is where Jetson and friends found bits and pieces to make their kite.
It is hard not to dwell on the trash all around us. But we have to keep focused on the treasures all around us too. We have to remember that beauty can rise up out of brokenness just like that house. We will keep looking beyond the layers of filth and find resourcefulness. We will keep looking up and smile with hope for the next generation.
When you take a walk around your block, will you please pray for ours? We would love to hear how we can pray for you too!