Have you ever taken the time to dance in the rain???
One night in Haiti it started pouring down rain. Usually when it rains, we run for cover, but for some reason, that night my heart called me to run outside of the orphanage and into the darkness of the pouring rain. There I stood, still dressed in my clothes from that day’s clinic. It was a cold rain that beat down on me until I was drenched. I didn’t care. I was happy. I was so proud of what we accomplished that day with all the lives we touched and the patients we treated. Though I am not a doctor, I dispensed some of the most powerful “medicine”…. love and laughter. Standing there in the rain, I started singing and dancing (and yes, the children of the orphanage thought I was a little crazy)… my clothes were soaked, but my soul was full.
As I stood in the rain, it occurred to me that, in a sense, it “rains” on those in Haiti every day, but it doesn’t seem to phase them…and though it is a relentless “rain”, they keep on hoping, keep on trying and keep on believing. Never have I seen so many “thank you Jesus” slogans and evidence of true faith. They trust they will find food, shelter, medical care and simply even water, and they keep on journeying until they find it. The people of Haiti are steadfast and they don’t give up.
It’s amazing how those that have so little are so thankful for every little thing they do have. So why do we, who live in such a wealthy country with endless possibilities, let such small daily frustrations get us so down? Why do we lose our faith so quickly? Why do we easily let our stressors cause the music in our hearts to fade away and cause us to simply stop dancing? Even in our toughest days, we have so much more than many in Haiti could ever dream of…I wondered, despite such deplorable living conditions and what most would deem utter hopelessness, how do the people of Haiti continue to exhibit such infinite faith and strength? How have they not given up on this world?
Throughout my second mission trip, I searched for these answers and I found them… I came to realize that the people of Haiti are living examples of the essence of “walking by faith and not by sight.” The people of Haiti taught me that when life is simplified, the smallest of pleasures are amplified… a touch, a hand shake, a smile, a hug… these are some of the greatest treasures in Haiti. Treasures which the people of Haiti so openly shared with me. I loved seeing the way they would instantly smile when I put my arms around them when taking a picture with them. And when I showed them their pictures, they beamed with delight. It struck me that many people in Haiti have never even owned a mirror, so when I showed them their picture, it was likely the first time they saw what they looked like… There are so many fundamental concepts like this that we just don’t even think about…
Try simply sitting down on the ground in Haiti… see how many children instantly swarm you, each wanting to sit in your lap. See how many just want to be near you, reach for your hand and long to be held. Feel how your heart warms in a way it has never warmed before. In the midst of utter poverty, these children provide some of life’s biggest blessings.
When I traveled with People for Haiti to Haiti in January, we were scheduled to visit a newly discovered orphanage in Port-au-Prince, but due to a large Cholera outbreak at the orphanage, we could not hold a medical clinic there. We made a quick stop by the orphanage in order to better understand how we could help them on future missions. As the gate rolled back, so did the curtains from ours eyes. Unlike the orphanage where we stay that has heavy American support, at this orphanage there were children running around everywhere with swollen bellies from malnutrition, runny noses and no clothing… I mean NONE. I found a little boy sitting completely listless on a step. Like the others, he was filthy, his belly was swollen and his nose was running. Even to me, it was obvious he was ill. Someone had drawn all over him with a black marker. Broke my heart. As he stared off into the distance, he didn’t seem to even notice me getting close and taking his picture, though I stood there for a few minutes. I felt bad taking his picture with the way he looked, but I wanted to bring it home so others could understand the great need in Haiti… that picture was the most symbolic picture I took on the January mission. Back then, we did all we could do on that visit… we left clothing and money, both of which seemed far too insignificant given the conditions, but we had to board a plane and return to the U.S. We decided that the next time we returned to Haiti, we would conduct a medical clinic at that orphanage…. And 3 months later, we did.
When we returned in April, it was breathtaking to see what our simple clothing and monetary donations had done in a mere 3 months. Almost all of the children were clothed and the runny noses and illness seemed less abundant, or at least less obvious. And the little boy in the picture? I was ecstatic when Dr. Robert found him dressed, smiling, and energetically running around playing with the other children. Guiga, Dr. Robert and I distinctly remember this boy’s condition in January and it warmed our hearts to see how much he had improved in just 3 months. This alone showed us that though we may not be able to change the overall condition of the country, we can certainly change some of the lives and the futures of some of the people living in it.
I travelled to Haiti equipped with a bag full of small gifts for the children at the orphanage. During my January visit, I learned that one of the girls loved to draw, so when I returned, I brought her drawing paper and colored pencils. Later that day, when I returned to the orphanage from that day’s clinic, I discovered she had torn most of the pages out of the book and distributed the pages and her pencils to the other kids. Several of them proudly presented me with pictures they drew and letters they wrote for me… “Please tell your family thanks for letting you come to Haiti”…”God Bless You”… “God Loves You and I do too…” I was floored at the way these children shared and how they took the once plain paper and gave it life and meaning by turning it into beautiful artwork and loving messages… and the gift I gave them was given right back to me, but tenfold. These are children who have so little, yet they know how to selflessly give and they do so freely…. not just with the pictures, but with their hearts. I love those children and cannot wait to see their smiling faces again.
I will be forever thankful I was able to share the blessing of moments like this with my sister, Wendy, and my paralegal/friend, Meredith who joined me on this mission. There were several times when the three of us just stopped what we were doing, sat amongst the kids and let them fill our arms and our hearts. When it was time to leave, it was so hard to let go. They needed love and we have so much to give. In those moments, I wished time stood still, but no amount of time would make me ever want to let go…though I had to let go physically, these memories will be forever engrained in my mind and in my soul. I am so proud of Wendy and Meredith not only for trusting me and going on this mission, but for readily giving themselves to these children. As for my sister, this trip further proved “it’s as if we are cut from the same fabric. Even though we appear to be sewn in a different pattern, we have a common thread that won’t be broken…”
It’s hard returning home because every minute doesn’t seem as significant as it does in Haiti. Sure, the luxuries of clean water showers and AC feel great, but I have to admit… the hugs from the children feel greater. Now that I am settled back into my home, I keep looking around my house at all the “things” I have accumulated over the course of years. Most of these “things” no longer seem important. I thank People for Haiti for putting a new song in my heart, for opening my eyes a little wider and for making my smile a whole lot brighter. The time I spent with the people of Haiti reminds me that I need to spend more time with the important people in my life, that I need to not let anything quell the song in my heart, and that I need to keep on “dancing”…. even in the “rain.”
~Tammy Denbo, Attorney