Thoughts in this Chapter

In the rise and fall of us in this changing of an era, as we enter uncharted waters toward the ends of human capacity in trying times, I’ve had some thoughts rumbling around this head of mine:

  • Because you know I can be rather worder, here are the sections in order, so you can pick what you want:
    • On Kindness
    • On Sacrifice
    • On Frustrations & the Cost Uncomfortably Mentioned
    • On the Hope, Even in the Frustrations
    • On the Reality of COVID-19 in Haiti
    • On Gratitude

On Kindness

When I think of Gail, I think of kindness. Her love for the people here is beautiful to witness.

In the human capacity to fall apart when things go haywire-or more to the current point of our US society working itself toward the makings of an H.P. Lovecraft novel-there also exists the human capacity for kindness. The latter having given me a chance to marvel at the wonder of the less sung and recognized beauty found in the choice of the one enacting it. To act with and in kindness is a choice, and God bless those who have been choosing it, over and over again in the face of this storm. We’ve seen total strangers, with no more than a need known from one humble enough to ask for help, doing all they can to act in kindness and grow the agape in the world. Companies and landlords recognizing the horrible time and position their people are about to be forced into, and doing what they can with their substantial means to alleviate that burden. Stores allocating set times where the most vulnerable to COVID-19 may enter and do their shopping in greater peace and less fear of coming into contact with a healthy carrier. Young people, my generation and the ones directly around me, stepping up to support and protect the older ones by social distancing and running errands/shopping for folks in fear of what they might find on such journeys.

People, taking this truly bizarre and unparalleled time of chaos, and marching forward boldly with kindness and grace. People, who have as much a capacity for fear, hatred, and isolation, choosing kindness in the midst of all this uncertainty and looking from their heart into those of the ones they encounter and deciding, “yeah, their dignity and humanity is worth it. Love is worth it, and right now as I am able, I’m going to help.” It is one of the largest reminders of Christ and his agape love that I have experienced in my 24 years. People acting selflessly because in the face of every variable we cannot control, how much love we pour into the world remains up to us, and there is great freedom in how we choose to respond to what happens to and around us. To those who choose kindness and love every day, especially when the alternatives are a lot easier, thank you, you are an inspiration. To those who look at that as an overwhelming ask, just remember the smallest gift of a smile or a kind word, probably at least 6 feet apart right now, is enough to sow love and turn a day up for someone. It doesn’t take 100,000 people doing 100,000 grand acts of service for others. It takes all of us, doing small acts of love and kindness every day to turn the world right side up and shine light through the stormy moments of life. Try. That is all any of us can ever truly do. More than we realize, our trying is enough to inspire that in others.

On Sacrifice

I am in awe of the great sacrifice we’ve already witnessed as a global society. The sacrifice of doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, and friends who give so much of themselves that others might be taken care of and loved. The health care professionals who show up without fail, because there’s work to be done, and their loved ones who wait at home and pray and worry and sometimes cry because of the risk, wow has God blessed us with exceptionally strong individuals! The leaders of the world, making tough decisions that have caused their countries to take some economic blows in order that their people have a better chance. To the people losing so much because of COVID-19.

There are the seniors in university, whom I love and support so much my heart bursts, who have lost their last season of athletics and won’t likely have the opportunity to walk at graduation after all their hard work. My heart breaks with theirs. It is not fair, and it hurts and it is maddening. Just so, my dear teammates and fellow student-athletes, be proud of yourselves, you’ve had amazing success and each of you are so loved and so appreciated. I know this was not a choice many of you got to make, it was decided for you. However, recognize in this moment the choice you do have: you are the one who can choose to have the strength to keep going, to make peace with the unpredictability of life, and to grow where you’ve been tossed. Know that that kind of strength and resilience is not to be taken lightly. For truly, you are inspiring in your refusal to let this keep you down. Thank you for doing what a lot of us sometimes fail to do, and recognizing that your worth is not in what you do or accomplish, but in who you choose to be. Thank you for continuing to choose to be stellar humans, in all aspects of life.

Continue to pursue education, it is how we can uplift the world.

To my fellow teachers and students, I am sorry for the missed opportunities and cathartic experiences found in the community of a well run classroom. I am saddened by the loss of safe places for many, and pray you find new ones in unexpected places during distancing, know always you are loved and supported and there are entire communities of people cheering you on in this life. To the mass interruption of life as we know it, I pray you all quickly find comfort and routine in the new normal. I am so grateful for modern technology which will enable you to continue on in your discovery of the world and it’s workings. I also encourage you, coming from a country where my students are not so fortunate and find themselves on the brink of yet another unprecedented and unknown long break from their education, to please find moments of gratitude for the gift you have in your education. Even when it is not ideal. Think of my kids, of all the kids in this world robbed of their right to education by forces beyond their control. If you find yourself lacking motivation for yourself, choose kindness and do it for them until we can get back in the class, pursue excellence for them, do all you can to discover what awaits you in this world. You’ve been blessed with a beautiful gift, and we here do not begrudge you that. Rather, we ask you to embrace it fully for us and use it to empower this world, to affect the changes necessary to make sure the future is a net positive one for us all. Do this, I pray, that our students and teachers throughout the world are not sacrificing this time we do not get back in vain. Thank you in advance for diving into the beautiful gift you’ve been given, we know it is no small thing.

Two of the many beautiful reasons I love what I am blessed to do.

To my fellow missioners throughout the world, making the hard decision to go home, without knowing when or if you’ll be able to return to a people and place that will forever hold part of your heart, my heart goes out to you. I know it is a decision not lightly made and I pray for you in this time that you remain healthy and carry the beauty, wisdom, and love of your life in mission with you every day. To my fellow missioners who have chosen to stay, I pray we continue to follow where God calls us, however that starts to look. Courage dearheart, God has called us to these people and these places for a reason, trust and forever look for the light and love in this time. Please, take care of yourselves and be safe, for your family, both here and in our origin homes. To the soldiers and overseas workers who do not have a choice in staying but are choosing to do their best even so, thank you for your service and your sacrifice. To our families, loving us through it all, supporting us even when you don’t fully understand our crazy decision to live the lives we do and even when the distance becomes even more painfully real, your strength gives us strength and your sacrifice is not unnoticed in all of this.

On Frustration & the Cost Uncomfortably Mentioned

Y’all, I really wish this wasn’t necessary. I wish the biggest problem I was writing about was that I still sometimes feel way in over my head with this life I’m blessed to live. If that were the case, everyone could relate to that and the problem would be so small, like me in relation to the myriad stars I witness in the roaming indigo skies on nights of breathtaking silent wonder in beautiful Haiti. Alas, some of the stuff that I have witnessed in the face of this outbreak are frustrating as hell and frankly, there is no excuse. If you want to skip to the happy ending, now is your time.

Just as the pendulum swings toward kindness, with the right shove, so too can it swing toward panic induced frenzies. I cannot get over the sci-fi-esque nature of what is going on in the states right now. It boggles my mind that people really think they need to bulk buy toilet paper and other material possessions, in enough packages to last for two months as if we’re heading into the apocalypse. Of course, then I think of the irresponsibility of the media types and it is not that hard to see where the loss of minds originates. It defies belief that people are so consumed in the sensationalism the media is selling them that they are letting their fear make decisions for them. I am appalled by the way the media is inciting a panic. There is a way to justly relay the news and the import of taking care of ourselves and others in this pandemic without inciting a panic. I think in some ways, this has been blown out of proportion and in all ways, folks need to check their facts. I truly hope the distancing works and people take the herd immunity to heart, so that our healthcare providers can get ahead of this thing. Otherwise every single sacrifice made in pursuit of ending this will be for not. Bottom line, don’t be selfish, even if you’d “survive Corona,” there are a plethora of auto-immune deficient/non-existent folks who won’t be so lucky if we don’t take this seriously. Be prepared for the virus hitting close to home and just be responsible. Make sure the sacrifices result in something positive.

It flat out angers me that people have and are going to continue to lose their jobs because of this phenomenon. Unfortunately, what a lot of the people building toilet paper shelters don’t seem to slow down enough to see is the mass number of folks who are going to be most hurt by this – the poorest members of our society and our world. There is not enough in place to offset what our society is asking them to sacrifice. In this, the sacrifice is too much. This, my friends, is the cost seldom and uncomfortably mentioned. I’m frustrated. Frustrated because once again (it is becoming an annoying occurrence in adulthood), I see these gross problems in the world and feel so limited in my ability to combat them. The 2 in me is dying a little every day I see the other realities at play of social distancing and the apparent lack of conversation about what happens to those most burdened by this.

I am led to question what exactly our government has in plan for everyone losing their job in this wave of distancing. I sincerely worry about what our staggering homeless population is going to have to rely on if everything gets shut down and resources do end up running short. We already have problems adequately taking care of them, and I am genuinely worried what happens now that these new rules are in play about distancing. For these folks losing their jobs, I worry if their insurance and living arrangements will not follow in the loss department. God forbid they or the people relying on them get this virus, I do not see a feasible way for them to recover. Especially when the damn test for it runs a $1000 a pop. I am enraged at these companies severe lack of ethics. The same money hungry lack of ethics that enable them to try and justify the absurd and unrealistic costs of insulin and epi-pens, because, you know, people don’t need to live or anything…

On the Hope, Even in the Frustrations

In rather dramatic fashion, I recently saw a statement in one of the Haiti Update groups of which I am a part which discussed our options in this new and evolving era of humanity. “You can rest today or you can fret today but it wont change tomorrow…it will only change how you lived today. You get to choose how you want to live the next 24 hours.” If you can get past the slightly hallmark way of saying it (which let’s be honest, if you read my stuff, you know you love it) the point is valid. We can choose to be consumed by the fear, by the uncertainty in all of this, and in that fall to a dark place in our humanity. Or, we can resolve ourselves to the reality we are all a part of this, rise, and continue to live in the best ways we can.

So

In shouldering our part of this historic event, I continually see reasons to hope because of the kindness I see people choosing for no other reason than kindness’ sake. This opens the door for us to take care of one another, to do what we are able for our neighbor, with what we can, even as we ourselves are being placed in positions that ask much of us. Everyone can give something, and no, I don’t mean physically. Do the world and yourself a favor, remember five humans or things that still give you joy, even locked in isolation, five things that still make you laugh, five things that give you cause to feel safe. I really believe what we put into the world has more of an impact than any of us get to fully understand in this life. Do not lose hope, there is an end to this, and even we cannot know exactly when, we do know that it will end. Continue on, because others don’t even have that option. I mentioned our students here, who do not have the luxury of online school. Stay dedicated for them, keep doing what you do so the world goes on when this is over.

Many

On Friday, some of the schools called the kids in to discuss with them what is happening and why we must shut down for another period of time before sending them home for an unknown time. The ones who come to Jezi Mari also received an egg. My greatest fear is what their nutrition will start to look like in the best case scenario of this being over in two months. The same extends to those children in the US and throughout the world who rely on school programs to secure their nourishment. Even in the face of this, I must cling to hope. I have seen a lot of good people stepping up to make meals for families who could use support. My cousin’s wife, in a move that made me so proud and so humbled, posted something online that all anyone needed to do was ask for help and she and my cousin would do what they could to help. As much as this situation is sometimes out of our hands, I maintain hope that we, as a people, will continue to support one another. The best part about this is that hope is there and we can be a part of it irrespective of who we vote for, our color, our creed, our age, our intellect, our gender, or any other label we love to slap on ourselves. To hope is to human well.

Beautiful

In all of this too is the trust that gifts us hope. It is to some cheesy and cliché, but I believe there is great opportunity for trusting in all of this as well. I do not understand this in the same way I don’t understand the mass amounts of suffering I see first hand in the world. I shake my head, with tears on the verge of falling, at the utter injustice of seeing my beautiful, amazing students once again having their education put on pause for things far out of their control. I harrumph quite often in recent conversations with God about my utter lack of ability to do much about it. All this and still I trust, because I know, despite the innate sense of NEEDING (or at least that’s what the enneagram 1 in me makes me think when I don’t feel in control) to know the plan and back up plans to feel comfortable, I know that God’s got this. To be honest, the irony of my work here is the feeling of going through another long night of the soul in this chapter of life. I know God is there by the love, the hope, the rolling-laughter-inducing-humor, and the wonder I get to experience every day with my kids and friends in this blessed place. I know God is there, I can see it clearly, but in the private moments, I find myself wanting to feel our Creator. So, I continue to trust, and in so doing find hope in what we can do in this time of great unknown.

Reasons

Continue to learn, my lovely humans, to discover, to dream, to pursue, to work, and most importantly, continue in the pursuit of love, compassion, and the little acts of kindness that mean far more than we fully know. Talk with God, be honest about what you’re feeling, you’ll not be judged for it. You’re not weak for having moments of fear, of sadness, of longing. Nor are you wrong for them. Being human means a wide range of emotions that can hit us all at once. It is totally okay. If you, like me, have found yourself becoming detached from the relationship you desperately need with our Beloved Abba, use this time to stop running and plant yourself. If you’re anything like me, it’s uncomfortable as hell to get over yourself and get back to a place of vulnerability with God, but with nowhere else to go, why not begin again?

To HOPE.

In finding God, and becoming so lost in the marvel of our Creator, we can find ourselves, we find where we are called, and perhaps in this time of great unknowns and uncertainty, we find the strength to be courageous and love in the face of fear. To be a community to all ends of our society, especially those most affected by this change – the poor. Cling to hope, be a reason of hope in someone else’s life, and never stop believing that the light you hold in you is so needed in this world, no other light could ever hope to replace it. As I said, it will not take 100,000 people doing this perfectly, it will take us all taking a very human crack at it and working together to get to the other side of this, and God! How beautiful that day will be as we celebrate the victory of our kindness, our sacrifices, our support of one another, our refusal to overlook the most vulnerable and most affected, and our choice to be the best of what our humanity can be! My friends, that, that is the day that anchors my hope. Chin up, we can and will do this, as there is air in our lungs, we have the chance to do something beautiful with it!

I cannot tell you what hope in this looks like for you, but I can tell you that it is there, find it and let it fuel your capacity for kindness, love, and the best of who we get to be and choose as humans!

On the Reality of COVID-19 in Haiti

As it stands, Haiti, as of March 19, has two official cases and we are moving toward a full on lock-down. No one in or out of this country not flying merchandise, and we are severely undersupplied to try and combat this virus. American Airlines is flying empty planes today and tomorrow to try and bring home U.S. citizens and we just got word this morning that Eastern Airlines is another option for US citizens to evacuate Haiti and return home to ride out COVID-19. To present knowledge, these are the only exceptions, and they are not even guaranteed.

My beloved Maryknoll community, our awesome friend Geri, the good RJM sisters and Brittany, along with myself, are staying put. The way most of us are looking at this, we ride it out here, and are able to respond first when we do get to the other side of this, or we go through the headache of trying to get home and ride it out there, with no known guarantee of when we’d get to return to our beloved Haiti. For us, even carefully considered, the choice was not too hard.

As I mentioned before, the reality of COVID-19 hits Haiti, and other countries like it, in similar fashion – harder than the rest of the world. People in countries like here are asked to sacrifice far more than others. These kids and teachers do not have the luxury of moving class online. I am glad I went to the school on Friday, I heard some commentary about what the adults here are feeling about this situation and I think it is really important:

Madams Carlin, Elliotte, and Raymond at a formation in the fall.

“With the president blocking everything, how will people live? They have no means. We’ve already suffered so much. How will people take care of themselves and their children?” Madame Carlin, one of beautiful preschool teachers expressed. There was a certain amount of head shaking going on as we all contemplated the gravity of the situation here. Another teacher, Madam Raymonde added, “If you’re the president and you block everything, okay, but after that? What means are you giving people in place of their work?” With everything shut down, even if in the good attempt to curve the spread, what leaders here and in many places haven’t talked about or, even worse, considered, is the effect of a mass shut down on people’s livelihoods. In walking with Geri and Jill, our spectacular and full of light new missioner, we discussed that unlike the US, which is in current talk of $1 trillion plan to help us recover, Haiti doesn’t have a feasible recovery option.

In trying to keep the peace and stay grounded in what we can do with a situation out of our hands, Madame Elliotte, another of our endearing pre-k teachers, simply stated, “We know what juices work to help with which part of nutrition. Citrus and grapefruit help give us important vitamins.” She discussed for a minute the various juices and what they help the body do. She then went on to say, “We have to take care of ourselves, keep ourselves clean, and lookout for one another.” In a gentle way, I think she was reminding us that it is up to us what we do, we cannot rely on the leaders to fix everything themselves or have all the answers. We have to ban together to get through this. “I agree, but what about the people who have to walk [great distances] to get water? Are they going to get arrested for trying to live?” Zamene, a second grade teacher voiced. Again, we all shook our heads, though I do not honestly think the people who must make four hour trips just to retrieve water will be condemned for that. Her comment does, however, point to the critical problem we face here, a problem on the verge of becoming even more critical: water supply. It is hard to effectively wash hands to stave off germs and clean when clean, accessible (both in cost and location) water is in short supply and high demand.

Honestly, no matter how we look at it, people lose a lot in this mess, and no one more than our students. With all the schooling they lost in the fall, and now what they are losing, there is a question of whether or not they’ll just start the same year over again. This of course, leads to another question, can you justly ask the parents to pay for the same school year they already sacrificed for? It is a hard thing to come to terms with in mission, the imbalance of the world. I come from such a place of opportunity and privilege and had so much afforded me I didn’t ever have cause to fully appreciate it until coming here. And now, I cannot even see my kids every day while we wait this out. At least in the fall I could show up and be there. Now, like them, I look at the next several weeks and wonder, what’s next? In the same way they motivate me to press on in the smaller hard moments here, they are some of my biggest reasons for pushing on through this bigger hard moment. I cannot wait to embrace them all again and share the love that exists in my heart for each of them.

Jill and I post zumba – stay healthy in distancing folks!

We continue to monitor the situation here in Haiti, and stay active and hopeful as we begin to plan quarantine. I honestly cannot tell you what will happen if/when it hits the community here, just that I believe it will not be pretty. In the same amazing fashion I’ve watched this country and her people weather lockdowns, protests, closings of schools and businesses, and hardship unknown to so many in the world, Haiti and the people strong enough to be Haitian will get through this. I do ask that if you can provide no other support, please pray for us, please hold onto hope with us, please keep living and dreaming and pursuing what life calls you toward, and in honor of the people here, recognize the gifts that surround you, for surely, so many of them are not available to others. In no way are you begrudged for being blessed as you are, I simply ask that you live as gratefully as you are able, to live and love, act kindly and give as you are able in return.

On Gratitude

To the health care workers going to work every day, showing up, and working overtime to get ahead of this thing, all with a smile on your face, I commend you. You are so appreciated and so needed. To their families, who sometimes wait in worry for them to come home okay, thank you for letting them be real life superheroes, we could not get through this without them and they could not get through this without you. Thank you for being their real life superheroes. To the moms and dads going a little stir crazy with their minis bouncing off the walls, thank you for loving them in only the ways you can and for keeping your family safe. Thank you for your patience and support of them in this challenging time. We see you and holy cow, we think you’re killing it! To my fellow “youngins” doing what they can to be a light and gift in this time, well done. For continuing your education and pursuit of your goals even when it’s really tempting to let distractions get the best of you, bravo! To showing how selfless we, as young people with good hearts, can be, the love you’re sowing now is going to continue to do big things. You are seen and you are appreciated.

To our “elders” still finding the humor and the joy in life, and the time to instill lessons, thank you for trusting us to do right by you, thank you for showing us how to hold on to hope and happiness in the crazier sides of life. To the families of missioners who continue to support us in this unpredictable and unnerving chapter, thank you. Your love is in an agape form most of the time we are so far from you, but especially now, when the reality of that distance hits even harder. Thank you for trusting us, for trusting God to be guiding us. Your sacrifice in letting us go can never be over-appreciated, and know we carry that love with us every day. It empowers us more than words have the words to properly convey.

To you all, thank you for your continued support and thoughts. I pray you are all well, cared for, and know that you are super loved. May this time, despite the uncertainty and sacrifice being asked of you, be a time of growth, love, and peace. Be well. Agape!

To my favorite tiny humans, most of whom are still too little to read this blog, I miss you all crazy and I am so grateful for the gifts that allow me to still be part of your lives. Keep up the good work and do the good things. Be nice to mom and dad for me, okay? They’re working overtime to be who you need them to be. To my amazing siblings, by blood or marriage, thank you for continuing to make me laugh, an entire ocean away, and for continuing to show me better ways to love others. To our parents, the greatest anchors and cheer squad we could ever have, thanks homies, I know it isn’t always easy on you, this amazing, crazy, beautiful, hard, giving, full, and loving life of mine, but your support means everything. Take care of yourselves and yes, please fully expect more dinosaur memes and video messages at random times of the day!

The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.

Robert Holden

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