Seeing God's face in Haiti's children

May 9, 2010

House. Flower. Truck. Airplane.

House. Flower. Truck. Airplane. Those are the images that the children of Diocese of Haiti's St. Vincent's School for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince draw over and over again.

The kids don't draw what we see on the news – hunger, pain, suffering. That isn't what they see. Whenever they have a crayon, colored pencil or anything that leaves a mark, they draw a house or a flower or a truck or an airplane. They draw hopeful images in a land filled with a reality of destruction, extreme poverty and hardship.

I have been to Haiti twice with my mother. I wasn't very eager to go. I felt like everyone expected me to have a divine revelation and come back spiritually transformed, and I didn't want to disappoint.

I shouldn't have worried. There is so much spirit, so much God in Haiti, that you cannot help but be showered, utterly drenched in love. My life has changed forever because of the people I have met.

When I went to St. Vincent's for the first time, I met Jean Robert Joseph. He knows English, French, Creole and sign language, and plays the violin beautifully. Jean Robert supports his wife and four children on $60 a month.

A few months before the earthquake, his wife met a woman with a little girl. The woman told Mrs. Joseph that the child had no parents and no home. Mrs. Joseph brought Funa home with her and asked Jean Robert if they could take care of her. They adopted a fifth child with no hesitation.

They live on $60 a month, but they did not turn her away. Their house is the size of my living room, but still they did not turn her away.

Jesus tells his disciples to love each other just like he has loved them. It reminds me of the song we used to sing in camp "And they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love…" Sometimes I wish I could be more like the Haitian people, who show their love in every corner of their lives.

In America, we have so much – so much food, so much time, so many choices – and yet we still want more. We seem to forget to love and that love is the only thing that really makes us happy.

I know Jesus is working in Haiti. I see his love in the faces of the people I've met. I've seen his love as I watched two blind girls read the Gospel in Braille. I have seen his love as I've watched the handicapped children help each other.

Within the walls of St. Vincent's, you always will see children leading their blind friend by the hand, or pulling or pushing a kid in a wheelchair up or down stairs. Whenever I would hand out candy, several kids would come back multiple times for extra. I thought they were being greedy until I realized they were taking candy to people in wheelchairs who couldn't get it for themselves. I have had plenty of experience with children as a ballet teacher and as a camp counselor, and I know that not all children care for one another as do the children of St. Vincent's.

The people I met in Port-au-Prince do not transform into Christians when they step into church and revert to something else once they leave; they are worshiping all the time. Three days after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, the news showed thousands of people gathered outside the collapsed presidential palace, dancing and singing and rejoicing. It was a breathtaking sight, but the footage only played for a minute or two. We have a hard time understanding why these people were so joyous in the midst of dust, rubble and death, but to the Haitians, they were only doing what is natural for them – celebrating the grace of God.

Could we in America have such a loving attitude in the face of hardship and poverty? We have so much to learn. From where we stand, we might see rubble, weeds, a tin can and a dead bird, but the children see house, flower, truck, airplane.

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