This is one in a series of posts about my recent trip to Jacmel, Haiti, where I spent a week at Faith Orphanage.
Driving through Port au Prince is an experience a person never forgets. The roads are moon-like; craters you just hope to get through without your vehicle falling apart. The streets are full of garbage and the alleys rank with sludge. Nearly every building is falling apart, with every third or fourth totally demolished, still, from the earthquake. The Presidential Palace still looks like it did the day after. Even so, there are people everywhere. The place is clogged with vendors and shoppers and students and people of every shape and size.
As we made our way through this time, something stuck out to me: these people are beautiful. And they’re so diverse in their appearance. Some of them look like they just stepped out of Nordstrom’s; shiny jewelry and fine, pressed suits or skirts. Some of them look like they’ve been wearing the same torn, dirty clothes for a month. I don’t fully understand the economics of Haiti; like why some people have nice clothes and mp3 players while others have nothing. All I know is that while we drove by them, I noticed their beauty.
And their resolve. Their determination in the face of an impossible situation. Their drive to make the best of the worst. It seemed palpable. I was inspired and impressed.
Then I thought to myself, “Would anybody say this about Americans? Would they drive down our streets and think to themselves, ‘Wow, they sure are beautiful’? Would our resolve be palpable?” I certainly don’t mean any offense, it’s just what I was thinking. Then I thought about how different the situations are. On my drive home tonight, I figured that I could walk for an hour and not see a single person. That’s just the lay of the land where I live. Nobody’s fault. Port is different. It’s as if everything and everyone is on top of each other. You can’t move an inch without seeing someone or something jarring.
Then I thought about how the Haitians really don’t have any other choice. They’ve adapted. They’ve accepted the situation and are surviving the best they can. That’s not to say they aren’t determined or resolved to overcome, but the fact is that they really have no other choice. Their city, their living conditions…they cannot and will not be improved anytime soon. They don’t have the money or resources for it.
I think my wife said it best when, in her frustration, she said, “It’s like a constant ‘before picture’ and there’s never an ‘after.’” It can be incredibly frustrating to see the conditions and the inability to change them. We’d all love to; it’s just not easy. And it might not ever change. Sure, there may be improvements, but I’m convinced it will never be like we think it should be.
Still, in the face hopelessness and disrepair, I see bright smiles and dark, rich skin. Among the dust and dirt and garbage, I see the affinity for bright colors that pop and pierce through the smog. I see people that love. I see people that are strong and courageous and smarter than we think. I see a people who are resourceful and kind. I see a people who are passionate. I see people whose laughs are contagious.
I see people…who are beautiful.