Archive for the ‘neighbors’ Tag
“It is different. You can’t even imagine how different. Just believe me. It is different.”
These were the words of a young Haitian man named Daniel. I met him on Sunday when he came to our church to talk to a group of children about what his life was like growing up in Haiti. And he was right, I couldn’t imagine the world he described. But I did believe him.
“Even if you don’t have anything, you are happy,” he told the kids. ”Because there is no other choice.” He described playing with his friends outdoors, with no toys or games to entertain them. Only the ones of their own invention: hand games, singing games, dancing games. “If there is someone who is sitting apart, we ask them to join us. Everyone can play.” They were happy. I believed him.
Daniel asked the children if they had ever been hungry before, and what it felt like. “Imagine feeling that way for many days,” he said. “For months.” On Sundays his Mother would make food for her five children. Fried chicken with rice and beans was Daniel’s favorite. But before they could sit down and eat, his mother went from door to door, sharing what they had with their neighbors. They had no choice. But they were happy. And I believed him.
He spoke of his love for books and reading. At times there would be no electricity: for a night or two, a week, a month. But there was the moon. So it was under the light of the moon that he studied and did his homework. The children in the room breathed out sighs of wonder. Homework by moonlight. Astonishing. Different. And we believed him.
What he described was so different. A world where all are welcome for who they are, not what they have. A world where nobody has enough, and that is why everybody shares. A world where a shaft of moonlight can be a bridge to knowledge.
Maybe not everyone in Haiti lives that way, welcoming, sharing, and searching. Maybe just Daniel and his family. Maybe they were different.
Maybe I can be different, too.
I hoped the children might see that, and believe it. If nothing else, they learned that Haiti is more than a place of poverty to send their pennies. It is a place of singing, warm moonlight, and meals that stretch, like loaves and fishes, to feed multitudes.
This morning my neighbor Mary came over for a visit. She brought her two little boys, the same ages as mine, and didn’t even bat an eye when my two year old balled his little hand up in a fist and punched her two year old. Which is only one of the many reasons why I love her. The other reasons? Too many to name. But I’ll try to illustrate with a story:
Last January I was over at Mary’s house, picking up my boys. She had watched them for me so I could volunteer in my daugther’s kindergarten class. (Just another reason why I love her — but not the point of the story). We were standing out front talking, enjoying a moment of sunshine that was doing it’s best to thaw the outer layers of snow and ice that had frozen our mountain-community, when a man from our neighborhood approached. He was someone we both knew, neither of us well, but we were aware of the fact that he was struggling with ms. He was out on a walk, using a cane to navigate the snow packs. But the ice was everywhere, and the cane wasn’t enough to steady him. As he neared Mary’s house, he slipped and fell hard. While I stood there, processing what had happened, Mary was already running carefully toward him. She crossed the street, jumped through the snow, and helped him to his feet. All this despite the fact that she is tiny. Absolutely, exquisitely petite. The man tried to say he was fine and didn’t need any more help, but Mary ignored him, cheerfully taking him by the arm and leading him to safe ground.
I watched her in awe. Me who deliberates, who second guesses myself, who worries whether or not something should be done instead of just doing it. Me who is twice her size and really should have been the one to help him to his feet. But that’s the difference. She didn’t wonder if she should help, or if she could. She just saw someone who needed help and she gave it.
Afterward, when she returned to her house, her little Parker asked, “Who is that, Mom?” She answered so simply, “Our neighbor.”
I hope you all have a neighbor like Mary.