A friend of mine returned from a trip to Haiti recently. She was there doing humanitarian work and I couldn’t help but reflect on what it means to offer help.
When the earthquake unleashed its devastation six months ago, agencies poured into the region. The media flooded with stories about how agencies struggled to reach the people (sometimes even unable to get on shore) because the infrastructure was in such a shambles. Literally, there was no access for a time.
The situation in Haiti struck a chord with governments around the world – many of them struggling with the recent global financial meltdown – and yet countries, individuals and agencies dipped into their collective pockets and came up with the funds to inject billions of dollars into saving and feeding the people, and re-building the country.
My friend says today it’s hard to see where the money is. Haitian workers are still using hammers, shovels and wheelbarrows to tear down condemned buildings and re-build roads. Heavy duty modern equipment appears to be nowhere in sight. Parents continue to abandon their children to orphanages because they can’t afford to feed them, while those who can dig into their almost bare pockets to feed hundreds.
It’s hard to see the spiritual truth in a situation like this. But what my friend brought back with her were two things – the Haitian people are resilient, and they’re intently focused on the present, where all the power is located.
It’s the delicate balance of the relative with the absolute – how do we live in a spiritual world of absolute power, absolute truth, absolute abundance, when we see all around us evidence of things that appear to be so other than.
The challenge lies in maintaining that level of hope, and resilience. The exhaustion, for my friend, and perhaps for the Haitian people themselves, is holding onto hope. And here perhaps hope can only rest with the children – with maintaining the next generation and somehow preserving that bud of creativity which has the infinite ability to see a different way, a better way.
There have been studies about people, who win the lottery, live the high life, yet eventually the money runs out and they return to their previous lifestyle.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that the Haitian people won the lottery – far from it. But the lottery winner experience illustrates how difficult it is for us to change our consciousness – whether that is the consciousness of the humanitarian agencies, the countries that offer help, or the people themselves.
There is a creative spark in each one of us – and that’s what my friend saw time and time again. It refuses to be extinguished, no matter what we do. It’s there in the people in Haiti, and it’s there in each and every one of us as we struggle to reveal the truth of who we know ourselves to be.
My friend said what was so difficult to see was that while we know Canada is not immune to the problems of homelessness and extreme poverty, it’s not the norm. The challenge with Haiti is that an entire country is currently living in this place, and having to use its collective consciousness to rise above it all. It’s a heavy load to carry.
And yet, here is what I know to be true. There is always hope. Every day people turn the corner on poverty, on disease, on seemingly unimaginable challenges. Every day individuals rise up. Helping them to see the way – by giving them to the tools to re-build a new vision for themselves – one that honours and reflects all of who they are – would be our greatest gift.
We can know this is true for Haiti, this is true for our friends, this is true for our family. This is true for ourselves. Our job is to recognize it, and water and nurture what grows from within. Continue reading