“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” These words attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta came into my life early this summer as my 17 year-old son and I journeyed to Haiti.
Our mission was two-fold. First – assist with a family practice health care clinic for Haitians who have very limited healthcare access. Second – build relationships with students who receive scholarships from people in the states to attend their local Universities.
The United States spends a majority of its money on medication, education and incarceration. From what I could tell, the Haitian government does not. They are the poorest country in the world with a poverty rate of 77%.
I was under no allusions that any project, clinic, or initiative could make a change. The parable of making a difference in the life of just one starfish while countless are washed to the shore played in my head. Let’s be honest though. This was a selfish trip. I needed a kick in the pants and I knew it.
The native people we spent the week with are like characters out of a Disney film. Larger than life, full of passion, faith, hope, and love. While we continue to process our experience and make sense of it, I’d like to share a few things they preached with their life.
- Identify first and foremost as children of God – They do not identify with their wealth. They have none. They do not identify with their clothes, which were likely given to them by someone who did not want it anymore. They do not identify with the experiences expressed on their clothes. Those are the donor’s memories.
Prayer is important to them. It is said often and demonstrated even more with the affection they show toward each other. When asked about dating, the scholar Herman described going up to the top of a mountain to pray with his girlfriend.
- Faith that anything is possible – Despite the earthquake in 2010 that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and affected millions, one engineering scholar, Raphael, told me soon he will be making concrete so strong it will be known as “the era of Raphael!” Whether it was getting a fresh mango that I deemed impossible to reach or our driver, Fidel, navigating us around like an action scene starring the Rock without a scrape, they continually surprised and inspired me.
While we limit ourselves by making ceilings in our lives, they reminded me that God is only in the business of constructing floors.
- Example of the early Christian Church – The people we got to hang out with displayed how I imagine the early Christian Church was like. Their Church was truly a community of believers that looked after one another, lifted each other up, and shared the same experiences, struggles, and accomplishments as one family.
Within two hours of meeting them we were asked, “how do you define wealth?” They want to know and listen to our response – not just ask the question and mentally move on. The raw density of people makes physical contact inevitable, but they still give each other more. When they come, when they go, and many times in between there are handshakes, hugs, smiles, and laughs. Physically and emotionally, they do not keep their love bottled up.
A relationship is defined as the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected. The people I met are superior at cultivating relationships. They are more cognizant of the battle waged between existing as a human doer vs a human being.
The greater hunger Mother Teresa describes is not felt by me. I am blessed with so many beautiful people in my life. The communities I spent time with were not hungry in this sense either. They are a model of the early Church. What I was reminded of is the fact that feeding people in this way does not require a magnetic personality or a great smile (both of which the Haitian people most certainly have). It does not require leaving the country or even your home. It just requires one ingredient.
“We can’t all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love…”
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta