I hardly even know where to begin.
I arrived home last night around 10:30 PM, after spending a week in Haiti. (You can see the blog and some of my writing about our trip here: www.haititravelers.blogspot.com).
I am going to need to do a lot of writing, and thinking, and processing about this, but tonight, I'm going to need to start simply. Tonight, I am going to need to go slowly. Tonight, I just need to start unpacking what is here.
I am not much of a crier, and it's not even that I'm crying as much as I just seem to be leaking. Ever since last night, my eyes just seem to be leaking.
Yesterday, I packed up my suitcase and got in a van that drove me 3 hours through the mountains of Haiti. I passed hours worth of poverty I had previously been unable to imagine. Poverty that now has faces tied to its name. I passed hours worth of children and families with no access to water. Water. A fundamental human right, a necessity. I sat in that van and was driven past people living in houses made of clay. Houses made of sticks and mud, housing god-only-knows how many people. Houses of hungry people, thirsty people, sick people, living in a country with no way out. I rode through a country of people living in conditions I could have gone my whole life without ever imagining - people with hopes, and dreams, and smiles not so very unlike my own.
I got in that car, I rode through that gorgeous, devastated countryside, got on a plane and, without really having done a damn thing, I left. I left. I got on a plane, and I left the devastation exactly as I found it.
Then I came home, I turned on the tap, and clean water came out. I flipped the switch and lights came on. I took a long, luxurious hot shower. I got into bed with lots of fuzzy blankets, on a comfortable soft mattress. I made myself a cup of hot tea with clean water and tea bags I bought from a store in which I had more options than any person needs. I came home to more space and stuff than any one person truly deserves, and I felt relief. I enjoyed that shower. I savored my cup of tea. I didn't even think about the lights as I flicked them on and off as needed. When I turned off the lights and I closed my eyes, the images of the people and places I had witnessed a mere 12 hours before flooded my mind, and I had the audacity to cry.
This morning, I got up, opened a closet full of clean clothes and chose something to wear. I went to my kitchen, made myself breakfast with food from the fridge, helped myself to clean water fresh from the tap, sat on my couch with my dog and read for fun - because I had nothing else I needed to do, all my basic needs having been met. I went to the bathroom and flushed the toilet without a second thought. Then I went and got in my car, drove 30 minutes on a paved road, and ended at another heated building with electricity, clean water, and good people. I sat in a comfortable chair for an hour and listened to my ministers speak about process theology, because I have the privilege of worrying about so little that I can focus on such heady and intellectual topics as process theology. And at the end of that? I had the audacity to cry again.
This is just the beginning. The number of privileges I was afforded throughout today -- including driving to Walgreens to fill the remainder of my prescription for anti-malarial pills (which was almost entirely covered by my health insurance) - was astounding. I did nothing to earn this. I did nothing to deserve it. But here it is -- all of it -- so available and at-the ready that I don't even need to think about it.
I feel guilty, yes, but guilt isn't the primary emotion. Mostly, it's sadness. Mostly, it's hopelessness. Mostly, it's a sense of powerlessness, and feeling so very, very overwhelmed. Mostly, I just keep crying, and I don't know that I'm even really sure why.
I feel such an obligation to this world. I always have. I feel such a need, and a desire, to open my heart to the world, to witness its suffering and to tell its stories with compassion. I feel an obligation to witness the places that hurt to the extent that I am able and to do what I can to move it towards wholeness. I know the ways I can do this are small. I know the things I can do are miniscule as compared to the need...and this is okay. I do it anyway, if only because it is what I need to do.
When I was younger, I hated my sensitive heart. I didn't know how to protect and manage it, and I felt raw, and hurt, and as though I was just so different from everyone else. Over the years, I have been able to practice some gentleness towards my sensitive, open heart, and through this have learned to manage it better.
But knowing that there are people without water, and knowing people without water hits your heart in different ways. Knowing that such extreme poverty exists, and holding a 6 week old infant who is living it -- there is no comparison. Reading about the trauma and devastation of a country, and looking into the eyes of the men, women, and children for whom it is a daily reality -- this is different. The world is not only not how I thought it to be, but my heart holds photographs of the people living an existence I never even had the ability to imagine. And I had the privilege to - literally - fly away from it.
I don't have children, but the analogy that keeps coming to mind is that it feels like the difference between knowing that babies cry and hearing your baby cry.
I knew the world was crying. Now, it is my world that is crying. This world -- the one that I live in -- with you, right here, right now, this world is crying. Our world. In 2015, there are children drinking dirty water, without shoes, unable to go to school, without food, without any visible sign of things changing. They are living in one room houses of sticks and mud; they are dying of preventable, curable diseases. They are smiling, and laughing, and turning plastic bags and dirty hats into toys, or walking for hours carrying water on their heads.
I knew the world was crying. Now, it is my world that is crying. This world -- the one that I live in -- with you, here, right now...and the most I can do is cry, too.