The best laid plans of mice and men
often go askew.
Katie and I love Haiti. We really like it here. One thing we especially like are the Haitian children who are living on campus. To recap, QCS is hosting the families of some workers whose homes were destroyed on January 12th. Some of those families have beautiful precious adorable children. I will un-ashamedly admit that Sarah is my favorite. If she can, she runs up and demands a hug and to be carried when she sees me. I always oblige. I think she is the most beautiful child I have seen since the last time I saw the Bowlin children.
My Creole and her English are on the same level. So our conversations are like this.
Me: Como ye?
Sarah: Byen! and giggle.
I imagine that she thinks I am a curious creature. She always tugs at my arm or leg hair. Today while I was holding her she was tugging the few chest hairs that were showing from underneath my shirt collar.
In a post a few weeks ago we showed a photo of her playing with a very dirty white baby doll with Barbie-like blond hair. My tender mother-in-law took exception to this, went to the store, and bought some toys for the kids here. She cleaned out the store of all the black baby dolls they had (4) and sent them to us. We were very excited about sharing them with Sarah and her friends.
But very quickly we had some problems. 1, there were a few more kids than toys. 2, we didn't have enough language skills to effectively communicate- that we only had a few toys, that they needed to behave, share, and be nice and blah blah blah.
We were so excited that we broke all the rules about how to do things in Haiti and we just tried to hand out the toys in front of our apartment. Utter, complete, total disaster. Unequivocal chaos and an epic fail.
This post falls under the heading of "let's get real, people". When the toys came in, we were ecstatic. We unpacked the bag, set them all out on the bed, and took a dozen photos.
One girl dug through the bag of stuffed animals, which by the this time I was trying to retrieve, and pulled out the other baby doll, the one that was meant for Larisa. Just at this moment Larisa walks up, and Sarah has already told her (we communicated this to Sarah through pointing- sort of) that the other baby doll is for her. Ben tries to put the baby doll back in the bag, and this older girl- probably ten or so- starts trying to jerk it out of Ben's hands, throwing a wall-eyed temper tantrum. Screaming, hysterically, pulling the toy, falling on the ground. Larisa is now grabbing the baby doll, too. Ben is yelling at me, I am yelling at Ben, and Larisa is now equally hysterical. The girls pull so hard on the doll they rip her blanket.
Quincy (remember our broken-femur, traction-on-campus little friend?) gets a Hot Wheels car, then immediately puts it in his pocket and starts crying to Ben that he hasn't gotten one yet and wants another. They're lying, they're begging, they're screaming, crying. At this point we're backed up against the door of our apartment, which they're trying to get in. Three ladies, probably in their 20's, come over and start demanding stuffed animals.
We retreat. We go inside, shut the door. I am shocked, and really, really angry. I feel the way I felt last year on a Buckner mission trip to Honduras when the kids in a government orphanage- the ones I had been praying for by name, paid a lot of money to fly around the world to give presents and love to- were hitting me, pulling my hair, telling me they wish I would die because I made them stand in a line to get pizza (I don't even have the advantage of understanding any ugly comments here, due to my lack of Kreyol).
We were stupid to do it that way. We should have learned the lesson of our food distribution with Ryan and Adam- you get the local Haitians to do the distribution. It keeps you from being White Santa, and it allows the people who know each member of the community to keep order. They can say, "Quincy, I know you already got a toy".
I was so very disappointed. I had been dreaming about this for two weeks. God is teaching me about the actual reality and actual cost of loving your neighbor. For a long time, I cried at Oprah and CNN about "the least of these", heart bleeding for the poor. But my heart only bled for hypothetical, abstract children, not real ones with dirty hands that stain my shirt. My heart wept "for the nations", but only for a romanticized nation of idealized people, not ones who break your camera or lie to you. I thought I loved orphans, but the kids in Honduras and the poor kids on my campus (my literal neighbors, for the first time) are real kids- ones who get hysterical and ugly, especially when there's something (literally) up for grabs in a nation of deprivation.
Ben comforted me (after I apologized for rushing in and disregarding our plan), saying he knew my heart and that I should just hang on to those sweet minutes with Sarah, who was actually grateful and tender and delighted.
This morning I walked over to chapel to begin our school day. Madame Jean-Charles, an elementary teachers, was outside talking to a Haitian girl named Kimberline who was snuggling a blue Easter bunny. Madame Jean-Charles told me the girl had been given an Easter bunny and she loved it very much. Kimberline had told her that she had named the bunny Annaika, and that she slept with it, and that the bunny kept her company. Mrs. Jean-Charles said she was so glad the girl had been given a toy, because most of those kids had probably never been given a gift before, no Christmas presents or birthday presents, ever.
Then I was ok.