Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Muted, and a Visitor

I have been here long enough (moved to Haiti last December) that the grip-of-panic-stomach feeling that came with my arrival in Haiti and spiked with the earthquake, is starting to release its claws. I have noticed changes in the way I feel, and I'm not sure whether they are positive or negative.

I used to feel like I needed to cry and scream every time I was in the car driving anywhere. The poverty made me feel repulsed, and angry. Yesterday I was in the car going to a fancy grocery store (the guilt, oh the constant guilt, has not yet subsided), and I looked around and didn't feel that immediate, visceral response to broken buildings, broken everything, rotting trash everywhere.

I used to have really strong, flash-flood reactions to begging street boys, sticking their skinny arms in the car window. I felt guilty and helpless, I felt wretched and compassionate, and I even went through several spells of livid outrage when they outright, bold-face LIE to you. As in, I just handed you a cracker, so you put it in your pocket and then say you did not get one. I just saw you. Is this a game to you? Or when they would say, "sister, Jesi". As in, "let me invoke the name of Jesus to manipulate you" into giving me money. I felt rage and that made me feel more guilty.

The emotions feel weaker now, watered down, muted, buffered, crawling instead of stamping and huffing.

Am I getting "used" to this place? Is that good or bad? Does it give me more staying power here, more stability, or does it pacify my boiling fire of will and make me complacent?

For this reason, I am very glad each time I can be with someone during their first few hours in Haiti. I want to hear and see through their eyes, fresh eyes asking all the raw questions the first time.

Especially when we are close enough that they can tell me the truth.

Like, I don't know... my mom :)

Did I mention she is visiting this weekend? Joy and hooray! I can not tell you what an encouragement this visit is to me. I really won what has been called the "parent lottery", and I got one amazing mother. Through reading books like Hole in Our Gospel, Crazy Love, and Radical recently, God is breaking her heart for the poor and the oppressed. She's a real world-traveler who even partially grew up in Iran, but has never seen (in real life) the things she'll see this week. Might I request prayers for safe travel? And for my dad, who can't make the trip this time? It's always really hard when your loved one has a soul-moving experience without you- you can never really explain, and it can be divisive.

I'm bleaching towels, playing "cruise director" with the agenda, stocking up at the grocery store... I just can't wait.

Maybe it is inevitable- you cannot stay a "new kid" in your heart forever. You always get used to things around you, even things no human should ever get used to. But fresh eyes, fresh tears... that will help me to remember.



  1. You mother is definitely a wonderful person. She whipped me into shape right quick in college let me tell you.

    I am so excited for her visit with you.

  2. YAyyy for a visit from Mom!!!

  3. A little anxious...but excited to see you and Ben tomorrow. Putting all the last minute things in the HUGE suitcases. Do some weight lifting tonight...I'll need help with these bags at the airport tomorrow. You'll recognize me right off...I'll be the blonde lady :)

  4. Glad your mom will be visiting and you will see again with fresh eyes Haiti. When I visited a very poor area of Mexico, I was totally overwhelmed (a combo of compassion and anger that 50 miles north was the 'land of milk and honey'. Why? My emotions caused me to nearly faint.

    Our coordinator, a long time resident there, caught me from falling and said, "You have to get used to it." In my innocence I said, "I never could."

  5. So glad you're getting a visit from mom! What a thrill! Of course, we'll need to hear all about it!

    On another note, I've got Radical on order right now... should arrive today. Looking forward to reading it. Would love to know what your thoughts are.

    Love and prayers for you both, as always!!
    Kim :)

  6. I am excited for you to see your mother is always such an encouragement to read your blog!



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