Tuesday, July 27, 2010

(7/27/10) by Deb Rollison

“Be careful where you step,” Sr. Vivian cautions, “and follow me.” Her advice is more than mere courtesy. I concentrate, going up the stairs in her home, damaged by the Jan. 12earthquake. Four steps walking on the left, next to the wall . . . cross over, three steps on the right, then over again left. Navigating in Port-au-Prince, Haiti requires alertness, attention, and a caring, savvy guide like Sr. Vivian. We move from sidewalk to street and back, dodging piles of rubble left in the street, sudden ten-foot-deep gaps in sidewalks, and tents. Everywhere are tiny stands selling everything from fruit to car parts; we also navigate around leaning walls, rubble-trapped cars, and an always-moving swirl of cars and people. Car horns and the whine of buzz saws—the hopeful sounds of reconstruction—fill the air. Sr. Vivian explains kindly and firmly that we have no money, as the parade of people approach us – a mother with a lethargic, naked boy . . . an old, stooped woman . . . a young woman needing medicine . . . a man who wants money for a sandwich and soda. How much a dollar would mean to them, and how little to me – but whom do I choose? I’m learning to say no while clamping down the ache in my heart at their endless, never-ending needs. Yet my heart keeps opening in response to all the smiles, the “Bonjours!” and “Coman ou ye?” (“How are you?” in Creole). Many Haitians don’t want their photos taken, so I look for sensitive angles and distant shots. I’m also learning the importance of setting expectations ahead of time. We are here, in large measure, to listen to people’s stories and bear witness to their spiritual journeys. Some people, though, are hoping we’ll pay them after doing so. I’m still thinking about the young boy near the Presidential Palace yesterday (7/26), a jagged scar between nose and cheek. Rag in hand, he kept trotting after our car as we crawled along in traffic, ignoring the danger, wiping our windows, wiping, his expression and hands asking for money. Our eyes meet, and I must look away; yet his face remains. I can only send him a silent prayer. My prayer for today: “Dear God, please help me to be careful where I step, yet be open and follow You where you would lead us. Amen"

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