Human nature stands on parade in places where people are just surviving rather than achieving. I saw one stark example while walking through a neighborhood in Citi de Soleil, Haiti, yesterday.
First, picture yourself in a public campground. Instead of tents and RV’s you see huts. Roofs look like quilts of made of rusted tin and the floors, dirt. In this particular village, the latrine, built by a non-profit, had reached its capacity months earlier. When some Americans passed through and saw the problem, they immediately determined how to fix the problem.
Why did it take a group from the outside? Each of us has a kind of normal which really isn’t. Maybe you feel it more when you’re inviting guests over for the evening. Suddenly that thing needs to be fixed before they arrive. That same pattern of passivity has been encouraged here by years of intimidation and fear.
It reminds me of an old experiment with the group of puppies. They were made to endure a series of shocks to their paws through their metal cage. After being conditioned to wait it out, the researcher opened the cage door. When the electricity started they did not escape, even inches from relief. However, when a new puppy was introduced to their group who had not been conditioned, the shock made him immediately jumped out. The rest of the group followed.
Especially in seasons of high stress, an unhealthy “normal” can creep into the leadership style of parents and presidents. Sometimes it takes someone walking through your neighborhood to confront that kind of normal. Sometimes it takes getting you outside your neighborhood and comfort zone.
The clinics are set up with the meds needed for the week. The dental crew were faced with chaos in their building and had to think like engineers to to get a couple compressors working. One of our team members, Steve Frost, celebrated his 60th Birthday yesterday. What a way to mark a milestone event. Clinic work and construction begin this morning.
Our team from Signal Mountain arrived safe and sound to a significantly warmer day than we left. We had a traditional Haitian meal of Pumpkin Soup. (In the days when Haitians were slaves, they were forbidden to eat pumpkin soup. Now it’s a featured meal.) Sunday morning we’ll go to one of the HOM community centers for church. Afterwards, we will set up the medical clinic in preparation for receiving patients in the morning.
I’m writing this post at 6am to the sound of the Terre Noire church service already in progress. Robust singing from joyful people. Following the earthquake, many Haitians were left without family and some without their entire community. Finding it again is more significant than just gaining fellowship. Reminds me of a comment from Frederick Buechner: “To be lonely is to be aware of an emptiness that it takes more than people to fill. It is to sense that something is missing which you cannot name.” The purpose of this trip is both relief and development. We have several physicians, dentists and nurses who will be operating a clinic in Citi de Sole. We even have Signal Mountain’s beloved pharmacist with us! Also, because of the generosity of Signal Mtn. Presbyterian, we will be build bathrooms for the church in the community called Repatriot. We plan to post pictures frequently at #smpchaiti.