The amazing thing about transformation is the fact that you can experience it without being aware of it, so gentle and thorough it can be. But this morning I heard the Bananaquit singing, I listened for the bleating of a goat, and the ceaseless sound of the sea, allowing it to fill me, as if it was my own breath. Peace, attention. Nothing else. Fruits of a year-long process of transformation.
Feeling fleeting flutters of emptiness (of thought) and wholeness (of being) at the same time, I let my gaze float around my surroundings, scanning but not registering, the leaves, the barks of the trees, a sleeping dog, and myriad forms which once familiar, now seem new, alive.
I later walk along the hillside edge, overlooking the sea. The sea is beautiful, always. But today, it is positively glistening. It looks, feels, like it is reaching up to me. It stops me in my tracks, and I have to stand and look at it. Its waves are crashing and foaming, leaving flat expanses of sparkling sea behind them, which move slowly up and down, like the breath of a living being. I sense the reflection of my awareness in the beauty of the sea, and I feel part of it, as it is part of me. Oneness. Wholeness.
I recently saw a young American girl, wearing a pink T-shirt with the words ‘Healing Haiti’ plastered across the front, and a Kreyol phrase, ‘glwa pou bondye’, ‘God’s glory’ on the back.
Now, I know ‘Healing Haiti’ is in fact an organisation, one of many, operating in Haiti, and my purpose here is not to criticise them (in particular, or in this space).. But the message on the front of that girl’s T-shirt really made me pause and consider… Hmm.
Maxo’s first reaction was: ‘What is Haiti’s disease, that it needs healing from?’
Why do we/they assume Haiti is unwell? And if Haiti is unwell, why do we/they assume to know what she is suffering from?
My initial reaction to the T-shirt was embarrassment at its arrogance/ignorance (as well as a roll of the eyes as I have seen this T-shirt many times before). Was this young American girl in her pink T-shirt healing Haiti? As she sat in a hotel garden overlooking Jacmel’s coastline, sipping on a Coke, telling her Haitian guide a story about America (admittedly, I was eavesdropping), was she actively healing Haiti of its woes?
Hmm.. maybe she was and I missed it. Maybe she had healed Haiti that morning before coming to the hotel, and she really deserved that ice-cold Coca Cola. Or maybe, she was going to heal Haiti that evening, or the next day. I don’t know.
But here are some thing I do know.
It healed, is healing, me. I have learnt more than I even realise, by listening to what Haiti has to say, by watching her and connecting with her. I have discovered secrets about her and about me. I let her in and she filled me with inspiration, and admiration of the basic human values, that money and poverty have absolutely nothing to do with.
Sure, Haiti is a poor country.. But it is a poor spirited person who can see only that, disregarding all of its powerful depth and cultural richness.
This is not to say that Haiti is not suffering from a grave problem. It is. It’s a complex, historical, class based issue, causing a binary reality of shame and want. A minority want, grasp for, and have the riches of Western idolatry, dictating concepts of ‘civilization’ and advancement. A majority are forced to endure the shame passed onto them by the ‘privileged’ few, pushed to deny, rather than treasure who and what they are. They are callously, yet imperceptibly commanded to be ashamed of their language, religion, beliefs, lifestyle, roots, while being revealed, from an unattainable distance, the ideal of ‘civilization’ and ‘success’.
So much more than a simple concept of monetary poverty, it is a deep and complicated fracture, which will be healed through its own unification and its natural coming to wholeness.
How do you heal a country, a society, which suffers from such an affliction?
If you are an outsider, a guest, in this country, you can start by not wearing a Tshirt that shouts-out-loud the fact that you see a major problem here. Haitian people know they are economically disadvantaged, you don’t need to remind them of that. Would you go to someone’s house, uninvited, and start telling them they are poor and you have come to heal them? Or would you sit on whatever seat they offered you, graciously accept the welcome you receive, drink the tea, and listen to their story..
This is a basic principle of respect, a fundamental rule of human interaction.. is it not?
How about a T-shirt – if you have to wear one at all – that says ‘Respecting Haiti’? With the words ‘anseye mwen’ – ‘teach me’, on the back!
Ahh.. it vexes me perhaps more than it should. My experience in Haiti has been so unifying, beautiful, and for a lack of a variation of the word, healing. I never came here to teach, or to import anything from my own background – other than the residues existing in my personality. I have learnt to just be here, and though that sounds so simple, it is a moving lesson to grasp. Little by little, all the things I thought I needed stripped away. What were once necessities are now luxuries I choose to, or not to, indulge in occasionally.
Peace has entered my life so profoundly, that pain from the past, and insecurities have began to melt away. Negative thinking patterns have been transformed into just being patterns, leaving space to admire the stunning beauty around me.
The Haitian people who have been part of my experience here have helped me on this voyage. Though it is a common experience, as a clearly socially privileged person in Haiti (a foreigner), that some people tentatively stretch out a hand and wait in expectation.. I have come to wait in expectation too, for what Haitians can teach me is infinitely more interesting than a dollar I could place in their hand.
So how do you heal Haiti? The answer is simple.. Go with an open mind, heart and spirit, a blank slate of expectation and… Let Haiti heal you.