Dear Mary: A letter from Haiti

Dear Mary,

I know you’re leaving me today, traveling from my shores and mountains and my sweet, sweet people. I don’t want you to leave with guilt or shame or that feeling of being overwhelmed. Believe me, I’ve lived with all those things aplenty. None of that helps in the long term. All paralyze.

So all I’m asking you is to remember me, as a friend fondly relives a favorite memory. Remember my people, the friends you made, the poverty you saw. Remember the tumbled down buildings, the rebuilt homes, the working poor. Remember when you’re tempted to overconsume that others simply subsist. Don’t do this with shame. Remember with joy.

Hear the children singing How Great Thou Art in Creole amid the dirtiness of the 20,000 member Tent City. Watch St. Cyr speak about his passion for his people. Feel the mud sliming your toes on potholed streets. Notice the merchants sit in the 100-degree heat, hoping one person will buy a banana bunch. Taste the chicken and remember its spices. Drink the bottled water, remembering that disease often lurks in the water my country drinks. Listen to the gunshots near your hotel and thank God for safety.

I won’t haunt you. Well, maybe I will. But I promise to be winsome about it. I might woo you in my dreams. You might catch a whiff of Haitian cuisine, or see a similar smile on your friend as one you met on my soil. All I ask is that you don’t get so darned comfortable in suburbia that you believe that life is summarized on its paved streets. That you won’t forget that your brothers and sisters struggle to eat, make a living, and find suitable shelter. Be utterly grateful for God’s great gifts to you, but hold them entirely loosely. Hilariously let them go.

I want you to be free, uncaged, and alive in the moment. My people taught you that. You who consulted your phone while children grabbed your hand, your skirt, your heart. Be all there. Soak in this fleeting life. Have life changing conversations. Don’t settle for scattered and flippant and stressed.

We of all lands have learned the value of a fleeting life. We live right now. Smack dab in the center of alertness. We work hard, pray hard, and live hard. And we often realize that rewards aren’t for this life, but for the next. Never live for your country or even ours. Live for the next country. Long for it. Yearn.

Someday we’ll celebrate on shores where no poverty exists. No tears. No heartache. No shifting ground. We’ll be sheltered, alive, and singing.

I hope I see you again someday. But if not, I’ll sing with you there.

Forever your friend,

Haiti

P.S. I like it when you speak French.

 


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