I've been thinking and reading a lot about poverty, in addition to seeing it every day. You all know that Haiti is a very poor nation. I don't have to tell you that again. And I've seen some extreme poverty before.
But something about Haiti seems different. Maybe its the damage from the earthquake that just compounded the damage. Maybe its that some houses weren't damaged by the earthquake, but are still worse off than ones that were. Maybe its the sheer scale of poverty here. I look from the roof top of the orphanage and see small, one-room houses with crumbling walls and tin roofs that have been rusted through by the torrential rains spreading as far as I can see. There is a single building that looks different: the 5 or 6 story headquarters of the largest cell-phone company in Haiti - Digicell.
Maybe its that the kids in the orphanage (and me with them) are living in immense wealth compared to the 600 people living in the tent city just up the hill. I'm reminded of a story that has come up a few times in the books that I've been reading. Its from the gospel of Luke, Chapter 16. Jesus tells the story of a rich man who walks past a invalid (Lazarus) sitting right outside of his front door every day and does nothing to help him, despite his great wealth. When they both died, the rich man went to hell and the poor invalid went to heaven. The rich man was punished because he ignored the need right in front of him. It was not what he had done that got him in trouble, but what he had failed to do.
The poverty here is overwhelming. I often think that there is not much that I can do to change that. And indeed Haiti needs something big. I was talking with a Haitian civil engineer the other day who said that Haiti need a huge investment to lift it out of poverty (something on the scale of the New Deal in the US). But he also reminded us that we have the power to help in small ways. And helping one is better than helping none. Sometimes even that is difficult though. We don't consistently have transportation to go buy the things we need. Deciding who needs help and what they need are tricky things, particularly without knowing Creole very well (although I'm learning quickly). And then I start thinking about all the things we could change if there was just an unlimited amount of money. My mind wanders to out to the entire city, the big picture.
Maybe we'll get there, but for now, its about relationships, working small, and doing what I can. Its about showing compassion and facing the poverty that is right outside of my door. Its about each day choosing to do what is right, choosing to everything I can, choosing to do what Jesus taught his disciples to do. Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that.