2 1/2 years ago I took a 90 minute ride that changed the entire course of my life. I stepped off of a plane and into the air that my body will forever crave. I found out that love at first sight does exist, when I fist set eyes on the country of Haiti. I remember the island music that floated from the band that was there to welcome us. I remember the smell of the air, a mixture of fried food, wild flowers and sea water. I remember the moment where all I had known faded into everything I now loved.
Many journeys later and I still feel the awe that captured me on that first day. I step off of the plane and I breathe easily again. I left Haiti on January 19th in a fog of pain and confusion, with no idea what the future held. When I flew back 2 days later I was scared, not of the aftershocks that rattled the ground but that perhaps, along with everything else, my love for Haiti might be shaken. Stepping off the plane erased all of those fears. I knew that there was no earthquake strong enough to destroy the foundation of my love for this place. There was no depth of pain or sorrow that could replace the passion in my soul. The stench of death in the air though strong, could not mask the memory of fried food, wild flowers and sea water.
As I heard the voices of panic that surrounded me I was taken back to the voice of a little boy who looked out of his bed at me and said “mama”. I heard people crying around me and I remembered the sound of the song that the children sing when one of them left to go home with their new families. As I stood there the memory gave way to reality. The song I was hearing was getting louder as a line of vans arrived, each filled to the brim with those precious children. The reason I was there, the reason I will never be able to walk away. Their eyes were huge as they stared at the airplanes around them. In the arms of their nannies, they sang the songs they taught them. For those moments it drowned out the reality and took me back to the very core of the passion I had found. It reminded me why I was there and opened my eyes to the fact that I was allowed, considered worthy of holding the people that I loved during the worst moments of their lives. It assured me that I had found the one thing that made my life more than waking up, making it through and crawling back into bed, day after day.
A few weeks ago I was shopping with my mom, I had printed a few photos from my last trip to Haiti and as I was paying for them the young woman at the checkout counter began asking me questions. They were the usual things I have heard until I was leaving and she turned to me and asked, “Was that the saddest thing you have ever seen?” For a second I didn’t know what to say, I ended up mumbling something and walking away. As I drove home my mind wandered and I began to answer her question…
Was the pain of Haiti the saddest thing I have ever seen? Was the starvation of babies and children the worst thing that comes to my mind when I close my eyes? Was the hurt in the eyes of a father, as he handed me his baby daughter the most horrible thing in my world?
In a way you can say yes. Yes, it is awful and it is sad but for some reason my first response was to say no. I wanted to say no because the pain of Haiti isn’t what I remember when I remember Haiti. I remember the pain, but I think about the hope. I remember the tears but I think about the laughter. I remember the hunger but I think about the fullness of life.
I let my mind wander farther, back to a time in my life where I was living with no direction at all. I remember how it felt to wake up every morning and wonder if this was really what life was about. I remember feeling like there must be something more, but having no idea what. I remember wandering and wasting so many moments pursuing things that I though would give me purpose.
Then I looked around me, at the people in this world. People who cling to this “American dream” that they have been fed. People who are content to go through their lives with no real passion or purpose. People who are searching. I see these people who are unaware or who don’t care. I see what I was and where so many in this world are and I know, a life with no passion, a life with no purpose, that is the saddest thing I have ever seen.