There’s a teal blue Mead journal with pages of thoughts, prayers, and verses from my time in Haiti. It stays tucked away in the bottom drawer of my desk.
There are days I’d rather not remember it all. There are days I’d prefer to just forget.
I’m ashamed to even write those words.
Once you’ve seen, it cannot be denied. Once you’ve gone, it cannot be undone.
It hit me before I even made it to the home we stayed at. Before the village or the children or the medical clinic. Before the lack of clean water or the singing or the hands to hold on long walks.
Before any of it.
In a van and out the window to my right – on the left too, if I could have turned my head away.
But I couldn’t. Because It hit me. It with a capital I.
The Holy Spirit was moving in a country so full of voodoo and pain and earthquake-torn everything. There was something inside as the van drove by, pulling me to think deeper, drawing me from what my eyes saw, begging me to really OPEN them.
I wanted to squint when I saw it, when I really looked hard. They’re just fences, you could say. Come on Kaitlyn, don’t make much of nothing. So what, you saw endless fences made of prickly cactus. Big deal.
There’s a note on my phone that begs to tell a different story, one that I’ve read countless times when I need to remember, but one that has yet to be spoken out loud.
We build these fences in the midst of community,
cacti to declare what’s ours,
but we just end up keeping others out.
March 28, 2014. 2:52pm.
Fence after fence after fence.
Row after row after row.
Cactus after cactus after cactus.
Every one of them declaring “This is mine. Keep Out!” We do it in America, too. Why did it take a dirt-road drive in Haiti for me to see it so clearly? All these walls we put up are a means to keep others out but they just keep us in.
When we put up our defenses and shut down or shut out we are only locking ourselves in as prisoner. We dig and plant and water our cactus-fences and hope that no one will dare step foot inside. And oh, if they even try, won’t they be pricked and marked, bruised by our self-made cage?
There are certainly people who should not have full access to every part of us, and I’ll be the first to say that trust is often built over time — but there are also our friends, our families, our neighbors. They need us and we need them – without the cactus walls.
We drove through some of the busiest, booming parts of Haiti on our way toward what we would call Home. There were used-to-be brightly colored buildings and hundreds of people milling about on the street, on the sidewalks, hanging half-in, half-out of cars. The traveling was slow; the air was thick. There was much to see and even more to take in, but just past the buildings painted happy colors I caught a few glimpses of broken down villages (slums, really).
There are rows and tables and booths up front with items to sell and grim faces, smiling faces, staring faces, but behind the rows is the living – the day in, day out dirty, grimy mess and joy, brick and mortar of life. Do we let people behind the table or do we sell and use and waste our lives up front? Who do we let into the background? March 28, 2014. 2:09 pm.
Stream of broken consciousness. White college girl in a new-to-her country. Shaken up, eyes opened.
Who do you let in? Who are you keeping out? Maybe your ‘lock down’ has only served to lock you in.
This is one of several stories from Haiti that twist and turn and pull at my heart. As we come to the half-way mark of this 31days journey, I hope this story will both challenge and encourage you. Don’t put up the walls. Don’t hide behind them. Let people in. Tell the stories, your story.