8 of us arrived here in Haiti on Wednesday. It's hard to believe how drastically different life can be just a few hours away from home, and the ride from the airport to the hotel near the orphanage is an eye-opener and instant immersion into Haiti as we are exposed to life lived outside on the street as we get to observe the multitudes of people walking, selling, buying, bathing, eating, etc.
You can't look anywhere without seeing the abject poverty that is Haiti, and it can be pretty overwhelming. We are advised to not give money to people, because once you help one, there will be 10 more that appear behind them looking for help as well. I think that often, our first instinct is to look the other way - to avoid eye contact and hope the light changes so you can get away without feeling any worse. We have observed an amazing ministry of "Mama Heidi" Baker in Mozambique whose philosophy is this: When you are surrounded by so much need that it overwhelms you, realize that although you probably can't fix a nation, you CAN help the ONE. The ONE in front of you. The ONE God puts in your path.
On our way to the hotel, traffic was heavy and we were moving slowly. A boy on the street, probably 10 years old, was begging and approached our van. With his hand held out, we locked eyes and he gave me the sweetest, most innocent smile. Just then, I saw the face of my son and imagined what it would be like if HE was the one standing outside the window of a car, looking for food that I could not provide for him, or worse yet, that he was on his own with no one to take care of him and begging was his only way to survive. I immediately started scrambling through my backpack to find a protein bar and some money to give him. I wasn't quick enough - traffic cleared, and we sped away. My heart sank as I realized I might have been this boy's one chance to eat today. It could so easily be MY son, fending for himself out there on the street with nothing to eat. I would hope and pray that even just one stranger would extend compassion to him and feed his hunger. I can still see his face, and my heart is heavy for him. His lot in life is one that no child should have to live.
Lesson learned: Don't be afraid to SEE. To connect. To be affected. And be prepared to ACT. You might just be the ONE who has the opportunity and privilege to change someone's day, or even their life.