Normal is what we’re used to. When things are going worse than normal, we complain. At least, I complain. But when faced with those less fortunate, it readjusts our thinking of what normal really is and makes us give pause before complaining.
I took the following two pictures on the same day, March 18th. One in the morning, one in the afternoon. Both define "normal," but for different people. One is downtown Port-au Prince. The other downtown Miami.
Some of the emotions I felt in Haiti are hard to describe. Seeing a picture doesn’t capture the feeling. Like the difference between getting shot at in real life and watching Band of Brothers while downing pop and chips.
When I tell people about Haiti, I give them highlights from my trip, because there isn’t time to recount everything. But telling the highlights, the quick story, seems to cheapen the feelings somehow.
Yesterday (Sunday), I spent several hours with a friend who shared with me in depth about a major experience he is currently going through. This situation was a positive one for him, and he is excited about it, but it has also been an emotional roller coaster. He told me he’s been overcome with feelings and wept freely in a way he never has before. His wife, who’s known him for years, has never seen him affected like this. In fact, we both got choked up as he told me about what all’s going on.
My friends’ story was inspiring, touching, and I felt privileged to be one of the first people he told. I won’t say more, because I don’t want to steal his thunder. But my point is this, I know in the future a lot of people will ask him for his story, and I wonder if it’s going to be hard for him? Hard to share something so personal over and over in a nonchalant, conversational way? There are things that take time and a personal context to share. And maybe some things we don’t even want to share, too personal to share. Things we would prefer "treasuring in our hearts."
While some are rejoicing (like my friend), others are mourning.
Yesterday, Emily Milroy wrote a post describing some deep, core-shaking experiences she’s just come through this past month in her visit to Asia. She was brought face to face with desperate circumstances in an orphanage for mentally handicapped children, and is still reeling. Honestly, what could be worse than children in abject circumstances, not loved, physically ill, and mentally ill besides? It’s too much to take in:
I thought it would be Africa where I would hold a child moaning out because they were starving to death, but it was in C****…children living in a place where there is an 86% mortality rate, where [children] get 2 meals a day, and each meal 4 bowls of food to split among 14 children.
Where when you feed them you have to guard the food because the kids that can walk will come up and grab handfuls out of the bowl…where children eat other children’s throw up, poop off the ground, and sleep on a piece of wood with no mattress tangled up with two other children because there is not enough space…
Where their little arms and legs are so skinny and they are so incredibly malnourished you can barely make sense of what is in front of you. Where there are not real diapers but a stretchy string around their waist with a diaper material or just any plastic tucked into it as a diaper.
For the first time in my life struggling to pray for healing over a child… instead please Jesus just take them to be with you because the moaning coming from them because they are hurting is too much….
My teammates had a baby pass away they named Jude and struggled with his death but also knowing now this little one wont suffer starvation. The death of a baby who received no proper funeral service and no mother or father brother or sister to care… the emotions of watching that happen are just impossible to type out.
…my world was completely changed… my heart completely broken.
I broke down crying sometimes looking at the food I was eating for dinner and the rights I felt that I had to eat whatever I wanted (in not liking the spicy food is what I am talking about) because I thought of those little children. Sure I may not have liked it but it was food and I should be more grateful. So the rest of the month I may not have liked the food in C**** but I never complained again and I was so grateful that God provided it.
The feeling of wanting to help so badly, seeing the forgotten children and people in this place, seeing pain like I have never seen before…not knowing what to think of it all and feeling like I wasn’t doing enough… learning that through it all God is still God. So much of my human thinking needed to be abandoned to not get overwhelmed and run away from things I didn’t understand, things that in a month I could not change. In many ways I had to abandon my past ways of thinking… (source)
Sometimes the breakers of life hit us, and we’re overwhelmed. The friend I mentioned earlier was overwhelmed, in a good way. Emily was overwhelmed, in a frightening way. Both of them cried. Life was too much to process. Their emotions couldn’t cope with the circumstances.
But I think it’s in these times we gain new perspectives, new appreciation for life, new awareness of God, and new resolve to fight for the future.