We recently returned to Haiti from a trip to the US and it is sweet to be back “home.” Every time we make the trip, I notice many distinct, and obvious differences between the two worlds. And I try to process and reconcile the differences, wanting to understand the causes for them, and the problems they cause.
There are, of course, the general expected differences, that though seem simple, still amaze me. Basically, I am still blown away by the presence of common luxuries in the US—and how normal they feel to me—and by the lack of them in Haiti. These are things like stoplights, lined roads, sidewalks, public parks, garbage trucks, forests, trash cans, drinkable shower water, fast internet, good (or rather, any) sushi, clean air, good sanitation, fat pets, the idea of pets, working cars, no reconnaissance helicopters, free education, etc. And when trying to process the difference, I realize the privilege of American life, and the tough road along which Haitians walk. However, I think I am now used to being amazed, and saddened, by the disparity.
But this last time I was in the US, I found myself shocked—truly shocked—by something different. I realized that I had—in the course of a couple of weeks—completely forgotten about a part of life that is so evident in Haiti, and which should be in the US too: brokenness.
I was talking to a dear friend of mine, Ruben (see Ruben), who was in Haiti and was telling me how one of his friends had called because that friend’s daughter had just died of Cholera. She was 5. And his friend was broken. Thus so was Ruben. And then so was I. And it slammed me. I was sitting at a Starbucks, reading the newspaper, sipping an iced-pumpkin-spice-latte and felt shocked by pain. I was then stunned that I had forgotten so quickly, how truly broken this planet is. And this brokenness is present everyday on Earth. Everywhere.
In Haiti, stories of brokenness abound. In the US, brokenness abounds too, but I had fallen into a mode of forgetting about it. And yet we are born into a broken world, where sadness is real, pain pierces, and hearts hurt. Ignoring it doesn’t eliminate it, but avoiding makes it impossible empathize with anyone, and it makes me forget how needy I am too.
I think that regardless of how people handle it, everyone’s life is lived out of brokenness. And apart from grace, it is impossible to handle brokenness well. Still, in Haiti, it seems to be easier to see it as clear and present. Or maybe it is just harder to hide it here. But when I was in the US, I saw how easy it is to forget that life is broken, even though every American has a broken story too. Somehow, the comforts of seeing garbage trucks, drinking shower water and walking fat pets seem to make me forget about how broken the world we live in is.
I am acutely aware of my tendency to avoid pain and brokenness. I saw this past week how quickly I do that. And I hope to learn to embrace brokenness, and to live out of that. Because I believe that when we do, true hope, deep joy, and real life become all the more precious and sweet.