I sat across an artisan with a skin disease. So many people have diseases that keep them marginalized in Haiti. Like a leper in Biblical times, people with aids, cancer, skin issues, mental issues are pushed out of their communities and left with no support. This is obviously not unique to Haiti but it can be seen on a whole different level. Fear of the unknown and self-protection does not allow people to love freely. So people grow up without it. The love that could have been and should have been waiting for them was not and a series of unfortunate events starts to domino in their lives. Much like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the ugliness that people see on the outside turns into ugly bitterness for being unloved on the inside and they can become unlovely people. Self pity, lack of insight, lack or psychological resources, an inability to see the truth about themselves can turn them into self protective, self-absorbed, and selfish people. One of the biggest shockers to me in coming to work in Haiti is the realization of what poverty and these kinds of things do to people’s character. It is easy to be a nice person when all of your needs are met. It is not easy emotionally to work with people who are so needy and it has taken a huge emotional toll on myself for sure over the last eight years.
Sometimes those who have been hurt are hard to love. I see this with my own son. He has an eating disorder from almost starving to death in an orphanage. He will eat anything and everything at an alarming rate. Whereas we might understand eating a box of cookies or a tub of icecream, my son will eat dirt or a dozen eggs or fourteen bananas in a sitting. He is now obese. Being in a country where most people lack adequate nutrition, my Haitian son is an anomaly. Everyone tells him how fat he is. He can’t walk across the street without being reminded of his size. The artisans mock him, and kids at school have ridiculed him to the point that he is angry and got himself kicked out of school this year. He recently quit soccer because of it. He just can’t handle what the kids say to him. He is unhappy and he is so hurt. People who don’t know him automatically are UNLOVING to him because of his size and he is therefore becoming increasingly more unlovable and difficult to parent the older he gets. I remember my very very happy little toddler who just used to laugh all of the time and I grieve for where he has gone.
It is not so simple, I know, and there are many other factors in his life- as well as other people’s lives- that make these issues far more complicated, but it makes me ask myself these questions.
How has people’s unfair treatment of me made me more unlovable in the way I act?
How can I be intentional in loving people who I might find unattractive and hard to love?
For me, allowing myself to become an ugly person because of the way I may have been treated by people, is essentially allowing them to win in my life.
It is a waste of my life.
If I give in to hurt and become defensive and hurtful myself, there are parts of my life that become wasted and unused. They aren’t who they were meant to be anymore and it is as if they have lost their potential. Dead branches. I look at a broken and hurt lady with a skin disease and think to myself how much of her potential has been squelched because of hurt. How much has she withdrawn into herself and not reached out to anyone else in her life because of her self-protectiveness? How can we fight to help people like her, to help people like my son and myself, rise above it and become all that they are supposed to be anyway? In spite of what has happened to them. How can we find redemption?
I have found another family in my neighborhood who are intentionally loving my son in this season. I have found people in my life who don’t make me pay for the mistakes I have made and the ways that I have hurt them. I am looking for ways to help resurrect the wasted parts of my life and breathe new life into the wasted and hurts parts of the lives around me as much as I can.
I want Grace in my life. I want it desperately for my son. And I want it for hurt people in Haiti and all over the world who are being unloved and unlovable today.