Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dangers of Living in Haiti

Many people are scared to come to Haiti.  It's not surprising; if you read what the State Department has to say about the country, you'll be scared too.  But our friend John McHoul wrote a post back in January about some of the more insidious dangers of living here long-term.  To balance my post from yesterday about the benefits of being people who stay, I thought I'd share his wisdom with you.

John isn't scared of anything, so it surprised me to see him writing about danger. I taught both his children, and I well remember his son saying dejectedly, "It doesn't matter what happens; my parents aren't leaving." John and Beth are the ultimate "people who stay," and have been here much longer than I have.  They've lived through coups, embargos, hurricanes, evacuations, robberies.  Beth was caught outside Haiti when the earthquake happened, and she got back here as soon as she could.  So the dangers John is writing about are not the same ones the State Department sees.

Some of the dangers of living in Haiti, John says, are:
Becoming numb to the cries of the poor.
Not being moved to anger and compassion at the conditions in which many people live.
Looking but not seeing.
Hearing but not listening.
Seeing what is but not what can be.
You can read the rest of the post here.  

I wrestle with the line between becoming hardened to the suffering and poverty of this country and the other extreme, a perpetual state of grieving for how difficult life is for so many.  There's a certain level of self-protection I have cultivated, so that I no longer stand at my gate listening to people's stories and crying.  I just can't; I wouldn't be able to live here if I remained that way.  But I wonder sometimes if I have ended up instead in the middle of some of the dangers John talks about.

Bonus: here's a post about Beth.

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