Friday, March 5, 2010

what Haiti taught me

I realized today the depth of my lesson learned. I began this course a couple months ago and today proved very satisfying.

It was a very cold January night, I ran over to Starbucks to get a beverage. I was driving home and found myself rather disgusted with the condition of the streets. Like most of America, we were pelted with snow in Nebraska this winter so the streets were a mess to drive down. I was jostling along and was thinking "Gee, it sure would be nice if they did a better job plowing the streets. It sure is cumbersome to hold a beverage and drive at the same time in these conditions."

And then it hit me.

Really, Lindsay. Really. Is this the extent of your pain and suffering? Look down. I'm driving a Surburban with heated leather seats, just returned from a necessity like Starbucks, and then was heading home to our very warm and comfortable home. Really. Shame on you.

The events of Haiti had just surrounded this event that night and I was embarrassed of myself. I may admire the people who lived during treacherous times, but for heaven's sake DO NOT ASK ME TO LIVE THROUGH SUCH treacherous times such as a very blustery winter. What shall we do? I thought of all the events in history that I will probably never even come close to experiencing. Haiti. Concentration camps. Rwanda. Shame on me again for ever complaining.

Even if an earthquake were to hit America, the situation would be completely different. We are a land with incredible depth of resources and would have immediate relief. They had nothing. No cranes, no heavy machinery. No hospitals with high tech equipment. We have it all. So even our earthquake experience would be different.

So, I began my internal and external mission:
I WILL NOT COMPLAIN my head or out loud.

The next day I was standing at the Hy-vee Deli ordering my fillet of cod fish. I asked the young chap how his day was. He said, "Good, until I walked outside and felt the cold." I replied, "Well, at least were not in Haiti."

Call 9-1-1. Really. I think he may have passed out. He stopped everything, paused, and looked up and replied, "Thank you. Thank you so much for reminding me." I said, "No really, I need the lesson too, but it really does make you think."

The following Monday I was picking up pizza from Sam & Louis. The order wasn't ready so I began speaking with the nice lady about her day. Once again, please dial 9-1-1. She started telling me that she thought the day was going to be nice, but the wind. Oh, the wind. I listened and then replied with my new mantra, "Well, at least were not in Haiti." If I remember correctly, I think I had to look over the counter because she was on the floor in shock. She, like me, saw how her statements were so ridiculous when compared to true suffering.

The following weekend, John and I headed to Kansas City for a conference. It was Valentine weekend so the Plaza was a bust with people and the minimum wait was at least 3 hours at every place. We were with a group of 20 so that made our wait even longer. Our reservations were at the Cheesecake Factory and when we arrived, I overheard a lady getting into a small tiff with the reservation desk about how she was told 3 hours and now it was going to be another 20 minutes. She walked over and stood by me and we had small talk and she voiced her disgust with having to wait longer. Not to be repetitive, but again I gave her my line, "Well, at least were not in Haiti." She won the shock award. She said, "I am so embarrassed. Here we are dining at a beautiful place and I am complaining about waiting 20 more minutes when those people are dying and have no food." We talked a little more and she walked away. She came back up to me and said, "Thank you. Thank you for the reminder."

In the past, every January I do the same thing to John. I start out kind of joking, but mostly serious. Then by February, I am nothing but serious. This year (pre-Haiti conversion) was no different.

Embarrassingly, I said things like "What fun can a person have inside their home for six months." "There has to be more to life then living through six months of cold, for what?" "This seems so pointless when you could be in the south enjoying yourself so much more."

I know I graduated from high school, but I'm not quite sure I've matured past Kindergarten. Did I really say "have fun?" or "Enjoying myself so much more in a warmer place."

You know (sarcrasm), God did create us to exist in such a state of utter bliss ALL THE TIME and IF we happen to encounter struggle He of course wants us to FLEE and move to a much happier place where struggle surely won't exist. Right? I guess I had assumed that if my passions weren't being met, I surely must move or do something different. Did it ever occur to you that you are supposed to be experiencing your very own Haiti right in your own home, enduring a cold winter without complaining, and better yet flip the coin and make it something beautiful FOR GOD. Novel idea. John always tells our children,
"Do the right thing, at the right time, whether you like it or not."

I did. I had a Jerry Maguire moment of epiphany that night and truly have never turned back. The winter became my friend. I found myself really not noticing the cold anymore. I thought "If they can do that, I certainly can do this." When tempted with contempt, I would immediately say something positive back like, "Won't the sun this summer be so beautiful." Or sometimes I simply say, "STOP." There is the beautiful true story of Corrie ten Boom and her sister. They were in a concentration camp together. Her sister displayed a peaceful acceptance of their situation most of the book, but Corrie was bitter about everything. In one scene in particular, Corrie is distraught because all of the prisoners have lice and it was driving her mad. Her sister tells her, "We must be grateful, it keeps the Germans away and they will not harm us."

It was in the 50's today. I watched the kids this afternoon play outside and ride their bikes. I felt joy. I cannot explain how working hard at something so small like not complaining made the sun today even more bright. It must be the same high runners get after training so hard and then do really well in the race. You say, "All the effort was worth it. All the sacrifice was worth it." "All the times I wanted to grumble and didn't, was worth it." It probably is just one of the phases we all experience during our adult road trip of life. I see it. I see the slow peel of acceptance happening. My wise grandmother says, "Somethings just ARE."

Thank you, Haiti for forever changing me.


  1. I really enjoy your insight Lindsay. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  2. You may enjoy this blog about a midwife working in Haiti: The woman who wrote this owns the birth center in Portland, Oregon, Andaluz Waterbirth Center, where I birthed my last two babies. God Bless you, Lindsay! - Stacy

  3. I have two sections bookmarked in "Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness" and I've thought of them a lot this winter. (Sorry if this is too long...) "Not only should we wish the weather to be as it is because God made it so, but, whatever inconvenience it may cause us, we should repeat with the three youths in the fiery furnace, "Cold, heat, snow and ice, lightnings and clouds, winds and tempests, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him above all forever." The elements themselves are blessing and glorifying God by doing His holy will, and we should also bless and glorify Him in the same way."(p.47)

    Every time I'm tempted to complain about little things: "...these are not occasions for practicing heroic virtue, but they can be the means of acquiring it if we wish. If we were careful to offer all these petty annoyances to God and accept them as being ordered by His providence we would soon be in a position to support the greatest misfortunes that can happen to us, besides at the same time insensibly drawing closer to intimate union with God." (p. 106) WOW!

    This is SUCH a great little book and I think it is still available to read on-line.

  4. I need this post this past summer when it was 100 plus for two months...I was in the first tri-mester with no energy...and my husband was deployed and I was taking care of our three boys by myself...