This summer, being away from Haiti, I was struck with the thought of how different our American lives are from the lives we lead in Haiti. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of dirty (and often times not running) water, bugs, disease…and all of the other various things that the developing world have to offer. I remembered the vodou drums that were played often times through the night and the scorching heat. And oh man, those barking dogs at all hours of the night. Before I boarded the plane, I thought to myself How will I ever reconcile these two lives? I remember, just a handful of days ago, feeling extremely overwhelmed that my American mind would never be able to fully comprehend what was going on in Haiti- even now with a few years of experience of the back and forth.
This week, however, my eyes have been opened and my heart reminded of the common threads that bind us all.
We started the week off by hosting a women’s conference we had been planning for months. It was a time where moms in the community could come together to learn, be encouraged and share without fear of judgement. When we started, some of the same thoughts were echoing in my heart What could any American mom have in common with these women? I wondered as I listened to a good American friend of mine shared from her heart. Luckily, it did not take long for me to see the common theme:
Life is hard; God is good.
As I listened to woman after woman, I realized that they struggle with many things I struggle with “I don’t want to get angry with my family, but I don’t know how to deal with how I feel” someone said. Another confessed “I worry that I put too much time focusing on working and daily tasks that I am not able to bond and connect with my family.” Each woman shared and time after time I realized and remembered that women all over the world feel the same way. Parents want to protect their children. Mommas and Daddies want to provide the very best they can for their kids. Women are searching for validation and respect from their communities. People want to do right by their families and friends…and they want to know how God fits into all of their daily struggles.
My heart pounded hard in my chest when they shared that they just want to know that the God we talk about on Sunday is the God who is with them when they are struggling to keep their emotions in check, when they are searching for meaning in their lives and when they are dealing with incredible loss.
All I could think was Me too, sister.
And this is the beauty of the cross-cultural encounter. It is the beauty of jumping in, unsure of where the tide might lead, but certain that it will ebb and flow as it should. We realize we are all just broken, searching people in need of a loving and present God.
We all wake up in the morning, hoping to eat a bit before heading out to do our day’s work. We all get sad when the seasons change and it becomes time to do something new. We all question if we are on the right path and doubt when things get tough. We all want to eat a little better, work a little harder and love a little deeper. All children fall asleep in their parents arms-whether they are in a well painted and lit nursery with tons of new gadgets and toys or whether it is in the bottom floor of a concrete house without any electricity. We all want access to basic human rights and get saddened when we can’t do more to help ourselves and our communities. And truly, we all need Jesus.
I have been reminded of this common thread, this common breath. Being back in Haiti reminds me that I am home and not home all at the same time. It reminds me that we are all searching for that higher ground, that better place. We are always home and somehow homesick all at the same time. We are right where we need to be and also so far from where we could end up.
I realized, too, through the thinking through of these things, that we are still just walking, day by day, bit by bit, on this road-well paved, dirt or gravel. This week I was reminded that we are very fortunate when we take time to look up from our struggles, especially those we feel isolated and lonely with, and notice that we have a few people walking alongside us. No, we aren’t alone in our struggles after all.