At the beginning of the month I was marking off squares on heat resistant interlining for our potholders when I noticed that I had ran out of interlining at 6 ½ squares instead of the 7 there should have been room for. I had been tracing the squares with a piece of the interlining that was already cut—a very malleable and stretchy fabric—and it was stretched larger than the 6 square inches it should have been, causing me to trace larger squares and come up short on fabric. Once I retraced the squares with the original paper pattern, again I had enough room for the 7 squares that had been accounted for in the financial breakdown. Thank goodness I had decided to trace before cutting!
Immediately it struck me that this was such an image of what can happen in life when morals or regulations are measured against a faulty standard. Or in my Christian faith, I fall short when I compare my life to a standard other than biblical truth. It is so easy to cut corners in our integrity, character, firmness, and life principles just once or twice or a ½ inch here and there. But before we know it, each small compromise has compounded and we find ourselves noticeably short of where we should be. I only have enough room for 6 ½ squares instead of 7.
This happenstance was a timely reminder of the importance of measuring my thoughts, actions, and intentions against truth. Lately I have found myself a little weary and in situations where I would rather compromise than push through the uncomfortable interactions that need to happen to hold myself and others accountable. Almost two years into my time in Haiti, it is also easy to fall into a routine of flawed culture and norms. I’m starting to see cracks in my leadership threshold and I need to step it up in boldness if I want to get where I think I need to be going. I have a difficult time holding people accountable, and I often doubt if I was clear in my instruction or I become too empathetic because I know the Haitian life is not an easy one.
I’ve also seen how easy it can be for me to pass things off and say “Oh, this is just how it’s done in Haiti,” or “You can’t help everyone.” And while culture and scarce resources need to be accounted for, I need to start paying more attention to what pattern or standard I’m using to make my decisions. Am I relying upon what I know to be just and true? Or am I succumbing to faulty norms because it is ‘easier’ and stops the conviction when I don’t say or do anything?
I most struggle with this when people come up to us and ask for food, jobs, or money. While some people are obviously just trying to take advantage of the foreigners, often it comes from a place of genuine suffering. It’s all too easy for me to say I don’t have anything instead of taking the time to walk with the momma to go buy some food for her kiddos in the market with the spare gourdes I have in my pouch. It’s easier for me to justify not sharing what I have because I don’t have easy access to more—when Haitian families give and take in times of great need like we are experiencing now.
Unfortunately these situations do not have black and white or easy answers. The solutions are as diverse as the many excuses I’ve made to not boldly lead or become uncomfortable in truly assisting and loving someone. As I continue in Haiti and in life I’m praying for discernment to choose the right pattern to cut my decisions from, regardless of cultural or organizational norms and standards.
April was a blur with good times, hard times, and lots of learning in between! Sewing lessons continued, the chicken coop is surviving but not yet thriving, and my little car lives to see another month with some TLC and the help of gracious coworkers!!
In the sewing realm, we had the completion of our first school uniform example made by a Trouforban seamstress—lots of adjustments to be made but it’s a start in the right direction towards getting the capital from school uniform purchases flowing through Haitian markets!! The Alex’s House young ladies also continue to take sewing lessons and began the process of learning to make a pleated school uniform skirt. We also set up private sewing lessons in one of our partnering villages between two business leaders—one who is a long-time seamster and a younger man without a job.
Our potholder sewing group continued to meet and make improvements in their skill and design. Some of the ladies are picking up the project faster than others, so I’m looking around for other simple but useful projects to teach the ladies for whom sewing does not come naturally. So far we have a prototype of an aluminum cuff made locally in Gonaïves that could be stamped and personalized. Our fav Haitian social enterprise 2nd Story Goods and Ms. Olivia Hosey are helping me make this happen!
For the chicken coop, my sassy ladies continue to give us fits with low egg numbers and a few more have died with old age being the likely cause. As our employee says when asked if there are any odd/sick behaviors, the (dead) chicken eat and drink and then they die by morning. We are working to sell the older chickens to partially recoup the cost of new chickens. In May I plan to get serious in making decisions for the future of the coop regarding meat or egg chickens.
In addition to new sewing projects and chicken coop changes, there are a few conversations in the works regarding business training and micro loans. I am continuing to work with a few of our partnering villages’ business leaders to craft a plan that works for their people.
- Forever confused on the difference between Haitian cultural parenting styles and bad parenting in general—and when is it okay for me to speak up? I want to respect my place as a foreigner in their land, but I just can’t be quiet when I witness the poor treatment of sweet kiddos.
- The father of a young lady who I’ve been working with in sewing made an unnecessary comment telling her to have the “blan” pay for minutes on his phone since we’ve been working together with other things. It’s also always heart-crushing when someone tells you that their parents asked if we could take them into our children’s home—needless to say, this father is not my favorite person right now but I’ll continue to love his daughter none the less.
- We had a few people come visit who are trying to start a children’s home. Splendid people, but the stories they shared of what is happening to the unwanted babies in their area is horrifying.
- Haiti continued to struggle with gasoline throughout April. Rumor has it that the gas is/was sitting off shore but the government did not have the USD to pay for it. This greatly restricted our movements at the beginning of April and caused some interesting situations syphoning gas out of non-essential vehicles and waiting in line for hours at the local gas station to fill up. I’m forever thankful for our local staff who continue to help us navigate these tough situations. It was also fun to revisit my tap tap (public transportation- covered pickup trucks) riding days to save the gas!
- A nice lunch shared with Fre Jean Claude in PaP—and the first avocado I’d had in a long time!!
- Visiting Ganaud’s future fish farm in Montrious and the gorgeous scenery along the way. He wants to use this plot of land to teach local young people to farm fish and certain harvestable plants while investing in their character and future thinking. He is an awesome job creator and change maker in Haiti!!
- Going to a local restaurant/job creation project to watch the Final Four.
- Revisiting my basketball days to play with some of the Alex’s House boys
- An evening at a local beach to celebrate Ganaud’s birthday with good food and greater friends
- Helping carry water via my head with a local family. This is probably my favorite memory so far even though it soaked my freshly washed hair and dried curls. Life shared with the local women is something I need to make sure I do more of. How can I ever understand what solutions are possible if I’m unaware of the problems?
Learning to maintain a vehicle in Haiti is forever fun! April brought us a broken muffler/exhaust pipe that needed to be melted back onto the car, a torn serpentine belt, issues with spark plugs, and many other fun things :). My favorite was when the front license plate was ripped off by a moto driver who got too close in the line for gasoline. I’m grateful for generous co-workers and local mechanics who can put the car back together.
Orevwa, April. And bring it on, May! Here’s to wisely choosing patterns for new projects and asking the hard questions to improve old ones.