A few weeks ago, I told a friend of mine that I miss playing soccer; she invited me to play with her and her friends soon. Last Wednesday, I showed up at her house ready to play a pick-up game. As we were walking down the street, I was just about to ask her how often she plays with these friends when we all of the sudden, we walked into someone’s yard to an entire team of girls carbo loading on Haitian spaghetti. They offered me spaghetti and water and passed me a uniform and cleats to put on. One by one, three young guys showed up dressed super nicely (one even had a bow tie on!) and I realized they were our coaches. They explained that we were in a tournament and this was the quarter final game. Then, they made everyone go around and say something as a kind of pre-game speech. I was still taking this all in and also barely understanding what was being said, so I said “thanks for letting me play with you guys today!”
Then, all of us were paired with a little kid to hold hands with like they do in the World Cup. We walked out of the yard, down the street and around the corner, and stopped behind a white sheet. When we walked under the sheet, we were suddenly standing in a roped-off dirt field with at least 100 spectators spattered around the edges and on the surrounding roofs while music was blasting from huge speakers. While we warmed it up, it felt like every eye was on me and my white skin (no pressure or anything! Ha!). Before the game, they played the national anthem, and someone’s pig got loose. It was running around the starters and refs as they stood in the middle of the field for the national anthem. It was at this point that I wondered if I was actually dreaming. The game was 5v5 because it was such a small field. That being said, it was the smallest field I’ve ever played on and the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of. As I entered the field to sub for another player, the whole crowd cheered so loudly because the white girl was playing. Our team ended up winning 9-2 with some pretty crazy goals, including one where the girl kicked it backwards over her head to score. After the game, one of the biggest celebrations I’ve ever been a part of ensued, and the cheering went on for at least 20 minutes. We went back to the yard where we first met which is apparently the team’s home base, I turned in my jersey, and took a moto home, not believing what just happened. Just a casual Wednesday night in Haiti!
This week, we released a new jewelry collection that contained more than 15 pieces. This collection took so much work, starting back in January when we were looking for someone to hire to design it with some grant money we had received for this specific purpose. We ended up hiring Tori, an American was Kathy’s right hand for several years here and 2nd Story’s main designer, to work remotely on the designs and then come to Haiti after she finished to teach our makers. Since Tori’s departure from Haiti over 2 years ago, the company’s biggest hiring need has been a designer, but obviously that is a big expense. For now, Kathy is doing most of the designing, but wants to move out of that role eventually. I’m currently in the process of hiring an intern for us for the fall to complete another collection for us. They will also work remotely on the designs and then come to Haiti in December to teach them to our artisans. My hope is for us to be able to hire someone more permanently soon, possibly with some more grant money. I think if we’re able to step up the game on our designs, we will see a big return on that investment and hopefully be able to sustain a designer salary without grant money before too long. (Which, by the way, is also the hope for me. I hope that after fundraising my salary for this next year, the company will be able to afford to pay me starting next October. Always thinking about sustainability here, and what things are the most important for that sustainability to happen. I think that design and marketing are definitely those things for now.)
Anyway, releasing this collection was very exciting. 2nd Story hasn’t released new jewelry since before I started here last October. I genuinely love all of the pieces in this collection and equally love the photographs we have of it. When Becca was here, we did a shoot with it that we were really proud of, and we also sent the pieces to Clara, my photographer friend from Belmont who is doing product photography pro bono for us currently. I haven’t yet gotten all the pieces I want for my own closet, but am slowly but surely collecting them. Getting to be a part of a company that makes beautiful jewelry for the purpose of living wage job creation in Haiti is maybe the coolest thing I’ve ever done? Knowing the stories of the artisans who make these things, getting to partner with them to build something out of it, and then getting to wear these beautiful things proudly is one of the greatest joys of my life. Truly, how did I get so lucky?
As for a sales report, everyone has been back at work for 2 weeks now, but sales are still down below what they need to be. I was so happy when everyone was back at work, thinking that the rough times were over. But then when everyone got back, we sat together and talked about how hard it had been on them to be without work for 3 weeks. Moms talked about having to pay school fees soon and not knowing how they were going to do be able to do it. I realized that this 3 week furlough was going to take some time to come back from. That our typical work hard, love hard, laugh hard work culture might not feel the same right away. That these sorts of things have a big impact on people’s trust in their employer. That was all hard to swallow, but gave me all the more reason to keep working as hard as possible.
And then, this past week, after our sales didn’t meet the mark with our first week with everyone back, I had a moment of cracking under pressure when I just felt so responsible for our lack of sales and so fearful of what might happen if we can’t get them up (i.e. having to lay everyone off again). But here’s the reality that I have to remind myself of again and again: I walked into a situation of sales not being where they need to be, and I have not made it worse. I am doing my very best. I have been working so hard, have tried so many things, and still have a ton more things to try. I am not yet out of ideas or energy, and sure as heck am not yet out of passion. All that being said, I would still very much appreciate prayers as we head into the last quarter of the year. For new wholesale customers (at least one really big one!) and a growing retail following and most of all, trusting and following the Lord throughout it all.
Thus I find myself landing at something that continues to be a theme in my life: learning how to hold the “both ands”. So many things in life are not so much “either or” but are instead “both and”. For instance, in a matter of days- and often a matter of minutes- I feel both pure joy and deep grief (instead of either joy or grief.) I both love living here and truly miss so many things about life in the US. I both love the challenge of my job and am overwhelmed by it a lot of the time. I feel both fulfilled and drained, often in the same moment. Life here can be both extremely beautiful and unbelievably devastating. One day, I’m laughing at myself playing in a Haitian soccer tournament and the next I’m crying listening to mamas talk about how hard it’s going to be to pay to send their kids to school this year. Holding space for the “both ands” is not easy; most of the time it is frustrating and doesn’t make much sense. It’s easier for my brain to categorize into “either ors”. But accepting these “both ands” is vital to a life lived wisely, bravely, and fully. And I think it is in these :both ands” where we most clearly find the presence of God. Oh how grateful I am to be learning this “both and” dance here and now, in a place where I am given as much space and grace as I need as I figure it out.