I doubt you remember me. We met seven months ago when I was in the Dominican Republic with World Vision. I came to your home and we chatted on your shack’s front porch for nearly an hour. I didn’t say much. Mostly I just listened to you talk about the hell you and your family had been through because of the earthquake in Haiti.
Believe it or not, your family’s faces and stories have crossed my mind a good bit since our meeting in May. I think about you losing everything you owned. I think about the relatives you lost or haven’t heard from since the quake hit. I think about the stress you must feel when you think about providing for your wife and six kids. I think about what you must feel living in a teeny-tiny shed among thousands of other Haitian refugees. I think about a lot of things…
Of course, since I’m American and prone to personalizing other people’s devastation, usually those thoughts eventually lead me to try and imagine myself in your situation. Shallow? Probably. But also humbling. Because chances are, I’d feel miserable if I was forced to live in the conditions that you and your family endure every day. Unlike you, I would probably be clinically depressed and on medication. I’d struggle to dream about the future. I’d struggle to lift myself out of my own self-pity. I most definitely wouldn’t be able to smile as much as you smiled.
And I’m pretty sure I’d struggle to “praise God for all of my blessings” like you.
But that’s what you did. Over and over again you noted emphatically how God had performed “this miracle” and “protected you from” other happenings and “graced” you and yours with “small blessing.”
I marveled at your ability to “see God” amid such tragedy and loss.
I’m not sure I could do the same. I didn’t lose anything in the earthquake and still I’m inclined to wonder why on earth God didn’t perform a miracle and prevent the earthquake from happening in the first place.
So how are you doing, Romeo? Have you found work yet? Have you been able to move back home? Or are you planning to stay in Dominican Republic? Any news about your missing family members? Your missing friends? And how’s your wife doing? She didn’t say much during our conversation and I couldn’t tell if her silence was because of strength and determination or because of worry and uncertainty.
And how are your kids, Romeo? Are they healthy? Have they been able to get back into school yet? I hope they haven’t lost their infectious grins. Such spirit your kids possessed. Amid the barren conditions surrounding them, they were such light and beauty. I hope time hasn’t faded that.
I pray for you. That sounds trite, I’m sure. Or maybe it only sounds trite to me. But for what it’s worth, I do pray for you. Despite my doubt, I ask God to sprout up hope in the midst of such earthly terror and destruction.
Romeo, despite our conversation that day affecting me deeply, I doubt it did anything to change you or the conditions you experience. But know this, Romeo: I heard you. I heard your story. And I promised you that I would retell your story.
And I will continue to share it with anybody who will listen.
I will teach your story to my children.
I will write your story into books and blog posts.
And I will continue to let your story affect my own.
Thank you for sharing a part of yourself with me…