It can be quite startling and often disturbing (as it should be) when you get a glimpse of the monster in the mirror. This “monster” may be bitterness, anger, irritation, pride, resentment… and the list can go on and on, but whatever it is, it seems to come from a deep hidden part of the heart that is deceptively concealed behind all the nice and pleasant characteristics and then presents itself in an unexpected moment.
Over the last year and a half it seems like I have faced this monster more than I would like to admit, more than the rest of my life put together. Feelings that I didn’t know I could harbor have surfaced. Feelings that are normally attributed to violent people crop up making me reconsider who I really am and causes me to wonder what damage I am actually capable carrying out.
As I have come to serve people specifically here in Haiti for this time period of my life I have realized that I am not as kind of a person that I thought I was. I am not as loving or giving as I could be. I am not nearly as quick to serve as I should be when I am faced with someone else’s comfort over my own. I am not as gentle or sincere as is necessary to connect with others. We came to Haiti to make a difference and to help people, but I have found that I am faced with a dilemma. I don’t love people the way I should.
A couple days ago I was faced with this reality on a more personal level, and it hurt to see how callous I can be. A few months back I had employed a few teenage boys to help pick up trash around the hospital and do some grunt work for a couple days. Most of them worked half-heartedly and showed up late, so I tried to teach them some work ethic since most of them had probably never done much work in their lives. I had given my phone number to one of the boys, Ezekiel, who worked every day and he would randomly call to see if I had any work for him.
A few days ago Ezekiel called me again. I didn’t pick up the phone as there are several of the boys that call several times a week and I just couldn’t be bothered by them at the moment. It took too much effort to try and understand them over the phone and so I just ignored it. Besides, I was busy. I was in the middle of a project that I have been putting off for months--putting a slideshow together to raise awareness about the needs of the hospital and all it’s hurting people. In fact, I had just typed into the google search bar “songs that talk about people in need” to go along with the picture presentation when Ezekiel called for about the 5th time. I finally answered simply so he would stop calling and cryptically answered “bonjour.”
He only speaks creole but I was able to make out from his pitiful tone and a few words here and there that he was hungry. I felt bad, but practically everyone is hungry here. Just because he calls doesn’t mean that I need to respond, or does it? I honestly didn’t want to give him money and all the food that I had needed to be cooked so I just wanted to say that I couldn’t help him, but I could if I stopped what I was doing. If I really wanted to I could take 5 minutes out of my day and find something for him. Then the irony hit me. Here I was trying to put together a presentation for people in America to get them to help, and here I was with a young boy right in front of me that I was about ready to brush off simply because I couldn’t be bothered.
I found a coupon for him to get bread at the market and ended up finding 50 gourdes (just over $1) so he could buy a lunch. I was still annoyed at this point, although now the annoyance was equally distributed between being bothered about being interrupted and annoyed at my heartless attitude. Through it all even though I knew it was probably the right thing to do, I didn’t just automatically react in love. Even after I decided I would help him I didn’t spontaneously have love bubbling out of me. Even when I gave him the small gift it took everything I had to try and be understanding and take the extra time to connect with him, rather than rushing to give it to him and move on.
I ended up helping him, but it was probably more out of a guilty conscious than genuine love and well-being for his health. I know that I can’t give food and money to every single person that needs it, but no matter what happens or who I encounter I want my first reaction to be love. I realized how heartless I can be to someone in need, and I didn’t like my reaction. I also realized that I can’t just muster love up. I can pretend, but to have the genuine thing…that is a gift. A gift that truly only comes from God, because God is Love. I want that love. I need that love to transform my life.
Thankfully God promises to give us this gift of love and to remove our stony heart and replace it with his lovely Spirit. Thanks be to God! There is hope!
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
Notice another irony: the text is found in the book of Ezekiel.