My wife and son returned early this morning – like 2:30 am – from a week in Port au Prince Haiti. They had been visiting my step daughter who has been there the past nine months involved with the post-earthquake efforts of a wonderful group called Grass Roots United. Made up entirely of volunteers who actually pay a small fee for food and a tent to sleep in, their efforts are helping the locals to move forward with their lives.
While there, my wife noticed that in the midst of all the dirt and squalor (Haiti is the third poorest country in the world), despite the dust that quickly coats feet and clothing and the trash that buries neighborhoods, the individual Haitians are remarkably neat and clean. And their tiny single room “houses” are spotlessly maintained on the inside. This effort at cleanliness in a filthy world is perhaps the single aspect of their life that remains within their control. Unable to fight mother-nature and awaiting the promised funds contributed by well-wishers around the world but tied up in politics and graft all too common in the local government, their personal appearance remains a symbol of an unwillingness to surrender and an deeply ingrained pride in being Haitian.
It puts things in perspective – so much is taken for granted in our world of plenty. The struggles of retirement and affording retired life and getting old are real and similar to the harsh realities of Haiti, unavoidable. But is it possible for us senior citizens to dig deep and find a pride and strength similar to the Caribbean folks?
Walking home from the gym a few days ago enjoying the sunshine I passed an elderly gentleman who was leaning against his car. We made eye contact and I smiled and said what a beautiful day it was. His response was “they’re all beautiful”.
That really hit home with me. Each day is beautiful – a one-time-only event. Despite the dust and dirt, aside from the aches and pains, the sun will come up (except in Seattle) and life will go on its merry way. We can find something in every day that is beautiful whether that shining sun or a rolling wave, a smile from a passerby or a brief howdy as you pass on the street. A little thing or a big thing as long as it is something.
I cannot begin to imagine the strength it takes to go on living in an environment like Haiti – I bitch and moan when the spring temperature drops below 60 degrees!
But I can admire, respect, and in my own small way will try to incorporate a bit of their spirit in my life. And be thankful to those who are willing to give up their creature comforts to help others in need.