Milly and I spent a week with them. They sing late into the night and play cards by the light of the moon with laughter filling the warm night air. Their songs were primarily giving praise to God.
So happy with frequent laughter they celebrated nightly their life and love for one another. ANTICIPATION is the central theme of their joy. They believe in the forthcoming promise of heaven. They are excited that God is their caring father. They look forward to the promise of the Gospel as proclaimed by the miracle-worker, Jesus.
The astounding and staggering truth that makes the joy of these people of Haiti so unbelievable is – THEY ARE THE POOREST PEOPLE ON EARTH. And so it is that Milly and I, along with all who visit this remote mountainous community in Northern Haiti called Ranquette, leave this Caribbean island almost not believing what they have witnessed - people with nothing of this world, joyfully celebrating the Divine promise of life in the next .
As with all of us “rich folks from the U.S.” going to Haiti to help those desperately impoverished, we end up leaving with a big knot on our heads – having been hit over the head with truth and reality; coming home having gained an understanding as to where happiness is found.
These people live in shacks, sleep on the ground, seek a handful of rice daily along with a piece of fruit, and experience in their midst frequent death from hunger and the absence of medications.
The most haunting and disturbing experience was seeing babies/children crying for food with parents remaining unmoved/unresponsive because this is the norm of daily life, hungry children with caring but helplessly poor parents. Yet these are the people who raise their voices in joy, anticipating heaven.
To wallow in wealth and abundance, creature comforts, the latest and greatest and indulging in endless possessions, amenities and entertainment – IS THE AMERICAN WAY!
Driven by greed, selfishness, pride and pleasure, so many of us we are a sorry, wayward and wretched people. To regain the image of the One in whose image we are made, a determined generosity toward those who are in need must be our commitment. Therein we too might experience that genuine Haitian joy. “I have come that your joy may be complete”. [John 15:11]
The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and retired professor of psychology. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.