I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.
~George Bernard Shaw
Giving Back In A Time of Need
It is easy to help others when a crisis has occurred. Or, better yet while it is still fresh. We seem to have no problem texting a $10 donation to the Red Cross or other various charities poised to lead the charge. While the news reels are still hot with destruction, devastation and loss we are ready to jump in and take it on!
But after the news clips have been recycled too many times and the media has pulled out its corresponders, then what? Well we did our part, right? Said some prayers. Lifted folks up in our thoughts. Posted status updates to show our support. Even sent some cash to help out.
This is something that is hard for even myself – Why is it so easy to forget the tragedy? Is it our own schedules that must resume? Perhaps. Is it that we feel we’ve done our best and there is nothing else to do? It’s in the hands of the professionals now.
None of these are wrong answers per se but why does our giving of service, time or energy have to come to such a screeching halt?
In Haiti, like most third world countries, the needs are overwhelming. You can’t stick a band-aid on a hemorrhaging wound and expect it to make a difference. For instance, implementing a strategy for a utility system that functions won’t help when there is little to no infrastructure to make the other parts work. While you are there it isn’t about implementing your American way of doing something but rather to change the course of a life through love and service.
Giving love is free. It requires some energy because there is action involved to live it out. So we really have no excuse!
The Greater Give Back
Here is another Haiti story from the September 2011 trip showcasing the greater give back in my opinion – serving our neighbors in need despite our own.
The father of the house that I built in the Grand Sauvon, Ouest, Haiti, had been sheltering his family in a glorified lean-to for 18 months. It consisted of scrap metal walls and a tarp for a roof. He and his wife had lost children in the earthquake and there were 9 remaining that lived at home. This shelter had a dirt floor with ruts hollowed out where each of the children slept. When it rained, the water ran down into the floor and became mud – where the children slept. The parents had salvaged their bed from their destroyed home. The space was 9×9 roughly. About the size of some of our walk-in closets.
They were a happy family who had amazing spirits about them and gorgeous smiles. The father left early every morning before we even arrived on site. He farmed and helped his neighbors with their land too. His wife was grateful every day we were there, finding kind ways to let us know despite the language barrier. [If you ever question the power of a smile, try it with someone who doesn’t speak English and get back to me on that! It translates!]
The day of the house dedication, we passed the father about 2 miles from his house trudging down the road the opposite direction from where we were headed. We were a little surprised as he recognized us, smiled, waved and kept on walking. We dedicated the first of the three houses built that week and then went on to his house. Just as we are beginning to start, here he comes down the trail on the back of a motorcycle just in the nick of time.
His part of the dedication was so moving. He didn’t want to focus on his losses from the earthquake. He just wanted to thank such a gracious God for bringing us all together and providing his family with a home. His children would not have to sleep in the mud any longer. His prayers had been answered.
If that wasn’t moving enough, we asked where he had been that morning. He had gone to help a neighbor build his home since he had time that morning before the dedication.
His own were in the mud in a lean-to. He had people to help his family. So he chose to take his time and physical energy to give away to another in need. Can we say we would do the same?
The greater give back is loving others despite our own situation or theirs. Be a grace giver. Be a lover of people. Be the Light.