Thirty of us are packed into the truck bed as we drive to our destination. (Words fail me when it comes to Haitian driving. There are next to no stoplights or stop signs. The drivers simply honk or swerve or speed up or put on the brakes--and somehow it all works.)
We pull into the Tent City.
It shouldn't really be a city at all. But it is. The earthquake in Haiti was three years ago, yet these people are still living in makeshift shacks and tents packed more tightly together than we are in the truck.
No running water, no sewage, no electricity.
For thirty thousand people.
This is their town. This is their home. These people just like us.
The kids swarm around, smiling and laughing and teasing. They know our mission t-shirts from the past missions that come down every two months. They trust those t-shirts, and they are hoping for good things. Candy, toys, clothing, crafts, hugs, and hope.
Love transcends language. The Haitians become my friends in a way I could never have imagined. We communicated in ways beyond the broken phrases we spoke in each others' languages.
One of the days I get to visit the medical clinic that comes to the tent city. A Haitian nurse practitioner takes me under her wing. She shares her story (oh, how I love to hear one's story...every Haitian has a story...every soul has a story). Her childhood in Haiti, her education in America, her desire to come back to Haiti and serve.
The medical supplies are so limited. I watch 125 people wait in and around a one-room schoolhouse. They take a number. And they wait. Hours. For the most basic of medical care. And here in America, we complain if we are 20 minutes late getting to a room in the doctor's office. These people are waiting hours for an antibiotic. Or a pregnancy test. Or a thermometer.
I hold a toddler wandering around. She snuggles close. I keep watching for her mother and asking those around me, "Tu bebe?" but no one answers. Finally I find her mom but she gestures for me to keep holding the baby. I don't know her story. Maybe she has five others at home she can barely feed. But we smile at each other and that bridges the gap.
It's hot and crowded in here. I see so many faces, so many beautiful dark faces with so many emotions...fear, pride, hope, resignation, gratitude.
I can't stop contrasting it to our healthcare system in America. How unequal things are...yet the people, we're all so equal in dignity as God's creation...
A teen boy is tested for HIV and AIDS. I watch the nurse's face fall. She looks at me with sadness in her eyes as she tells me it's positive. She takes him aside and talks with him in Creole. I watch him strut through the schoolhouse, a lanky teenage boy with the cocky confidence that covers their insecurities at that age, that covers the truth he's just learned. The other men laugh and tease jovially with him, not knowing anything. But I know. I know his world has been turned upside down.
And my heart just keeps breaking.