Today I am thankful for friends. Real, true, forever friends.
We've talked about Monia and Mackenson before. But today I just want to spell out my gratitude. I want to share with the world what their friendship means to Jenn and I.
When we drive through the village toward their house we practically jump out of the car before it rolls to a stop. Well...I guess that depends on who's driving. We don't both jump out at the same time. That'd be dangerous. Usually Jenn drives, but she let me drive today...says I need to "practice." So today, she made it to the door first. We sort of knock/sort of just bust on in, climb up on the family bed and catch up where we left off. We don't congregate on the bed because that's the only place to sit, which is often the case in some Haitian homes. We congregate on the bed because it's comfortable, because that's where the Bible is and that's where the baby is lying. The four of us congregate around the baby. We watch him sleep and talk about life. Do you have friends like that? It's priceless.
Mackenson is a philosopher. A dreamer and a thinker. And a hard worker. Just today he showed us a portion of clairen processing plant he is building on his grandfather's land. It's been two years in the making. He spent years learning and perfecting the art of making rum in other people's plants and he aspired to have his one of his own. He calculated the costs and the benefits. He knew it would take time to pay for all the equipment but he knew it would be worth it in the end. On the trek to the back of the property we passed his aunt's house, his mom's house, and saw 3 of his 7 sisters, all family members he'll be able to support through this work. As it is now, his plant can't take a stock of sugar cane through the whole process. A portion of the work he still needs to do on other people's machinery. But he is able to take “sugar cane water” and turn it into rum. He is so proud to be able make the inaugural batch of clairen in his plant this week. We're proud of him too.
He's smart. Incredibly smart. They both are. Mackenson loves to recall all the Spanish he learned when he and Monia spent a month in the Dominican due to Marck's heath. He speaks with a vast vocabulary often using french words and mixing in all the English words he's acquired. He and Monia each have just a high school education, which in Haiti is a remarkable accomplishment. But they speak as though they still remember everything they learned in high school, from chemistry to history to grammar. It’s incredible. They valued they're education that much.
Monia is a friend. A friend and a Christ follower. I don't know how else to describe her. She loves Him and she knows that He loves her. She genuinely wants everyone else to experience that love as well. She just radiates Him. She has a beautiful voice and when she sings you'd thing the heavens were going to fall from the sky and that Jesus would appear and pull up a chair just to be close to her praises. She used to sing when Marck’s stats would drop, when he was just barely breathing. I was convinced her singing alone is what was keeping him alive. We talked about how she misses Marck and how she will never forget him. She shared that she is reading the Bible alot. It makes sense. God promises to get us through the tough times. He promises to fill us with joy and peace.
It's hard to go a whole week without visiting Monia and Makenson. So we talk on the phone at least every other day.
Talking on the phone in Haiti is a phenomenon I feel like I could write a whole post about. I remember the first time I received a "random" phone call. I wasn't sure how to handle a phone call with no objective.
(who are you and how do you know my name?)… “Hi?”
How are you?
(why are you asking?)... “Good?”
I'm happy to hear that. And your family?
(you’ve never met my family!)…“They're also doing well. Thanks?”
Good. Ok then, have a good day.
“Ok, Thanks? Bye?”
Here people you may meet just once, if they like you, will ask you for your telephone number. If you like them back you give it to them, expecting never to here from them again. And that's where you're wrong! They will call, they do call! People in Haiti check up on each other. Life is fragile. You never know what might happen in a week or a month's time. So you save a phone number for anyone and everyone you care about and if you happen to have enough credit on your telephone, you call.
I didn't understand this way of thinking at first but I find that I've adopted this habit in full force. I realize now that these seemingly meaningless phone calls are not meaningless at all. I find myself whipping out the cell phone as soon as a friend comes to mind that I haven't heard from. When you haven't heard from someone in a few weeks it’s easy to imagine the worst. Are they okay? Was there a death in the family? Are they ill? In the hospital?
It's important to check in. It's important to keep tabs on the people you love, the people you like, and even those you've only met once. For example, we have a police officer, a taxi driver, a school principal and a wide assortment of friends that call regularly just to say hello.
Yesterday, I held a training session for a small group of nurses. On the drive to the hospital we climbed a mountain and traversed five rivers. (That might be an exaggeration, we may have intersected the same river five times...but five rivers makes the journey sound more extreme.) At any rate the road is steep and dangerous. Later that evening I looked down at my phone to see an incoming call from a number I didn't know. It was one of the nurses calling to see that I made it down the mountain safely. To say that these sorts of gestures don't still catch me off guard would be a lie.
I still smile when I recall the pure joy I heard in the voice of a Haitian nurse just the other day. We were meeting when another nurse ran into the office and put a cell phone to her ear. It was obvious this call was an important one. She spoke to the person on the other end with such love and care. "I've been trying to call you," she said. "I'm so happy to hear your voice." I'm so happy to hear that you are alive and well.
These phone calls just seem so sweet and so unique to the DNA of Haitian culture.
Or, maybe y'all are thinking I'm extremely rude for never having called to check in with the security guard at the LA airport?
If that's the case then it looks like I've been behind the ball in terms of manners. I'll have to admit that back in America I didn't used to call the attendant at the local car rental facility. But I do now. Which reminds me, she's due to have a baby soon...
It seems so different here. Life is so much more of a gamble. Death so much more real. Funerals, so much more frequent.
But Life is Life, And People are People.
Call someone you love today…even if your Facebook feed tells you they’re alive and well. Ask a long lost cousin how's she's doing or where he's been in. Call your pharmacist or the receptionist at the vet. Tell someone "I'm happy to hear your voice." Maybe they'll be inspired to do the same. :)