This prayer has been on my mind a lot recently. Growing up, these words were plastered throughout the walls of both of my grandmothers' homes. Both women were devout Catholics until the day they died. I remember getting older and thinking, wow, what a powerful prayer, but I have no idea what it means. I knew it had to be pretty significant though, if two of the most important women in my life had gone to such great lengths to make it visible at every turn. I mean it had to mean something, right? Perhaps at that time, I hadn't yet endured any real hardship, or maybe I had, and I just didn't have a name for it.
But my time in Haiti has been hard.
I've never once let anyone in on the full details of my time here. I'm a private person. And when I do share, I like to keep it positive, because if we didn't, it's easy for all the hard experiences to eat away at you.
I'm fully aware that I live in a place with many challenges. I didn't sign on thinking this would be easy.
Weather, food security, foreign relations, and the political climate are just a few of the many factors that make the events of tomorrow, a complete and total mystery.
Just this year, Haitians have been profoundly affected by the election delay, the election protests, and the election do-over, the marked depreciation of the local currency, mass deportations from the Dominican Republic, a drought that threatened food security, the rains that threatened food security, and the hurricane that obliterated food security while killing thousands, the entry of Zika, the spread of cholera, a six-month hospital strike, and mass flooding...just to name a few.
These events don't just impact the type of news stories you hear in the morning, they impact whether people will eat or go hungry, go to work or attend a funeral, travel and risk violence or stay home and risk loss of commerce, get the medical care they need and live, or...
Herode, our Operations Manager, may have said it best. While processing a recent loss, he said simply: "People die easily."
I'm afraid I've seen that first hand.
I've never told you how many bodies I've buried and I've never mentioned the countless decisions I've had to make that affect people in life or death situations. My educational background didn't prepare me for this and I certainly don't have the right degree. But for this, who does?
This week we lost a staff member to cholera. This was the first death we've experienced as a staff. And while I think all my staff members are special, this one had a special place in my heart.
This is Woody.
Woody worked at Second Mile for nearly three years, but he wasn't exactly a "staff member" for that long.
We partner with an organization called StreetHearts. This organization takes kids who have come from rough places, and they give them housing, education, and job opportunities. StreetHearts has been working in Cap-Haitien for four years and to the StreetHearts family, Woody was "an original."
When Woody and some of the other older boys turned 18, Streethearts wanted to do something to help them gain independence. They proposed a workforce program where Streethearts would sponsor a few of their "kids" to help us in the gardens. The teenagers and young men were interns, but this was a full-on job. They were expected to be at work from Monday - Friday, 8 am - 4 pm. Woody was just 18 when he started and good heavens, that kid couldn't show up to work on time if his life depended on it! Once he was even suspended from the program for theft. It was tough transition for many of them.
Over the past three years he's been working in the gardens under Joseph's supervision, alongside Wesley and Jean-Marie, the goats and the cows and the bees, and four of his best friends.
My staff poured a lot of energy into this kid. Woody came a long way in three years. After the first year, Woody and his best friend were able to rent an apartment together. He started showing up on time. He started missing work less. There were ups and downs, and of course, Woody was given many chances but he proved himself trustworthy and reliable. He was there and we needed him.
When we decided to hire one of the "young men" as our staff calls them, Woody was the obvious choice. This was his first month as a full-time employee.
This month he was supposed to be getting a bank account because as of November 30th, he would receive his first official paycheck from Second Mile. I'd even told him to work on getting his driver's license because we would need him to start driving moms from place to place. It took a village, but Woody made it. I couldn't be more proud of the StreetHearts workforce team and my staff and the way they worked together to get Woody to this point.
On Monday night, Woody died of cholera. It left us all in a state of shock. It happened so fast, and to such a strong person. Our staff is sad and shook up and I know that the entire StreetHearts family is feeling this loss. We all loved this kid and we were all so proud of him.
So today I take a moment and reflect on that mystifying prayer. I know I cannot change this, though I wish with everything in me, that I could. I can only remember that all we have is today, so today, I will work harder.
Today, will you think of our staff and the entire StreetHearts family and say a prayer for courage?
Woody, you will never be forgotten. Proud of you kiddo!