I closed my eyes and sighed. The plane was full of monsters. Bright orange monsters overfilling their seats and the plane with noise, girth, disrespect, and lots of camo.
“Mare-see?? Speak english! We can’t understand you! Yuk Yuk!”
“College? We’re rednecks! [Back slap] We don’t need college!”
“I’m preaching the word in that village tonight, right?! Alright!”
I scooted closer to Greta in her window seat to put as much distance as possible between me and the mission team sitting in front, behind, across and next to me. Their shirts said Agape Jesus Love in comic sans font. I never felt more sophisticated in my life. Sigh.
We all left the plane in order and went down the short hallway to immigration. All the orange shirts were in front of me. They were so loud. I’d been up since 3:45am.
Me: “What brings you to Haiti?”
Orange: “It’s my 5th trip. I love it here. We’re here to help folks in the North. We’re gonna teach ’em how to plant food. We brought seeds last time, but they just threw ’em on the ground and nothin’ happened. This time we brought more seeds. We’re going to try again. Teach ’em how to prep the land, plant the seeds, and grow ’em. I hope it works. We got 10 days.”
Me: “I hope that goes well.”
Orange: “What are you doing here?
Me: “We’re visiting friends.”
Orange: “What do they do?”
Me: “They help run Haiti Partners. It’s a great organization that equips and empowers Haitians to bring change to their own country.”
Orange: “So what are you going to do here?”
Me: “I guess I’m just listening and learning.”
Greta and I visited, hugged, and Chicken Danced the two short days we were in Haiti. Then we were back at the airport, waiting to board our plane home. Behind us a man was shouting in English and broken Creole to a timid Haitian. I didn’t turn around but I imagined he looked like Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazard and was up to no good. I scratched Greta’s back and kept wincing as Boss and his wife badgered this trapped man. Sigh.
The whole gate soon knew that the Haitian was going to America for the first time to join his family in Boston. He had no money, “Ya got no money?!” and knew no english “Ya don’t know English?!” Boss offered to help him get to immigration, buy him a meal at the Miami airport, and then help him get to his next flight. Hmm. Maybe he wasn’t so bad.
Boss Hogg ended up looking like Kevin Costner. In Miami I watched his wife lead the timid Haitian to the door where he would do immigration alone.
Me: You are very generous.
Boss: That poor guy’s going to get eaten alive. I feel I just got to do what I can to get him off to a good start here.
Greta and I had 5 more hours at the Miami Dade International Airport. Our gate was changed four times, there was a fire in the terminal, and lightening grounded our plane. We were tired.
We finally got on our plane and no one was in our third seat. I imagined making Greta a little nest to sleep. I felt nurturing and generous. Then a haggard mom rushed on the plane with 3 big overflowing bags and a poopy toddler. She took the seat next to me. She spoke no English and had a runny nose. I no longer felt nurturing or generous. Sigh.
At baggage claim in Atlanta I was dragging Greta around, Weekend at Bernie’s style. She was sobbing with exhaustion and kicked me in the stomach. Across the way, the other mom from our row was wrangling her toddler. We were the same, just two moms trying to get home. I was filled with shame. I had offered no love or compassion to her.
Me: [no greeting or smile]
Mom: [holds toddler with one arm trying to do seatbelt and bags with other]
Me: [lean closer to Greta to watch movie]
Mom: [whispers lullabies to toddler]
I saw my hard, selfish, judgmental heart.
That Orange Shirt team was loving Haiti with seeds and passion. They took off work for 10 days to love and teach people. I went for two days and wore a chicken costume.
Boss Hogg wasn’t trying to tune out and recover at the airport like me. He was in full-helper mode, trying to protect a lamb from wolves.
The airplane mom appeared to have considerably less resources than me. She held a squirming toddler tight in her arms for 3 hours. I never heard her sigh or complain.
And then there are the people that actually move to Haiti, to learn, love, and live there. There is no comparison.
I didn’t think I was an Ugly American. I thought my heart was soft and willing and surrendered. I was all loving and generous up on that mountain in Haiti. But trapped in tight spaces I was all selfish sighs and quick judgements. Forgive me, Lord.
I am unfolding the idea of Surrender throughout the month of October.
Yesterday’s story of Surrender: The Haiti Chicken Dance
To read more about our shared spiritual journey and questions, you can read here: Soul
You are loved.
© Aimee Fritz and Family Compassion Focus, 2015.