Three things happened within days of my lengthy R&R at the cabin that prompted today’s posting:
- A letter I wrote to myself on March 4, 2018 arrived in Monday’s mail,
- I ran across a journal entry titled “Post-Haiti Crazy Thoughts” that I’d written on March 6th–just after returning from my third mission trip, and
- Three of my teammates from that trip–Megan, Emily and Paige–came to dinner last night.
Why am I suddenly being pummeled with Haiti?
Knowing that there are no coincidences in this life, I started thinking that just maybe my “Post Haiti Crazy Thoughts” aren’t so crazy after all. Because it’s all still sitting right here on my heart, starting and ending with…
First-timers’ eyes were opened to it before we’d ever left the comfort of our suburban Twin Cities homes. But pictures and stories presented in training don’t paint the reality of a day in Cite Soleil, a different kind of burb in Port-Au-Prince. The heat and the poverty blast even seasoned go-ers within minutes of arrival in Haiti’s capital city.
Having pulled our hair back into ponytails and wrapping it with headbands or bandanas (the most basic method of managing Haiti Hair), we spent our first morning visiting and singing to deathly ill Haitian men and women. We rub their thin, dry limbs with lotion; we paint the women’s nails with whatever color of nail polish we happen to bring along, and they are grateful. Here at the Home for Sick and Dying Adults is where my personal style of Haiti Hair begins, curling into wispy, damp spirals that escape from my blue bandana and fall onto the back of my neck.
After a short drive to our next place of service, my hair has dried just enough to be caught up in its binder once more before we exit the tap-tap for an afternoon at one of the countless orphanages that populate the country. Within short order, a different kind of Haiti Hair emerges as I pull off my freshly sweated-through bandana and restraining binder, and dump my head over, letting my limp, fine hair fall where it may as I stand up again, sending teenage girls into gales of laughter and the biggest happy eyes and smiles I’ve ever seen before they take pity on me and take over.
Soon my flimsy, old-lady hair is pulled tightly up on top of my head in the tiniest ponytail imaginable—more binder than hair, really—a few strands sticking straight up that the leader of the group quickly covers with my bandana and calls it good. Hugs and smiles and then I move on. A little later, I pull that bandana off again to use it as the American cowboys had intended—a quick swipe across the face to clear off the dust and perspiration. But I’m too slow in putting it back: A 12 year old, her little sister and their friend who have become my boon companions open their eyes wide in shock before laughing uproariously at my very own version of Haiti Hair.
It’s different for my younger compatriots. On Day Two—Water Truck Day in Cite Soleil—long and not-so-long hair is stroked and braided over and over again by kiddos who love the smooth feel of white women’s hair. The little ones vie for attention, lashing out at others to secure their place on laps or backs or attached to legs…or whatever else they can hang on to. They cry when loving arms set them down to return to the work at hand—doling out and helping to carry desperately needed water into the metal shanties that are their homes, often no bigger than a typical bathroom back home.
By three or four in the afternoon, we are hot, tired, physically exhausted. We wrap up our day in the poorest slum of the western hemisphere and head back to our beautifully furnished and well-staffed guest house. We guzzle fresh, clean water that comes to us in bottles thanks to the Culligan Man. More water washes over our Haiti Hair from shower heads that never run dry.
But we are accustomed to more, so we walk to a nearby hotel where the swimming pool sparkles and drinks are served. We relax as we reminisce about our day of serving and our lives back in “the real world,” that place we know we’ll be returning to, and we are safe in that knowledge.
I watch Jenni pile Cindy’s thick, beautiful hair on top of her head, pushing and poufing until it turns into the perfect “messy bun.” Messy buns are a thing at home—a very careful and intentional way of styling one’s hair so as to appear completely casual. Kind of like Haiti Hair on purpose.
After a few days, we return to our to privileged lives where our Haiti Hair disappears under the care of products and blow combs and curling irons and straighteners and trips to the salon for cuts and styles and highlights and lowlights. We get manicures and pedicures, and we purchase nail polish in many different hues, each small bottle costing more than a typical Haitian will make in a day, maybe even a week.
* * *
We are a team of good, faith-filled people. We love God, we love people, and we have serving hearts. We could have simply gone on vacation, after all. But we chose to go on a short term mission trip instead, to give ourselves away for a week.
Still, that’s a far cry from giving it all.
What if instead of a week away from the reality of our day-to-day lives, we were to quit our jobs, sell our cars and cabins and perhaps even our mini-MacMansions and answer God’s call—not just for a week, but with our lives?
Maybe that’s a little extreme. But what if we gave ourselves over to a kind of messy bun living—spending our days right here at home, intentionally using whatever gifts and passions and wealth we’ve been blessed with to bless others?
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35-36).
To others, messy bun living would look even crazier than a week with Haiti Hair.
People can accept a week. But as a way of life?
That’s a whole different thing, isn’t it?